Elk hunter survives shooting on mountaintop

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A hunter from Paradise is feeling fortunate after surviving wounds from an accidental discharge of a high-powered rifle on a remote mountain between Plains and Paradise.

Dan Risland, 63, was recovering Friday at Kalispell Regional Medical Center after accidentally shooting himself in the abdomen at about 10 a.m. Thursday.

“I was hunting elk and I was up on top of this mountain, and I could see four [elk] about 50 feet away,” Risland said from his hospital room.

As he moved toward the elk, he switched the safety off on his rifle.

“I was going downhill and a damned stick hooked my foot, and I somersaulted down the hill and my gun hit the ground and I landed on top of it and it went off,” he said.

The barrel was near his stomach, and the round tore through stomach muscles, missing any organs, before entering his right thigh and then exiting through his calf.

“The muzzle blast blasted the skin off my stomach and my right thigh,” he said. “Luckily it missed all the bones and tendons.”

More luckily, it missed his femoral artery by mere centimeters.

“If it would have hit that, I wouldn’t be here,” Risland said.

Risland called 911 from his cellphone, and the ALERT helicopter was dispatched from Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

“I told them what peak I was on, and I was out in the open,” he said. “They flew right over me and spotted me.”

Risland estimates it took about an hour from the time he was shot to the time he was picked up. He said he was not bleeding badly.

“The thing that was really scary was I thought I would get hypothermia,” he said. “I was so friggin’ cold. I got to shaking so bad I couldn’t hold still.”

Risland had high praise for the helicopter crew and hospital staff.

“The people here did super at this hospital and I’m doing fine,” he said. “They really know what they’re doing.”

Risland said he expects to return home by early next week.

“I got to get healed up so I can go out and get my elk,” he said.

Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by email at jmann@dailyinterlake.com.

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