Friends say Pa. hunter died doing what he loved

December 04, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

Friends said Ronald Tarner died doing something he loved - hunting and being in the outdoors.

Tarner, 60, of 717 Path Valley Road, Fort Loudon, Pa., was found dead in the woods at about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Pennsylvania State Police, members of the Needmore Volunteer Fire Co. and fellow hunters began searching for Tarner after friends became alarmed when he did not come out of the woods.

State police and friends said they believe Tarner died of a heart attack. The official cause of death was listed as natural causes, said Trooper Richard Cutchall of the McConnellsburg barrack.


Tarner was pronounced dead by Jason Buterbaugh, deputy coroner for Fulton County.

"He always said to his wife that he wanted to die in the woods," said William Zeger, co-owner of Keystone Country Store, a sporting goods store in Fort Loudon, and friend of Tarner's. "If there's any blessing in this, that's it."

Zeger said his family and friends, including Tarner, hunt deer from a private camp off Amaranth Road in Union Township in southwestern Fulton County.

Gerald Martinelli, 46, of State Line, Pa., said Tarner was one of a group that hunted at the camp for about 20 years.

He said Tarner hunted from the same spot near a field every day, and that he and his son have favorite spots nearby.

Gerald Martinelli said he, his son and Tarner were less than three-quarters of a mile away from each other all day Tuesday on Town Hill Mountain.

"We keep in touch with walkie-talkies in case one of us needs help dragging a deer or something," Gerald Martinelli said.

He said his son, James Martinelli, 23, last spoke with Tarner on a walkie-talkie around 3 p.m.

Zeger said friends began to get worried when it started to get dark and Tarner had not come out of the woods.

"He was always out before dark," Zeger said.

The state police were called at around 8 p.m. and the search got under way. Tarner's body was found by a member of the Needmore Volunteer Fire Co. not far from Rice Road, one of many gravel roads in the area, Martinelli said.

Zeger said Tarner shot two does Tuesday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. He had field dressed the first doe he shot and dragged it out of the woods.

Tarner had gutted the second doe and cut a hole in her ear to insert the Pennsylvania Game Commission tag, which requires hunters to list their name, the time and location where the animal was killed. The tag was in his hand when his body was found, Martinelli said.

"It looked like he was leaning over the deer, then fell backwards," Martinelli said.

Tarner drove a delivery truck for Penn Fuel Propane in Chambersburg, Pa., Zeger said.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not keep records of the number of deer hunters who die in the woods of natural causes, commission spokesman Bruce Whitman said.

"A handful to about a dozen" hunters die of natural causes every year, Whitman said.

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