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Father Commits Suicide After Accidentally Shooting Son on Hunting Trip Graphic HUNTING

November 26, 1991

TABERG, N.Y. (AP) _ When Gene Bulak discovered he had shot and killed his son while hunting deer, he sent a fellow hunter for help. Then, standing over his son’s body, he put his son’s shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger.

The deaths of Bulak and his 18-year-old son Michael stunned this central New York hamlet of 400, where deer hunting is considered a rite of passage.

″The kids all knew when they got here,″ said Donna Gordon, assistant principal at Camden High School, where Michael Bulak graduated last year. ″It’s a very small community.″

″Everyone’s in too much shock to talk,″ said a woman at the Country Bumpkin, Taberg’s only grocery store.

Town Clerk Christine Broski, whose duties include selling hunting licenses, said youngsters look forward to getting junior licenses at 12 and big-game licenses at 16.

The tragedy was particularly surprising because ″Gene always stressed safety,″ she said.

The deaths occurred Sunday while the Bulaks were on a hunting trip with three friends in woods near Cooperstown, about 50 miles from their home.

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

The Bulaks and the other hunters had split up to encircle a deer, said state police Investigator Karl Chandler. Michael Bulak was in heavy brush about 150 feet from his father when the elder Bulak shot at a movement, then discovered he had mistaken his son for a deer, Chandler said.

The teen-ager was shot in the head. Two hunters ran for help and Bulak sent a third. As they were returning 10 to 15 minutes later, they heard a shot as the father committed suicide with his son’s gun.

The elder Bulak, 41, was a truck driver for a wire company. The son left home earlier this year to attend Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica but returned for the hunting trip.

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

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.″

Suddenly, he said, students are wondering about the safety of a sport they had taken for granted.

″Some of them are saying, ’You know, I don’t know if it’s worth it,‴ Edkin said.

At least five hunting-related fatalities have been reported in New York state since the deer season opened Oct. 19.

Ed Feldmann, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the average annual number of hunting fatalities in the state over the past 10 years is eight.

The National Safety Council said 138 people died nationwide in firearm- related hunting accidents in 1989, the last year for which statistics are available.

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