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Wayward shot costs Esko hunter vision in one eye

Emile Pille of Esko, 67, manages a smile despite a bad headache caused by a shotgun pellet striking his right eye. The accident happened when he was hunting with friends in north-central South Dakota. He wears a special patch to protect his eye during the healing process. "All I want to do is scratch it," said Pille, referring to how itchy his eye felt. (Bob King /

Emile Pille was pheasant hunting Monday in South Dakota when he was struck in the eye by a shotgun pellet in what he called "a freak accident."

The Esko man, who lost vision in his right eye, said he was walking along a road with his dog while others in his hunting party of about a dozen pushed through the brush in hopes of flushing out some birds.

"The pheasants started getting up, and my dog got excited so I went down to settle him," Pille said. "I heard another shot and must have looked up about that time. The BBs came right across the top of the weeds. (One) got me dead center in the eye."

Pille's friends took him to a Gettysburg, S.D., hospital, and he was later flown to Sioux Falls for surgery, he said, which took about three hours.

Potter County Sheriff Alan McClain said officials determined no crime was committed in the hunting incident.

Pille arrived home Tuesday night.

"I'm doing OK," he said. "I've got a lot of pain today."

Pille said he can see light and has some peripheral vision, but the pellet struck his pupil.

The 67-year-old retired truck salesman said it

wasn't the first time he had been shot while hunting. An

X-ray taken Monday showed a pellet that had been in his cheek for more than

20 years. He said he knew about that pellet and did not have it removed.

"It hasn't been bothering me for 20 years, so why take it out now?"

He said the loss of sight in his right eye wouldn't stop him from hunting.

"I've got to learn how to hunt with my left eye, now," he said.