Boonsboro man dies while turkey hunting

April 20, 1997


Staff Writer

BOONSBORO - The body of a Boonsboro man who accidentally shot himself while hunting turkey on Saturday was found early Sunday morning, officials said.

Richard Joseph Norkunas, 50, of 19134 Swinging Bridge Road, was found shortly after 1 a.m. by a Washington County Sheriff's Department bloodhound, said Patty Manown, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources.

He was officially pronounced dead at 2 a.m.

Norkunas went out to hunt before dawn on Saturday morning on his neighbor's property just south of the Maryland Correctional Institution, where he worked as a teacher and administrator, according to Manown.


Norkunas had a gunshot wound in the abdomen and was lying about 20 feet from a turkey, Manown said. She said authorities determined Norkunas shot the turkey twice and put down his shotgun to investigate his kill.

When he picked the gun up, it went off and a shot hit him in the abdomen, Manown said.

Norkunas' shotgun will be sent to the Maryland State Police crime lab in Pikesville, Md., to determine if a flawed mechanism caused it to fire, Manown said,

Norkunas' son, Ethan, told authorities he heard three gunshots between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Manown said.

"He didn't think anything of it because he knew his father was going turkey hunting," she said.

Manown said the family also did not make much of the fact that he did not return that day since he often hunted alone and sometimes went fishing after the hunting period ended at noon. But when it started getting dark, his wife, Eileen, said she became alarmed.

"I didn't worry until he wasn't home by dark," she said.

Norkunas said she called the sheriff's department around 11 p.m. after she called several of his friends.

Norkunas said her husband was an avid outdoorsmen who grew up hunting in northeastern Pennsylvania. He taught the sport to his two sons, Ethan, 22, and Matthew, 19.

While he had a fulfilling career teaching special education to prison inmates, Norkunas said her husband's true joy was the outdoors. Of all the hunting seasons, turkey hunting was his favorite, she said.

"He always wanted to be a Department of Natural Resources officer," she said. "I think that was his real love."

Friends said Norkunas had an uncanny knack for turkey hunting - an extremely difficult skill. Joseph W. Byers said fewer than 10 percent of hunters bag turkeys. But Norkunas nabbed a bird each of his first three tries, said Byers.

The feat was exceptional enough that Byers chronicled it in an article for Turkey Call magazine in 1989.

"He was lucky the first time and maybe the second time," Byers said. "But after the third time, it was time to listen to what he had to say."

Norkunas' love of the wilderness was matched by an intense desire to see it protected, according to friends. An active member of the Washington County Sportsman's Association, he worked hard to raise reward money in order to catch poachers, Manown said.

Byers said Norkunas went out of his way to see that the outdoors and officials who enforce the rules were respected. He recalled a time last year when a Natural Resources Police officer was assaulted by a trespasser.

Norkunas personally appeared in court three times to see that justice was done, Byers said.

"Rich really felt that was something that should go to court," he said. "He certainly did everything he could to send a message that that was wrong."

Fellow hunter Harry Shockey said Norkunas was a man who would do anything his friends asked of him.

"He was one of the finest, nicest fellows. He'd do anything for you," he said. "He was tops in my book."

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