A Gainesville man once proudly displayed his two paint horses during cutting competitions; now he's just hoping he doesn't have to euthanize the surviving horse after both were shot last week.
Wade Hanes was inside his home off Webb Girth Road just after 6 p.m. Nov. 22 when he heard a gunshot.
"I looked outside and I told my wife, ‘It's too dark for somebody to be seeing a deer' and I didn't really think anything else about it. I didn't have any idea somebody had shot my horses," Hanes said.
He went to feed the horses that next morning, but rather than coming to eat, the horses remained in the corner of the pasture.
Still, Hanes didn't suspect anything abnormal.
"Sometimes they don't come to eat," he said. "They're pretty fat and they aren't hungry. I just didn't think anything about it."
Finally, when Hanes went back out around 3 p.m. to check the horses' water supply, he got suspicious. The water tank was full and the horses were still in the corner of the pasture.
That's when he noticed both had been shot, one in the shoulder and the other in the knee.
"At first I didn't know what happened," Hanes said. "I saw the blood running out of one of the (horse's) shoulder and the other one's knee was shot off."
The bullet hit the first horse in the middle of the chest and exited the right shoulder before hitting the leg of the second horse, said Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks.
The horse shot in the knee was using its remaining three legs to stand.
"From the knee down, it was just shattered," Hanes said.
That horse was euthanized but a veterinarian believes the horse shot in the shoulder will recover.
"We're still doctoring him," Hanes said. "The (veterinarian) has been out a few times and I think he's going to be OK. I don't know how much he will recover, but I think he's going to make it."
Haynes said he was angry about the situation but has since realized it was probably a mistake.
"Life goes on," he said. "I'm just trying to get the other one going."
The Hall County Sheriff's Office is investigating, but they believe it was unintentional; both horses were injured by a single shot.
They believe deer hunters mistook the horses for deer because it was dark.
In unincorporated Hall County, there are no restrictions regarding deer hunting with rifles except for state law restrictions.
Wilbanks said most likely the only restriction that may have been violated is hunting on private property without permission of the owner.
Even if the incident was unintentional, a suspect could be charged, Wilbanks said.
"If someone is shooting in a manner that is not safe, sometimes we look at a charge of reckless conduct if the circumstances warrant that," he said.
Investigators have talked to neighbors but nobody heard or saw anything the night the horses were shot, Wilbanks said.
The case is still being investigated.