North Carolina’s first archery-related hunting fatality in history occurred the evening of Sept. 18 in Transylvania County when George Harley Case Jr., 58, of Pisgah Forest died when he was struck by a crossbow bolt fired by a friend who mistook him for a deer.

Deputies said Case was dead when first-responders arrived at approximately 7:45 p.m. The said the death apparently was a case of mistaken identity near Lyda Road off US 64.

The incident was the first fatality of any kind involving archery equipment in the 40-plus years the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has tracked hunting-related injuries and deaths.

Crossbows, which fire a stubby arrow or “bolt” tipped with a razor-sharp broadhead can propel an arrow at more than 300 feet per second and often have scopes mounted on their bases, which resemble rifle rests. The were made legal for all North Carolina hunters during 2010 after being made available to handicapped hunters in previous seasons.

Their ease of use has contributed to more interest in hunting by females and youths because they require minimal physical strength to aim and shoot and easily are carried to deer stands or ground blinds.

“The N.C. Bowhunters Association lobbied against this (weapon), citing the danger of allowing (crossbows) to be used during bow seasons, except for handicapped hunters and those unable to draw a conventional bow,” said Ramon Bell, former president of the N.C. Bowhunters Association. “The reason (was) the crossbow is too easy to learn to shoot and operates much like a gun in that it is pre-cocked, loaded and ready to fire.

“NCBA has no objection to the legalization of the crossbow for hunting. They just felt they were too unsafe to be allowed during bow season, among other issues.

“It is very sad that Mr. Case died in this manner.”

Regulations don’t require archery or crossbow hunters to wear blaze orange during big-game seasons. Bell believes that regulation should change.

“Requiring bowhunters to wear blaze orange may have saved (Case’s) life,” he said. “But it would put bow hunters at a disadvantage to require them to wear blaze-orange while hunting. My suggestion is for all bow hunters to voluntarily wear a blaze-orange garment while walking to and from their stands, or on the ground walking for any reason.”