Hunter Austyn Adamko of Prince Albert, Sask., received a seven-month jail sentence on Monday after he killed a man he thought was an elk.
The bullet struck and killed 23-year-old Jordan Darchuk – another hunter from Prince Albert who was returning to his vehicle.
During a March appearance in Melfort provincial court, Adamko pleaded guilty to charges of careless use of a firearm and unauthorized possession of a firearm.
In addition to the seven-month sentence for carelessly using the gun, Adamko will also serve a concurrent one-month sentence for possessing the gun without a licence. The jail term is to be followed by two years of probation and a lifetime firearms ban.
An initial charge of criminal negligence causing death was stayed.
Before reading his decision, judge Lloyd Stang acknowledged the dissatisfaction some of Darchuk’s family members expressed during March’s victim impact statements.
“I get it,” the judge said. “I understand some of the frustrations with the justice system.”
Stang read the agreed statement of facts aloud in court Monday, detailing how Darchuk was roughly 200 metres from Adamko when he was shot after sunset – moments before the end of legal hunting hours.
In a police interview, Adamko told officers “there was tension” to make the shot before it was too late.
The victim was wearing a red-hooded sweatshirt and a camouflage backpack. He was also carrying a set of shooting sticks for his gun. Adamko thought he was shooting a “spiker” – a term for a young bull moose.
The judge also noted the impact of Adamko’s actions on Darchuk’s family, community and society as a whole.
“His contributions could have been extraordinary,” Stang said.
While the judge said Adamko’s crime was careless and impactful on victims, he also noted how Adamko expressed remorse, cooperated with police and abided by conditions of his release.
Adamko also has a supportive family and is employable, allowing him to pay thousands of dollars in restitution to Darchuk’s mother and partner, Stang said.
Defence lawyer Mark Brayford told reporters his client feels “tremendous grief” over the unintentional shooting.
“There’s no magic, right number and the judge did an admirable job of trying to balance the many factors that just can’t solve a really tragic situation,” Brayford said.
Adamko’s lawyer also said staying the criminal negligence charge was the right move, as there is an “arbitrary provision” in the Criminal Code of Canada making the starting point for sentencing four years in prison when a gun is involved in a criminal negligence causing death incident.
“I was glad when that offence was not on the table because that would have been the wrong sentence,” Brayford said.
The defence said the discovery of Darchuk’s body instead of an elk that day is still not easy for Adamko to comprehend.
“He’ll live with that forever.”