Retired Wisconsin Conservation Warden Jerry Carow doesn’t need his notes or case files to recall the most famous person he ever cited for failure to report an accidental shooting.
Carow, in fact, thinks he cited only one person for that offense during his 30-year career. After all, hunting-related shootings are rare, and it’s common knowledge that Wisconsin law requires all gunshot woundings be reported, no matter their severity.
Carow retired from the Department of Natural Resources in 2001. Two years earlier, in October 1999, he cited college hall-of-famer basketball coach Bobby Knight for not reporting that he shot Thomas Mikunda while hunting ruffed grouse with two other men north of Ladysmith in northwestern Wisconsin.
Carow, who lives just outside town, also cited Knight for hunting without a nonresident small-game license that day and during a similar hunt the previous year. Knight paid $582.50 in fines for the three violations, nearly 14 times more than the cost of a nonresident license, which was $43 at the time.
Knight was then coaching the Indiana Hoosiers, a nearly 30-year tenure in which his teams won three national titles. After Indiana University fired the controversial coach in September 2000 for grabbing and lecturing a student for calling him by his last name—without preceding it with “Mr.” or “Coach”—Knight coached at Texas Tech University in Lubbock from 2001 to 2008.
Knight added two more hunting accidents to his resume before retiring in 2008. While hunting mourning doves near Lubbock in October 2007, Knight fired shotgun pellets that struck two nearby residents in their backyards on back-to-back days. Neither “wounding” broke skin or caused bleeding.
Knight apologized to the first victim, Mary Ann Chumley, who was struck in the foot by a falling pellet. The next day, a neighbor 100 yards away twice confronted Knight and his companion after pellets they fired landed in his backyard. The neighbor, James Simpson, said he told the men they were hunting too close to the homes, but then was struck soon after in the neck and back by more spent pellets while cleaning his pool.
Simpson accused Knight in an Associated Press article of firing toward him intentionally, but Knight called the accusation “ridiculous.”
Carow still thinks Knight and Mikunda obscured the truth when he questioned them after their October 1999 hunting accident in Wisconsin. Subsequent news articles reported that at least 15 pellets from Knight’s 20-gauge shotgun penetrated Mikunda’s back and upper shoulder. The impact flattened Mikunda and temporarily dazed him but he returned home after being treated by an emergency-room doctor at a Ladysmith hospital.
Knight, meanwhile, returned to Indiana. Neither man nor the hospital reported the shooting.
“They tried to cover it all up,” Carow said. “That much is certain. They even talked the doctor into not reporting it. I ended up not citing the doctor, but I had ‘conversations’ with him.”
Carow’s investigation began about 10 days after the shooting when he heard rumors that Knight shot Mikunda while hunting with some “well-to-do” companions. Mikunda wasn’t carrying a gun, and was just walking along with the group when he was shot.
Carow knew Mikunda, a local insurance agent, and contacted him. “He was hesitant at first to talk, but he was mad at Bobby,” Carow said. “He told me this story that they were walking in a line, a bird got up between him and Bobby, and Bobby swung on it and shot him. I drove up to the site where it happened. When I saw how open it was, I knew it didn’t happen the way he said.
“So, I asked, ‘Did you get out in front of him; out in front of where you should have been?’ He said, ‘Well, I might have been out in front of him a bit.’ But I still don’t know how Knight could not have seen him, as open as it was there,” Carow said.
Carow then called Knight’s office at Indiana University in Bloomington. “Bobby wasn’t in when I called but I talked to his secretary,” Carow said. “She was really nice, and said he had mentioned something about it. The way she was talking, I pictured her head shaking back and forth because here was another one of Bobby’s escapades. She said he’d call me back as soon as he returned, and he did.”
In subsequent news articles, Knight said he accidentally shot Mikunda when his finger slipped off the shotgun’s safety as he aimed at a flushed grouse.
Carow remains skeptical. “He didn’t admit to what I thought happened, but contrary to everything you hear about Bobby Knight, he was good to talk to,” Carow said. “He was actually fun to talk to, even when I asked, ‘Bob, did you have a (hunting) license?’”
“‘Was this the first time you’ve hunted here?’”
No. He said he hunted here last year, too.
“‘Did you have a license then?’”
“‘Did your buddies have licenses when this happened?’”
No. They didn’t have licenses, either.
Carow told Knight he was citing him for not reporting the shooting and for hunting without a license in 1998 and 1999. “He said he would gladly pay the fines, and he did,” Carow said.
When Carow asked where else Knight had been hunting he mentioned the Dakotas, Montana and some other Western states.
“Did you have licenses out there?”
No. Probably not.
“I’ll never understand that,” Carow said. “You’d think that if someone has enough money, which he did, that buying a license wouldn’t be a significant holdup.”
Mikunda, meanwhile, remained angry. He sued Knight in 2001, accusing him of lying to investigators and coercing him to falsify details of the shooting to avoid legal problems. Mikunda sought unspecified legal costs and compensatory and punitive damages. He eventually settled with Knight.
After retiring from coaching in 2008, Knight worked as an ESPN basketball analyst until 2015. Now 82, Knight was last in the news in April after an illness sent him to a hospital for the weekend.
Although Carow thinks Knight and Mikunda weren’t up-front with him, he couldn’t prove his suspicions, which he declined to share publicly. “As far as how the shooting happened, I have my ideas but they’re only speculation,” Carow said. “I have no way to prove anything.”
Then he smiled and added, “But like I said, Bobby was pleasant about the whole thing.”
Feature image via Sports Illustrated, College Hall of Fame basketball coach Bobby Knight, seen here in 1981, was cited in October 1999 for shooting a hunting companion near Ladysmith, Wisconsin, and not reporting it to authorities.