A specific and common variety of Make It Look Like an Accident
, this is an assassination attempt during a hunting party which cleverly takes advantage of all of the weaponry about to "accidentally" fire upon a fellow participant. Particularly clever about this method is that even if the perpetrator was identified as firing the fatal shot, at most, they appear guilty of manslaughter.
The weapons aren't the only dangerous things one encounters while hunting, of course: variations of this trope are seen in which the victim is killed by a riding "accident" or their supposed quarry
or something else. These can make for the most convincing "accidents"
, but tend to be somewhat more complex to arrange.
Of course, sometimes, it fails to look like an accident at all
Compare This Bear Was Framed
, which can overlap.
As an (occasional) Death Trope
, expect unmarked spoilers below.
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Anime and Manga
- In Berserk, the Deadly Decadent Court of Midland attempts this against Griffith during the arc in which he and the Band of the Hawk rise through society despite their common origins. The attack fails due to the arrow hitting Griffith's Behelit instead. Griffith knows what's up, though, and eventually arranges the deaths of everyone responsible. Including the frigging QUEEN!
- Lupin III vs. Detective Conan begins with the queen of a country named Vespania out enjoying nature while her son and brother go hunting. It appears that the prince accidentally shoots her while aiming at a fox, and immediately commits suicide out of grief. The Reveal is that the queen replaced the prince's bullets with blanks to keep him from killing anything - her brother actually killed them both.
- In the James Bond movie Moonraker, the villain, Drax, takes Bond hunting for this purpose; Bond "accidentally" shoots his presumptive assassin.
- One of the adoptive fathers in The Boys from Brazil is shot and killed in a 'hunting accident'. It happens off-screen with the investigators arriving in time for the funeral.
- In the "Father's Day" segment of Creepshow, we learn that Bedelia Grantham's monstrous father had her beau killed in a "hunting accident" (this explanation is delivered complete with air quotes).
- Scotland PA subverts this trope. Joe McBeth considers faking a hunting accident to kill Banko for knowing too much, and it briefly looks like he did so. Then it turns out the death was just deceptive editing, and Banko's just unconscious. Joe finds another way to kill him later.
- In Ran, the princes Taro and Jiro attack their father's castle and slaughter everyone inside when a general rides up to Jiro and tells him that his older brother was fatally shot by a stray bullet that probably came from one of the towers. Jiro just stares at him intensely, which makes the general look at the still smoking musket he is holding in his hand. The general just throws the musket away, and the two never speak of this unfortunate tragedy again.
- This is how Louis murders Ethelred D'Ascoyne in Kind Hearts and Coronets. He lures Ethelred into a mantrap and then shoots him with his own gun; making it look like Ethelred dropped the gun and it discharged when it hit the ground.
- In Gosford Park, during the hunt, a low shot grazes Sir William, which is yet another possible murder attempt.
- In the Flashman novel Flashman and the Great Game, the Russian villain Count Ignatieff tries to kill him while they are both guests at Balmoral.
- Given a science fiction twist in the Culture novel The Player of Games - the protagonist goes on a hunting trip with a noble who is described as being a rather ruthless schemer who tries to kill him. The twist is that the character didn't attempt this of his own volition, but instead had his body taken over and controlled by others through technology. In fact, he surprisingly tries to show some Heroic Willpower. Underscoring how involuntary this is, he continues firing, even after his head has been blown away.
- From the Deryni works: Liam-Lajos's older brother Alroy dies in a "riding accident" a month after reaching his majority. Both Kelson and the boy's uncles are rumoured to have engineered it to put another child heir on the Torenthi throne. Eventually, Mátyás confirms to Kelson, Morgan and Dhugal that Mahael and Teymuraz were behind it.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- King Robert Baratheon dies from a wound taken while hunting. It is set up by Cersei, who arranges for the king to be drunker than usual.
- Sam Tarly is threatened with one of these by his father if he doesn't leave to join the Night's Watch. Specifically, that he would be hunted down like a pig. So, not a particularly convincing "accident". House Tarly's sigil is, appropriately enough, a "striding huntsman".
- Cersei also asks Ser Balman to arrange a hunting "accident" for Bronn. The honorable Ser Balman instead tries fighting Bronn openly in a duel, which goes poorly.
