Michael Van Durme, Capt., NYSDEC Police, Retired
Michael Van Durme, Capt., NYSDEC Police, Retired

I have been an avid hunter and outdoorsman my entire life with over thirty years of public service in the arena of environment and conservation. Now, I am able to direct my full attention toward an area of investigation with which I have direct and personal experience - hunting related shooting incidents.

I have been shot twice by hunters. First in 1987 by a frog hunter with a .22 rifle and then in 1996 by a deer hunter with a 12 ga. shotgun. In both cases, I saw the person before they shot me and was able to immediately arrest the shooter and appropriate criminal charges were filed. After my second shooting injury, it was made clear to me that being able to establish and document the ability of a shooter to see, or not to see, their victim is critical while at the same time difficult to quantify.

In 1999, after several years of research, I invented the Measurement of Visibility Device (MVD). The MVD is the only tool to aid an investigator in correctly documenting what shooters could or could not have seen at the time of a shooting. The MVD is now currently used by investigators across the country to document visibility in shooting incidents. This documentation has been vital in being able to proceed in both criminal and civil trials. As a result of both my own injuries and through the development of the MVD, investigating, analyzing and teaching others about Hunting Related Shooting Incidents (HRSIs) has become my passion.

During my lengthy law enforcement career I took advantage of training opportunities which lead to certifications in a number of arenas of value in my work with HRSIs. I became the NYSDEC agency’s lead instructor in both Criminal Procedure Law and Hunting Incident Investigations. I have been able to continue this instruction in areas of Interview and Interrogation, Written Statement Analysis, Evidence Collection and more. I have trained investigators and officials in numerous agencies across New York State as well as nationally through the Hunting Incident Investigation Academy, which I currently serve as the Director.

With years of successive promotions with NYSDEC, I have both conducted and supervised field investigations as well as being the reviewer for hundreds of HRSIs in conjunction with a variety of local, state and federal agencies. I have conducted research into how these incidents are investigated and share this valuable research through professional contacts and conferences. As a direct result of this research, I thoroughly reworked and rewrote all the forms, policies and procedures for HRSIs in New York State. The resulting manual has been incorporated and duplicated in other states based on its accuracy and efficiency.

With 27 years of police experience gave me opportunities to work all levels of cases from complaint through grand jury and trial. In addition to my extensive work with HRSI I have led investigations into wildlife violations including undercover operations and long-term international felonies. My work has given me experience in dealing with United State’s Attorney General, Attorney Generals from New York State, New York State’s Organized Crime Task Force, District Attorneys and law enforcement officers which have resulted in numerous convictions and fines into the millions of dollars.

Being able to take both my personal and working experiences into the area of investigation of hunting related shootings allows me an opportunity to lend my expertise to determining causal responsibility and allow appropriate justice be given.

Rod Slings, Supervisor, Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), Retired
Rod Slings, Supervisor, Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), Retired

Though now retired after 35 years with the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) as a Supervisor in the DNR’s Law Enforcement Bureau, I am proud to have gotten my start investigating hunting related shooting incidents mentored by the late Homer Moe, the renowned founding father and national leader in these complex and, sometimes, deadly incidents.

In 1987, I was privileged to attend an intensive training with Mr. Moe, along with Conservation Wardens from the Wisconsin’s DNR at Prairie du Chen. I was immediately able to apply what I learned to successfully investigate hunting related shootings back in Iowa. I honed my skills professionally to be one of the leading investigators in this area. As my reputation grew, I was given an opportunity to assist in creating a training program for Iowa’s entire bureau of conservation officers.

The need for concentrated study of hunting related incidents was obvious and, in 1993, Mr. Moe asked me to assist with first Hunting Incident Investigation Academy held at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, MO. It is an honor to be able to state I am the only instructor who has assisted in each of this academy’s sessions since its inception. Serving as a Lead Instructor, I was able to take the helm as Academy Director in 2004, handing over those duties to Michael Van Durme from New York in 2010.

My expertise has resulted in my leading investigations into hundreds of hunting and shooting related incidents. I have been able to assist in teaching these same techniques to over 700 wildlife officers in the United States, Canada and Mexico. I consult regularly with wildlife officers on cases throughout the country on complex investigations.

Through my work with the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA), I have served as Zone III Vice President as well as serving as the Chairman of the Incident Investigation and Research Committee. IHEA has also contracted my services for numerous surveys including “Hunting Under the Influence of Intoxicating Substances Related to Incidences” as well as Education Field Day Exercises.

