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Hunting "Accident"

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No one told him it was Griffin season.

"You will forsake all claim to your brother's inheritance and start north before evenfall. If you do not, then on the morrow we shall have a hunt, and somewhere in these woods your horse will stumble, and you will be thrown from the saddle to die... or so I will tell your mother. Nothing would please me more."
Lord Randyll Tarly to his son Samwell Tarly, A Song of Ice and Fire

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. Also compare Unfriendly Fire.


As an (occasional) Death Trope, expect unmarked spoilers below.


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    Anime & 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.

    Comic Books 
  • A graphic novel co-written by Enki Billal, The Hunting Party, is one looong Hunting "Accident" spanning the entire book. With all the characters being officials in Soviet vassal states, the "accident" is a little more advanced than usual, by using the Credible Threat of an angry bear and the rather telling line:
    "I would watch my mouth if I were you, it is not uncommon for a second accident to occur when someone has already died."
  • In Preacher, this is what lead to the death of Tulip's father during a hunting trip they were both on. To add insult to injury, he was taking a crap in the woods at the time.
    • Note that unlike the other examples listed under this trope, this really was a genuine hunting accident. The hunters who shot him were just that stupid.
  • Fifteen years before the start of Mother Panic, the protagonist's father was killed this way.

    Fan Works 
  • The Almanac Chronicles: Lorraine and Cliff arrange this kind of death for Biff.
  • King Halvard of the Frozen fic In Pain And Blood loved hunting. One day, he went out hunting with a group but he didn't come back alive. He was attacked by a bear and mysteriously died of his non-lethal injuries. It was considered an unfortunate stroke of infection until his elder son started showing similar symptoms a few years later. It turns out that his other son Aksel has poisoned his father and was attempting the same with his brother.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • After John Sterling finds out in Wild Orchids that Prince de Gace has been after his wife, he gets the prince to come with him on a tiger hunt — but deliberately give the prince an unloaded gun.
  • Part of Salluste's Evil Plan in Delusions of Grandeur. It involves lots of hunting accidents to clear up the succession line to the throne of Spain.
  • The final scene of The Hunt, where during the community's annual hunt somebody shoots at Lucas. The shot misses, and we don't know if it was meant to just scare him off or actually kill him. We never learn who the shooter was.
  • Toby and Tanner's abusive father died this way in the backstory of Hell or High Water. Out of season. In a barn.
  • The Single Standard: Tommy's plan for himself, to save face, after his wife Arden has decided to leave him for her old boyfriend Packy. He tells Packy that Packy should reject Arden, but after that, Tommy will kill himself via hunting "accident". That way, Arden can get together with Packy in the end without shame or scandal.
  • In Cadillac Man Robin Williams assures himself that his old friend Carmine will look out for him if he is threatened by other mobsters. Upon asking Carmine's whereabouts he is answered with these two words.
  • In Fantômas Against Scotland Yard, Lord Rashley's secretary plans to kill his boss during a fox-hunting party, since he covets the latter's wife. What he does not know is that Lord Rashley is dead already, and Fantômas is impersonating him, leading to a case of Mugging the Monster as the supervillain is no easy prey.