- The Clegane brothers' father is strongly rumored to have been killed in one such hunting "accident" arranged by Gregor.
- There is a non-fatal one in Agatha Christie's novel Curtain.
- A variant occurs in one of Katharine Kerr's Deverry novels — a character fakes their own death in a hunting accident.
- Older Than Feudalism: Hagen's murder of Siegfried in the Nibelungenlied (and Götterdämmerung).
- "Bridle and Saddle", one of Isaac Asimov's Foundation stories (reprinted in Foundation as "The Mayors"): "The king's father died under suspicious circumstances. A needle bullet through the chest during a hunt. It was called an accident."
- In the Heralds of Valdemar series, after Queen Selenay's husband Prince Karathanelan is killed during his attempt to assassinate Selenay, the explanation is that he died in a hunting accident. It's true in a sense, since he was hunting Selenay. Atypically, Thanel is a villain, and his killers are the heroes of the piece.
- In One Tenth Percent, Erast Fandorin investigates a murder that looks like a Hunting Accident, since the murderer has no motive at all, but it turns out, he "traded places" with another murderer, so that they could kill each other's targets without arousing suspicion.
- Happens in the backstory of Kushiel's Dart, albeit not with a weapon - before a hunt, the saddle on the horse Dauphin's fiancee was to ride was tampered with, and she had a fatal fall.
- Similarly, King Elhokar in The Way of Kings suffers a fall during a fight with a very large crab that he insists was the result of an assassination attempt. In the end, it turns out that he cut the saddle strap himself so that he could make Dalinar take his paranoia seriously. However, this was apparently simultaneous with a real assassination attempt; his magical armor malfunctioned and the creature attacked the party unexpectedly.
- In Alexandre Dumas' La Reine Margot, Charles IX would have died in such an accident if it wasn't for Henry of Navarre. He got himself in a dangerous situation on his own, but his brother, Duke of Alençon, who would have been the King of Poland if Charles died, worsened it by shooting his horse in the leg and making it pin the king to the ground, instead of helping him. In the end, Charles still dies in a hunt-related accident — from reading a poisoned book about falcon hunting that was meant for Henry and was left in his room by d'Alençon.
- Happens with the eldest son of the Pridd family in Reflections of Eterna by Russian fantasy writer Vera Kamsha. It was seen as an honour killing (because of his rumored "inappropriate" relationship with one of the main characters) by one of the POV characters in first few books.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Mad King, proposed for Von der Tann.
He hunts a great deal in the Old Forest. It might be possible—in fact, it has happened, before—there are many accidents in hunting, are there not, your highness?
- Happens in one of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell mysteries, albeit unsuccessfully: the Duke of Justice Hall is shot during a pheasant hunt by a would-be assassin hoping to take advantage of the dually-convenient circumstances of "lots of guns around and nobody's looking at the people" and "an young, inexperienced shooter standing next to the Duke".
- In Prince Caspian, Doctor Cornelius tells Caspian that some of his father's supporters were done away with by this method.
- The Mortal Instruments: Kind of. Valentine never intended to murder Lucian, just get him bitten by a werewolf. Then he hands him a dagger and asks him to kill himself.
- The Wheel of Time: one of the minor southern nations went through four rulers in a year; one of them like this.
It wasn't an accident, unless he forgot which end of the boar spear to hold.
- A side character in The Tommyknockers murders his father this way in revenge for childhood sexual abuse.
Live Action TV
- Midsomer Murders: During a Christmas family reunion (and if Fatal Family Reunion isn't a trope yet, it should be), there's a pigeon (or some other bird) shoot scheduled. The unsuspecting victim picks up the gun, says it feels heavier than usual, pulls the trigger and Kablooie. As I recall, it had been loaded with cartridges too big for the barrel, resulting in a spectacular backfire.
- The opposite, actually: the cartridges were too small, meaning they slid down the barrel and didn't fire (or eject) until the victim loaded another set in thinking the last shot was a dud (assuming we're thinking about the same episode).
- Something similar was attempted in Desperate Housewives. It wasn't a hunting trip, but rather a camping trip where "poachers" were supposedly around.
- Used in LOST: this is how Locke manages to tie up Boone, IIRC.
