Fast work may have helped save the life of a Meeker man who is in stable condition at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction after he was accidentally shot by his friend during a hunting expedition Nov. 4, said Undersheriff Michael Joos of the Rio Blanco Sheriff's Office.
Cory Ruchti, 23, was shot with a bullet through his right leg when his hunting buddy, Nathan Pelloni, 25, mistook him for an elk the two were tracking, Joos said.
"(Pelloni) thought he was an elk," Joos said.
The hunters were walking along a ridge opposite each other about five miles north of Meeker near Strawberry Creek when the accident occurred shortly before sunset. Neither was wearing orange, which is a requirement for hunting, Joos said. The bullet went all the way through Ruchti's leg. Communication between the victim's family and sheriff's department indicate that Ruchti's leg may be saved, Joos said.
The hunters immediately made a tourniquet on Ruchti's leg that helped stem the flow of blood and probably "worked to save his life," Joos said. Pelloni then walked down the hill to get reception and made a 911 call on his cell phone.
"There was a lot of blood," Joos said. "They were smart in getting help to him right away. They were able to stay conscious and stop the bleeding."
Ruchti was airlifted to Grand Junction hospital about an hour after the accident. Emergency personnel first arrived on the scene in less than five minutes, Joos said.
About 20 workers from Meeker Fire Department, the Rio Blanco Sheriff's Department and emergency medical technicians assisted in the rescue, Joos said.
Joos said the sheriff's office is not pressing criminal charges in the case and has completed its portion of the investigation. It's unclear whether the Department of Wildlife will press charges for a hunting violation for the two men failing to wear hunter orange.
Neither DOW officials nor Rutchi's family members were available for comment by phone Tuesday.