Utah Father Shoots Son Downrange: IGOTD

(courtesy ksl.com)

“Authorities have identified the father and son involved in an apparent fatal target shooting accident in Box Elder County Saturday evening,” Utah’s fox13now.com reports. “The incident occurred at about 4 p.m. when 27-year-old James Shurtz and his father Glenn were out shooting targets in a remote area off of State Route 30, approximately 20 miles west of Snowville . . . The Shurtz’s had multiple targets set up at different ranges and were shooting at them with a high-powered rifle.” And here’s where they went wrong . . .

“Father and son were alternating positions; one would shoot and the other would be downrange as a spotter.

When Glenn Shurtz was shooting, the release states, James Shurtz was in position downrange acting as a spotter.

“James was struck by a single round from a .30 caliber rifle,” the release states.

James Shurtz was shot in the chest.

And he died. I guess we need to change that fourth gun safety rule to “know your target and what’s beyond it…and what’s in front of it and what’s next to it.” Unless there’s more to this story that meets the eye. In any case, don’t be that guy. Or that guy’s father.


  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    “Father and son were alternating positions; one would shoot and the other would be downrange as a spotter.

    I’m confused. Why is the spotter downrange?? Downrange from the shooter??? Acting as a spotter “downrange.”?? You mean – like – with no glass standing next to the target or what?

    1. avatar Mr. 308 says:

      Yea, I think there’s a flaw in their plan.

      Pretty sure at least.

    2. avatar James in AZ says:

      Then you’ve never been to a chinese military base. They have this habit there that a flag-waving spotter stands right beside a target and signals the score with flag semaphore. Yknow, for those countries where lives are cheaper than a spotting scope per firing lane.

      But i’d reckon the father and son didnt learn what they did in china, though

      1. avatar Mk10108 says:

        Agent Utah is not Chinese. Jr would be alive is dad sprung for a spotter scope and brushed up on things that could go wrong shoot plan.

      2. avatar Stuki Moi says:

        I’ve been at military shoots (not in the US), where we the spotters were sitting in a trench dug out between the target and the backstop. Then popping up and taping targets during cease fire. Saves the cost of a spotting scope and a few more targets, I guess…..

        At that particular range, we were pretty well ensconced in concrete, but it’s still “interesting” to have rifle bullets fired by rank recruits flying over your head. And man, does punching holes in paper make noise, when done with a fast moving enough punch press…

        1. avatar Ryan says:

          Marine Corps boot camp “Camp Pendleton” they had us pulling targets down range in a trench. The crack of the bullets overhead is a bit disconcerting.

        2. avatar PavePusher says:

          The Lee Kay Center shooting range in Salt Lake has a set-up like this, but I don’t recall them allowing people in the trench during live-fire.

        3. When I shot in high power rifle competition we would take a turn as target pullers. Targets were on vertical carriages in a wide trench. After each shot during timed fire stage we would pull down target carriage and patch bullet hole with contrasting color paster. Crack of .30 bullet passing overhead and thump as it hit the berm were reminders to stay up against the front of the trench.

        4. avatar Matt says:

          I used to pull and score targets for hi power matches at my local range from about the ages of 10 to 12. $50 for a day of work plus free lunch was a good deal at those ages!

          The targets were on a vertical carriage as described above and counterweighted with rocks in a trough. The targets pulled down into a trench with a thick concrete wall with dirt behind it about 10 to 12 feet below the end of the 200yd line; the whole shooting line was built higher to take advantage of a natural change in elevation so once the 200yd line dropped off it stayed 10-12 feet lower than the firing line all the way back to the mountain. .30 cal holes were nice and easy to see but man sometimes it was practically impossible to see the various 6mmish sized holes from people shooting ARs!

          Definite change in tone if the bullet was close to the top edge of the trench and the occasional spay of dirt or ricochet if someone managed to just kiss the concrete.

          I also used to reset silhouette matches around the same time. Firing line shoots. Cease fire is called and everyone steps away from their guns. Kids run out into the field and reset the targets and run back. Repeat a second time but this time with spray paint to paint over the previous shooter’s hits.

          It’s hard to say which was worse. Silhouettes was non stop running for like 6 hours where as high power was non stop upper body workout for 6 hours with no shade and in direct sunlight the entire time.

        5. avatar jumpingjack says:

          The Lee Kay range does allow people in the trench during live fire. Or at least they did as of last summer, while I was there last.

      3. avatar Ovidio Gentiloni says:

        Also in Italy, when shooting in Army ranges, we stood in a trench and lifted a sign to show where the bullet hit.
        Funny job!

  2. avatar JoshInGA says:

    Why anyone would think being in any position downrange of live fire is a good idea is beyond me…

    1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      You’d almost wonder if it’s part of some abundance mentality wrt children, on the part of famously fertile Mormons……

  3. avatar Table says:

    In golf, people yell “Fore!”