- The NCIS team once investigated a missing Marine in a small town with no murders but lots of hunting accidents.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has had the occasional "hunting accident" case. In one episode, it turns out that the hunter had actually lost his job and tried to commit suicide in a way that looked like an accident so his wife would get the life insurance pay-out.
- In one episode of Rumpole of the Bailey, Rumpole's client is accused of murdering her husband (it was a bad marriage), with the evidence being her saying to "I killed him. I don't know what to do with him. Help me." and holding a just-fired shotgun; she insists that it was a hunting accident. Subverted, because she actually shot her husband's dead body, because after stumbling upon the corpse, she thought her lover, whose estate was nearby, was responsible. He wasn't, being in London on business at the time, and the real culprit was the gamekeeper, who had accidentally shot the man while illegally hunting pheasants from his cottage window.
- JAG: 3rd season episode "With Intent to Die" had Admiral Chegwidden’s mentor decease at such an occasion, and Chegwidden refuses to believe that it was either a suicide or an accident.
- Lucrezia arranges one of these (of the riding-accident variety) for her abusive husband in the first season of The Borgias. Unlike many of the other examples on this page, her husband survives, but he doesn't suspect a thing, and being laid up for some time with a broken leg prevents him from exercising his Marital Rape License (and gives her time to hook up with the helpful stable boy who sabotaged his saddle).
- The third season has another example, where Micheletto murders King Frederick IV of Naples due to seperating Lucrezia from her bastard child: the king has, inspired by a passage in Seneca, set up a pond full of carnivorous eel to aid him in hunting boars. When Micheletto and Frederick seperate from the hunting party to pursue the game, the king has an unfortunate accident.
- In one Monk episode "Mr. Monk Is At Your Service", Natalie is almost made victim to this, but Monk arrives just in the nick of time.
- Game of Thrones: Gets brought up a few times.
- Sam reveals that his father threatened him with a "hunting accident" if he didn't renounce his claim to the family title and join the Night's Watch.
- King Robert Baratheon has a fatal hunting accident. His squire Lancel Lannister made sure to get him extra drunk as part of a Batman Gambit to make an accident more likely.
- In episode 2 of the Star Wars radio series, after Lord Tion is shot during a fight with Leia, her father arranges for him to be taken to the woods so they can say it was a hunting accident.
- Subverted in Moral Orel when Orel shoots Clay's liquor bottles at the end of Nature (Part 1). Then played straight when Clay shoots Orel by accident after attempting to punish him.
- On one Looney Tunes short, Elmer Fudd's dog sees a TV show about cruel dog owners who get rid of their pets by taking them on hunting trips. ("Two go out, but only one returns.") He becomes suspicious when his master takes him hunting and decides to get Elmer befor Elmer gets him. Hilarity Ensues. Eventually, the dog realized how much of a heel (visual gag included) he was and decided to go to the TV station to attack the show's host.
- In Shrek 2, Fiona's father tells Shrek to meet him in the early morning to go hunting, but it is really a trap so the professional assassin Puss In Boots can kill him, at the behest of the movie's Big Bad.
- Although the exact circumstances are subject to debate, this was basically the method by which Genghis Khan offed his brother.
- The death of King William II of England in the New Forest in 1100 might have been a real accident. Or it might have been Henry I's way of getting rid of his brother and seizing the crown.
- Two rival newspapers decided to have an April Fool's joke playing on this: they acted like they were just bought out by Pravda, and the previous editors' disappearance was attributed to "freak simultaneous hunting accidents with high powered rifles to the back of the head". Some people took it for real.
- The inevitable Conspiracy Theory about that famous incident in 2006 when Dick Cheney shot and wounded Texan attorney Harry Whittington, though it's probably an aversion. For one thing, if Dick had wanted Harry dead, he would have probably used something a bit more powerful than birdshot (which, as the name suggests, is meant primarily for shooting small birds without obliterating them).
- Eastern Roman Emperor Basil the Macedonian, an experienced hunter, was reported to have been entangled in the antlers of a stag and dragged for over 15 miles resulting in injuries that led to his death in 886. He had also imprisoned his eldest surviving son Leonote for three years and was only narrowly dissuaded from having him blinded, so it is not hard to draw various conclusions.
- Hojo Soun was able to seize Odawara Castle in 1495 after inviting the local lord on a deer hunt whose real prey was not deer.