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Father Commits Suicide After Accidental Shooting of Son

November 26, 1991

TABERG, N.Y. (AP) _ A man on his annual fall hunting trip discovered he had killed his 18-year- old son with a shotgun blast when he mistook him for a deer. The man then killed himself with the same gun.

Neighbors in this tightknit village of about 500 people in central New York said it was the first time Gene Bulak, 41, had taken his son, Michael, on the annual hunting trip.

Neither the father nor the son was wearing bright-colored safety clothing during the hunt, which was conducted in fog, rain and wet snow, investigators said. Wearing bright clothing while hunting isn’t required by law in New York, but it is recommended.

The elder Bulak shot his son in the head Sunday with a 12-gauge shotgun after the pair and three other hunters took different paths through woods, state police said. The five were encircling a deer they had spotted while hunting on private land 50 miles southeast of Taberg in Exeter, near Cooperstown, police said.

Two of the hunters ran for help, police said. Bulak sent the third to help the others shortly after, police said.

Then Bulak turned the gun on himself, police said.

Gene Bulak, a volunteer fireman, was a truck driver in Williamstown, N.Y. Michael graduated from Camden High School last year and attended Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica.

Donna Gordon, the high school’s assistant principal, said counselors were on hand to comfort students and staff distraught over the deaths.

″The kids all knew when they got here,″ Gordon said. ″It’s a very small community.″

Wrestling coach Wayne Edkin described Michael Bulak as a hard-working student with a good sense of humor.

″He was a boy who was not particularly outstanding as a student or a wrestler - and I say that as a credit to him,″ Edkin said. ″The fact that he had stuck with it all the way through his high school career is as important as any point I can make.″

Edkin said the teen-ager’s fellow wrestlers were considering whether they should continue to hunt.

″It’s almost a rite of passage, hunting. And some of them are saying, ’you know, I don’t know if it’s worth it,‴ Edkin said.

There have been at least five reported hunting-related fatalities in New York state since the deer season opened Oct. 19. Ed Feldmann, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany, said the average annual number of hunting fatalities in the state over the past 10 years is eight.

According to the National Safety Council, 138 people died nationwide in firearm-related hunting accidents in 1989, the last year statistics are available.

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