DNR urges Oxendine to take hunting course

State Department of Natural Resources investigators gave Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine “verbal guidance” that he needs to complete a hunter education course, according to a DNR report.

The department was investigating the Jan. 17 accidental shooting of a Walker County man who was observing as Oxendine and several others were hunting on a private quail preserve owned by an insurance company executive, friend and major donor to Oxendine’s bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

The man, Russell “Monty” Robertson, was hit in both legs and one hand by nearly 30 shotgun pellets as Oxendine and three others fired on a quail. As first reported by The Atlanta Journal Constitution on Jan. 19, Oxendine said it was his 13-year-old stepson who accidentally shot Robertson. The DNR’s final report, issued Monday, confirms that.

Oxendine was hunting with the 13-year-old as well as his 18-year-old son, J.W. None have a Georgia hunting license, although a license wasn't required because they were covered by the private preserve’s blanket license. But, according to the DNR report, John and J.W. Oxendine should have completed a hunter safety course as required by state law.

No charges were filed in the shooting, which the DNR ruled “accidental.”

Oxendine, appearing at a candidates forum at the Atlanta Hilton on Monday, said he had been under the impression he did not need a hunters education certificate because the DNR Web site says it’s only necessary to get a hunting license. But he said he plans to get the certificate now.

Oxendine, the state’s insurance commissioner since 1995, and his sons were hunting at the Northwest Georgia Quail Preserve, which is co-owned by Delos “Dee” Yancey III, who is CEO of State Mutual Insurance Co., based in Rome. Yancey was also in the hunting party, according to the report.

According to the report, Oxendine’s son shot Robertson about 4:15 p.m. Jan. 17 when Oxendine and other members of his party flushed a quail. The bird flew over the party and toward a group of observers about 30 yards away. The report says the four hunters all fired at the bird.

Robertson later told an Atlanta television station that he was hit by two different hunters because he had two different sizes of shotgun pellets in his leg. But the DNR report contradicts that, as all hunters were using the same size shot, albeit different size shotguns. According to the report, Robertson acknowledged that he could have been wrong.

After Robertson was shot, one of the men in the hunting party drove Robertson to the Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome, were he was treated for pellet wounds. A DNR agent interviewed Robertson at the hospital.

Oxendine said he asked Yancey whether he could hunt with him on his property. Last May, the AJC reported that State Mutual Life Insurance and Admiral Life Insurance Company of America, both headed by Yancey, funneled $120,000 through political action committees to Oxendine’s campaign in 2008. Oxendine denied any knowledge of the donations and returned the money. The State Ethics Commission is investigating.