My work has led to numerous opportunities to educate and inform others in both investigation and prevention of hunting related incidents. I have spoken to Wildlife Officer groups, Hunter Education Professionals and Hunter Education Volunteers throughout the United States, such as the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention reference Hunting Incident Investigation and International Hunter Education Association Conventions. Also, I have contributed as a “Subject Matter Expert” to the national leader in educational materials to state agencies in the development and production of video Hunter Education segments for online and DVD delivery. Along with the video projects I have assisted in Hunter Education student manual updates.

Through a United Nations’ invitation I was privileged to be Keynote Speaker at the International Firearms Safety Seminar in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2006.

I have been honored throughout my career and take some pride in the recognitions I have received from my peers including the Shikar-Safari International Wildlife Officer of the Year for Iowa as well as the Outstanding Fish and Wildlife Officer by the Iowa Division of the Izaak Walton League. The IHEA has also recognized my work numerous times including two Past Presidents awards.

My work eventually led to the operation of litigation support consulting business whereby I was able to continue my legal work as a witness. I have been involved in many levels of the court system from magistrate court to grand juries involving misdemeanors to felonies and civil cases.

Developing my work into a partnership with other nationally recognized experts at HRSC, LLC (Hunting Related Shooting Consultants) allows me to continue to fulfill what has become my signature line: “The incident scene will speak to you; you must listen for the sake of prevention.”

B. Keith Byers, Sgt. Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources, Retired
B. Keith Byers, Sgt. Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources, Retired

In 1981, at the age of 21, I went to work for the State of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources Game and Fish Division, Law Enforcement Section and was assigned to Jeff Davis County. I chose this career because I grew up hunting and fishing and this allowed me to be a part of that heritage and to have an influence on something that was a big part of my life.

Early in my career as a Wildlife Officer (Conservation Ranger) I found that I had the ability to put the pieces of the puzzle together in order to solve a case. At every opportunity I took courses, read material, talked to other investigators, and searched for any information that would help me further my knowledge as an investigator. These efforts did not go unrecognized by my Department and I became an instructor of The Fundamentals of Investigation, Crime Scene Processing, Interviews and Interrogations, and became a P.O.S.T. Certified Instructor. In 1994 I was promoted to the rank of Corporal.

In 1997, I helped form a team of investigators that would investigate Hunting and Boating Incident/Accidents and the Critical Incident Reconstruction Team (C.I.R.T.) was born. The four C.I.R.T members went to the National Hunting Incident Academy in Warrensburg, Missouri in the summer of 1998 and it had a profound effect on me and on the way my Department looked at and investigated hunting incidents. The depth and quality of our investigations surprised not only our Department personnel but other law enforcement agencies as well.

Shortly after becoming the C.I.R.T. leader, I was promoted to Sergeant in charge of supervising a five county area. Since 2000 I have been an instructor at the National Hunting Incident Academy and specialized in evidence collection and preservation, scene mapping and case studies. I have continued my training with many topics including Homicide Investigations, Fingerprint Classification and much more.

In 2012 I was in charge of supervising a seven county area when I retired with 31 years of law enforcement experience. I was the C.I.R.T. leader for 15 years and supervised a 15 member team of highly trained investigators. . I have been qualified as an expert in Hunting Incident Scene Reconstruction in Juvenile, State Superior, and Federal Courts.

During my tenure as leader this team was responsible for investigating some of Georgia’s most horrific hunting and boating incidents including the investigation and reconstruction of three wildlife officer mistaken for game hunting incidents. Two involved serious injury to the officers and one involved the death of a U.S. Forest Service Officer. This case was one of the most tragic that I have ever investigated and I drew on my entire career of learning including: Blood Pattern Analysis, Anatomy, Ballistics and more. I worked with the U.S. Forest Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other C.I.R.T. members to do a reconstruction of the incident scene that would be used to indict five suspects in the U.S. Federal Court. All five suspects later entered into plea agreements.

Now I am partnered with Rod Slings and Mike Van Durme in Hunting and Shooting Related Consultants LLC, which allows me to continue the work that I am very passionate about, the study and investigation of shooting incidents to get to the truth of what actually took place. Too often proper investigations and reconstruction techniques are not used and this leaves many unanswered questions. This does not do justice to the victim, the shooter, and their families and friends. For the sake of all parties involved including hunter education personnel and the hunting and shooting industries, the truth must be found. This prevention through education helps in saving lives and also insures our hunting heritage is safe for future generations.