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Victim's family wants tougher charges for hunter's death

Monday 23 Jun 2014 6:17 p.m.

On a Sunday in mid-April, Southland hunter Steve Sycamore went off into the Longwood Forest with his best hunting mate and cousin Adam Hill, both of them were wearing high-vis jerseys. 

Also in the forest that day was gallery owner and keen hunter Wayne Edgerton – a man that Mr Sycamore knew as the guy who'd give him and his mates a gun safety lecture. 

However tomorrow in Invercargill, Edgerton will be sentenced for shooting and killing Mr Hill, a 25-year-old father of two, thinking he was a deer. 

Edgerton pleaded guilty and Campbell Live is told he's stricken with remorse. 

He was a gun safety advocate, and he didn't follow that most simple of hunting rules: if you're not utterly sure what it is, don't shoot at it. 

The court tomorrow will be full of people wearing high-vis vests as a reminder of that. 

They were 40 metres away from each other when they exchanged stag calls, but Mr Sycamore thought something wasn't right, so let out a distinct human whistle to make sure Edgerton knew that they were there.

He did this twice before he saw Edgerton and his hunting partner emerge from the forest, but it was then that a shot rang out.

"As soon as that happened I dropped straight to the ground and yelled out to them," says Mr Sycamore. "And then I looked around and saw Adam, and I asked, 'Are you alright, cuz?' He didn't reply, so I looked around he was lying down in the ferns". 

What Mr Sycamore didn't immediately grasp was that Mr Hill had been shot right in the chest. 

Michelle Sycamore describes how thankful she is that she got to hug her husband that night, while Mr Hill's wife Christine Pink didn't. 

Mr Hill was a hard worker who had just been promoted to manage three Southland farms. 

He was father to two young girls. Ms Pink says that the girls are doing really well and they have been keeping her going through this process. 

Back in the bush, Mr Sycamore describes that following the shooting, "I yelled out to them, 'Oi, you've shot my mate,' and they raced through." 

He describes how he heard Edgerton let out an ear-piercing scream, and then he yelled out 'I'm going to jail' then proceeded to throw his gun into the bush. 

Edgerton will tomorrow be sentence in the Invercargill District Court, and Ms Pink has been told to prepare herself for Edgerton receiving a sentence of home detention and a $4,000 fine. 

Mr Sycamore believes the sentence should be manslaughter and Ms Pink wants him to be made an example of, as Edgerton teaches others of hunting safety. 

"I can't help but feel if the shoe was on the other foot, what would [Adam] be sentenced with being a bald-headed, tattooed-looking bogan?" asks Ms Sycamore. 

Watch the full report from Whena Owen.

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