    1. avatar ready,fire,aim says:


      1. avatar Joe. Tast says:

        Why are you LYFAO? Whats funny about killing your son? Maybe it was funny when the son dropped,quived a bit and gasped his last breath while his father was on his knees screaming “oh god no, oh please no.” yup thats somthing to laugh about alright

        1. avatar grendal113 says:

          it wasn’t it is now. thanks do you do slapstick as well?

        2. avatar Jeremy in AL says:

          Joe.tast: You have taken far too much interest in this topic to not be a troll.

        3. avatar Dodie Larsen says:

          I agree… this is not in the least bit funny. I was a co-worker with this man and is one of the most awesome people you could possibly know… It was a terrible accident… and I cannot comprehend what my friend is going through… could there have been better safety measures… probably… I am not a hunter or target practicer… so I don’t know the ins-and-outs… all I know is this is horribly tragic and something this father will never completely get over… My prayers go out to all of his family. I also worked with two of this young man’s uncles… and they same type of people who are outstanding, wonderful people.

  4. avatar Bob313 says:

    Sound like candidates for the Darwin award. Holy cow! How can anyone think that was safe?

    1. avatar CTstooge says:

      Modern-day William Tell…

  5. avatar Montesa_VR says:

    How much alcohol was involved in this incident?

    1. avatar Paul says:

      In Utah, most likely none.

  6. avatar Pantera Vazquez says:

    Did the idea of a scope elude them?

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      “Eh, we’ll wing it.”

  7. avatar CLarson says:

    It sounds almost like what an extreme Russian training accident would sound like. http://tinyurl.com/lhpww2r

  8. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    Gee, even with the kid downrange, it would seem that Daddy could shoot straight enough to not hit the kid.

  9. avatar DrVino says:

    Tragic, really. His own son……
    Issues of spotting from “down range” aside, I’m glad the guys I shoot with don’t mind my overly process-oriented tendency to verbally acknowledge we’re “cold” or they’re OK with me going “hot”.

    1. avatar sota says:

      Our club, being private, doesn’t have dedicated staff on site to act as range master. As such the rule is someone on the range is designated range master by agreement. The louder they are with commands, the better. No one laughs at the guy who’s gung ho playing range master. Heck my kid loves to do it!

      That being said, I just asked him about this situation. “Do you think it’s a good idea?” “No!” was the reply.

  10. avatar Geoff PR says:

    Eh, maybe the kid was ‘mouthy’…


  11. avatar TyrannyOfEvilMen says:

    So this guy accidentally shot his son through the center of his chest?

    I call bullshit!

    1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      Middle aged guy at rifle range. Son has white tshirt on. Target is white. Everything else is kinda foggy and greenish…… He could very well have hit exactly what he aimed at. Without aiming at exactly what he thought he aimed at…….

      1. avatar Blake says:

        Best guess, rifle was loaded and dad had finger on the trigger when son went to work on the target. Or there was a miscommunication and the son walked into the line of fire just as dad pulled the trigger.

        Honestly, if you’re okay with having someone stand next to your target while you shoot, you’re not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

  12. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

    WTF! They should charge pop with dumbazzery in the 1st degree. I assume alcoholic beverages were involved. Sad…

  13. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    One down range spotting as the other shot? Darwinian award winners both.

    1. avatar Mk10108 says:

      Or a Morman culling his herd.

      1. avatar Joe. Tast says:

        Thats just terrible thing to say. Is life a joke to you people

        1. avatar Marc says:

          “Here son, take this and go stand down there.” That’s when I tell the old man to fuck off.

  14. avatar Keith in Ohio says:

    Wow…., just when you think you’ve heard it all; something like this happens. Proves the saying, ” If you make it idiot proof, they will come up with better idiots.”

  15. avatar Defens says:

    Just for the sake of argument, how much clearance do you think you need on each side of the target to consider it to be safe to shoot? In IPSC competition, “breaking the 180” is grounds for DQ from the match. But, that’s on a very controlled area within a shooting bay of limited size. What about when you’re out hunting? If you see a valid target, yet, 1/2 mile away to your right, there’s a rancher fixing fence at less than 180 degrees from you, will you take the shot? How about shooting at an informal outdoor range, with a road that’s within your 180, off in the distance? Who shoots at flushing birds while your dog is still visible when you shoulder the shotgun?

    It’s fine to be all sanctimonious about this stuff, but it’s not always cut-and-dried. I grew up on a small farm, and sometimes things (like varmints) needed shooting. No one I knew then, or know now, would feel comfortable about having a person downrange within 20 or 30 feet of the target, but someone “downrange” but 100 yards away? 200 yards? Where would y’all draw the line – keeping in mind that eventually that “180” line is going to include people, animals, habitation, etc.; it just depends on how far you extend the line.

    1. avatar Wv cycling says:

      That’s a good question. When it is just me and a pal, I’m fine with a 10-15 degree variance, and we put cones, typically.

      More than 3ppl total, stuff gets Uber Strict.

  16. avatar Jaffas says:

    Most of the replies to this are NOT FUNNY.
    Yes it was stupid but making jokes and or presumptions of guilt are so far over the line that maybe some of you need a spotter scope.
    This site has been good up to now. I hope this trend does not continue.
    Stupid or not or other…CONDOLENCES to the family and friends are in order here.
    If it was an accident…stupid or not…you and I would both be devastated if it was us.
    All of us are stupid and have a lapse in good judgment at times though hopefully not with as tragic results!

    1. avatar Mk10108 says:

      Lighten up Jaffas. I can’t feel sorry for a man who shoots his son whether accident or murder.

    2. avatar Bob in MI says:

      Don’t worry this moron is probably not literate enough to read the insults.

    3. avatar Paul says:

      I think it’s funny as hell.

      1. avatar Joe. Tast says:

        You do? You really belive thats “funny as hell”. Im going to go ahead an say it, your one sick individual.

    4. avatar Joe. Tast says:

      I feel sorry for the father. My god that would be just terrible. The poor man and family, the nightmares ,poor poor man.Pray for him as Im sure he’s going throufh mental hell. Compassion, not ridicule, he is probably whipping himself far beyond the ridicule you all can dish out. They were out enjoying life together, bad dessision or not. That man will never get to enjoy time with his son again.

  17. avatar PeterW says:

    Wow. what a nightmare! Even in the desert we keep the guns at the shooting table unloaded while setting up targets (except pre-requisite 6-shooter on belt of course). Condolences to all.

  18. avatar Southern Cross says:

    My range does marking at the target end, but the markers are in a 8′ deep concrete lined gallery with an overhead mantlet and 100′ of rubble and dirt fill on the firing point side. The splash zone rises to another 20′ above ground level and there is additional 15′ above that where out lane markers are. And we still have a 2000 yard plus safety template zone behind that.

    Hand held targets (with long sticks attached) are rested on the mantlet. 4-foot targets use counter-weighted frames to expose and mark. Signalling of scores is done with a long stick with a red and white (opposite sides) and indicating the fall of shot and then the score by the position on the target. Upper-left corner, red = 2, upper-right corner, red = 3, lower-left corner, red = 4, lower-right corner, white = 5 (bullseye), middle-bottom, white = V-Bull (inner bullseye, worth 5.1), wand spun to show ref and white sides and then bottom-middle, white = pinhole (1″ spot in the target centre, worth the same as a v-bull). Hand-held targets are usually scored hits only or inners and outers (5 & 4 points).

  19. avatar Paul says:

    They were playing Utah Lawn Darts.

    1. avatar Joe. Tast says:

      Paul,Im on your ass, your just going to make a wise guy remark.about tradgic events no matter how self centered others see you. But you dont care do you. You think nothing bad will eve happen to you in your lifetime, your mistaken fella.

  20. avatar Just Some Guy says:

    Frankly, I’m appalled at the majority of these responses. You sound like a bunch of high school kids. This man inadvertently SHOT HIS OWN SON. Either none of you have children, or you’re so desensitized by being spoof fed this type of story by the media day after day that you don’t even take a second to think about the people involved. Sickening.

    1. avatar Joe. Tast says:

      Amen to that. Kinda makes me wonder about a guy who would think killing your own son is “funny as hell” shame on you. Hopefully you and yours will live forever. Because death of a loved one is not, “FUNNY AS HELL”

  21. avatar Bob says:

    Was at an outside range at a gun store in Ohio in the 70s, was changing 25 yd target, the range officers view was blocked by targets at 10 & 15 yds. Sure shouted out when he asked if the line was ready.

  22. avatar Dinc says:

    There is a place called Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf to the East of Snowville where they shoot long range rifle. I have friends that have shot competitions there and had a blast. These guys may have been practicing up for that. Without proper pits (High Power Rifle) it’s dangerous to have someone down range, especially if you are trying to get proper zeros. Sad situation and bad luck for a chest shot. http://spiritridgeriflegolf.blogspot.com/

  23. avatar Stratajema says:

    We need universal IQ tests to keep smart people safe from the idiots. Why should low IQ people be given guns and cars to injure others or themselves?

    1. avatar Joe3 says:

      Or to vote.

  24. avatar Joe. Tast says:

    And at what IQ level would meet “your”standards. Higher then the devlopmetally dissabled, but not above yours, right?

  25. avatar Steve Day says:

    Did they find an apple at the scene perchance ?

  26. avatar S.Crock says:

    For that 4th rule I’ve always said “and what’s around it.” That includes beyond, above, and 6 inches to the left, etc.

  27. avatar DerryM says:

    I wonder if they had done the same thing many times before and “law of averages” finally caught-up to them.

  28. avatar N8thecowboy says:

    Talk about “Knowing your target”.

    I do wonder if there will be an investigation.

  29. avatar mike says:

    Tragic. Don’t cheap out on buying a good spotting scope.

  30. avatar Grfx50 says:

    Aaaaand thats why we account for windage…

  31. avatar BDub says:

    Maybe I’m doing “spotter” wrong. But, I think I’ll just keep doing it that way, thanks.

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