  • Played with in Dragon Bones: Ward's grandfather was allegedly killed by an arrow to the back, by some bandits he and his son were hunting at the time. His son murdered him, a case of Klingon Promotion. Ward's father, on the other hand, really dies in a hunting accident ... or at least everyone says so, and it is never proven to have been different. The horse, whom he treated very badly, had a role in his death, but that counts as accident. Ironically, it was on a hunting trip when ten-year-old Ward was told by his drunk father that the grandfather didn't die through an enemy arrow.
  • 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: Given the cut-and-thrust nature of politics in the series, this crops up a fair bit. And, even when it genuinely doesn't, most players in the Game will naturally assume any untimely demise to likely be less accidental than it appears.
    • King Robert Baratheon dies from a wound taken while hunting. It is set up by Cersei, who arranges for him to be drunker than usual. It might, perhaps, have helped that two of his squires just happened to be cousins of hers, who might, possibly, maybe (read: we're pretty certain) have been able to suggest that he chase after something bolder (read: bloody dangerous) when the reported white hart they'd set out to hunt was a curious no-show. While he just so happened to be too buzzed to think of the possible downsides to this venture.
    • 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 deliberately ridden down and hunted like a pig. So, um, not a particularly convincing "accident", then. House Tarly's sigil is, appropriately enough, a "striding huntsman".
    • Cersei also asks Ser Balman to arrange a hunting "accident" for Bronn. The honorable (and "cunning") Ser Balman instead tries fighting Bronn openly in a knightly, tournament-like duel. Which goes poorly. Dude really should have attempted the stealthy option: less embarrassing for all concerned.
    • The Clegane brothers' father is strongly rumored to have been killed in one such hunting "accident" arranged by Gregor.
    • Luthor Tyrell, father of Mace Tyrell, died in a genuine hunting accident when he rode off a cliff while hawking. Given the sheer absurdity of it, Tyrion briefly wonders whether it was a suicide.
  • 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. The point was to avoid real killers that would come calling, not to mention the clan Dishonor, if certain things came out. The boar, however, was an unexpected surprise; the character was expecting a convincing illusion, not the real thing.
  • Older Than Print: Hagen's murder of Siegfried in the Nibelungenlied (and Götterdämmerung). Hagen even talked Kriemhild into marking Siegfried's one vulnerable spot via a cross/Thor's hammer sewn on his clothing so Hagen could watch his back extra carefully.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: "The Mayors": King Lepold's father died in the Back Story, although it is alluded to several times that Prince Regent Wienis may have arranged for it to happen. Fifteen-year-old King Lepold still goes on many royal hunting trips, and Wienis comments on the danger.
    "The king's father died under suspicious circumstances. A needle bullet through the chest during a hunt. It was called an accident."High Priest Poly Verisof
    "Be careful on these Nyak hunts, my boy. Since the unfortunate accident to your father, I have had the strangest presentiments concerning you, at times. In the confusion, with needle guns thickening the air with darts, one can never tell. You will be careful, I hope. And you'll do as I say about the Foundation, won't you?"Prince Regent Wienis to his fifteen-year-old nephew, King Lepold I
  • Heralds of Valdemar:
    • 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. Karathanelan's own family also realizes what really happened, but it turns out they knew he was scum too and decide not to press the matter further.
    • In the short story "A Leash of Greyhounds", Lady Shantell insists this is what happened to her husband at the hand of his friend, while the friend maintains that he thought he was shooting at a deer. The inquest proves that the man's death really was an accident and that he was stupid enough to go hunting in brown pants and boots and a deerskin jacket.
  • 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.
  • King Elhokar in The Way of Kings (first book of The Stormlight Archive) 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 by one of the villains for Prince Ludwig 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 "a 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 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.
  • Before the start of the Black Blade series, Lila's father was sent on a routine monster-hunting job by his boss. But Victor Draconi deliberately forgot to tell Luke how many monsters there were, so he went alone into a major nest and was killed.
  • The Crowner John Mysteries: In Crowner's Quest, one of the victims is a Norman nobleman killed during a hunt. Having first lamed the horse of the reeve who was accompanying him to ensure that he would be alone, the murderer hits the noble over the head and then breaks is neck to make it look like he died in a fall from his horse after striking his head on a branch.
  • A self-inflicted variant occurs in Song of the Lioness when King Roald dies attempting a risky jump. His son Jonathan knows that it had to have been deliberate, since Roald was an excellent rider, but was deeply in mourning for his recently-deceased wife.
  • At the beginning of the first Safehold novel, an attempt is made to kill Prince Cayleb by encouraging him to hunt a man-killing slash lizard. When the lizard loses the fight, the parties responsible break out swords and crossbows and turn it into a more straight-up assassination attempt.
  • Mentioned in the backstory of The Sign of the Unicorn:
    Corwin: [My archenemy] and I had gone out hunting...
    Ganelon: It seems strange that the two of you, being on the terms you were, would go out alone together.
    Corwin: Well, perhaps it was a bit more contrived than I make it sound. Perhaps the two of us had reasons to want to be out hunting by ourselves.
    Ganelon: I see.
  • Nick Velvet: At the end of "The Theft of the Bathroom Scale", it is mentioned that the man Nick stole the scale from had been shot and killed by his wife (whom Nick suspected of having committed the murder of a cowhand during the theft) in a 'hunting accident'. However, she did not make a very convincing job of it and was arrested a few days later.
  • Toward the end of The Goblin Emperor, Maia (the eponymous Emperor) inquires of his Lord Chancellor about the remaining family members of a traitor who was sadistically cruel and an all-around terrible person. Besides several sisters, the Lord Chancellor mentions a younger brother who he vaguely remembered dying years back in a hunting accident. It's not spelled out if this was an accident or an "accident", but since the traitor also "hunted" another person at least once...
  • The Burning Room: Broussard, the Big Bad, eliminated the man who carried out a hit for him via Hunting "Accident" at a gun club.
  • In The Masked Empire, Grand Duchess Calienne arranged one of these for Clarisse de Montfort shortly before Celene, Clarisse's teenage daughter, became Empress of Orlais.
  • Near the end of The Three Hostages, the villain attempts to arrange such an "accident" for the hero.

    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 pheasant shoot scheduled. The unsuspecting victim picks up the gun, says it feels heavier than usual, pulls the trigger, and Kablooie. The cartridges slipped into her pocket 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. What's worse is that, according to The Coroner, this is actually a very common accident when hunting is involved. Had the threat for there to be two victims not been made, it would've been ruled a genuine accident.
  • 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.
  • The NCIS team once investigated a missing Marine in a small town with no murders but lots of hunting accidents.
  • CSI 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" has Admiral Chegwidden’s mentor decease at such an occasion, and Chegwidden refuses to believe that it was either a suicide or an accident.
  • The Borgias:
    • Lucrezia arranges one of these (of the riding-accident variety) for her abusive husband in the first season. 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 separating 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 separate 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. The boar wasn't in on it, but his squire Lancel Lannister made sure to get him extra drunk as part of a Batman Gambit to make an accident more likely.
  • The Man in the High Castle: Obergruppenfuehrer John Smith discovers a plot by senior Nazis to assassinate Hitler and start a war with Japan. He's invited to a hunting party where he is to be quietly killed for knowing too much.
  • An after-the-fact variation in The Red Green Show: Buzz's plane was about to be inspected, and it had bullet-holes in the tail. He told Red he was going to blame that on a hunting accident, but it's never stated how they really got there.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Opening Day", Joe Farrell reluctantly goes along with his lover Sally Wilkerson's plan to kill her husband Carl by making it look as he was killed while duck hunting. After Carl is killed, the police believe that it was simply an accident. Joe returns to what used to be the Wilkerson house to find that it is the previous day and that he is now Sally's husband. When Carl takes him on the same hunting trip, Joe becomes concerned that he is going to be killed and falls into the water. He refuses Carl's attempts to help him and dies.


  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • In the Age of Empires II expansion, the Attila the Hun campaign starts this way. The player can do this to Atilla's brother Bleda or have him killed by the Iron Boar (making it something of a cross between this trope and an actual hunting accident), but Bleda also has his brother ambushed, so they're both trying to pull this on each other. Or you can subvert it by just leaving and starting civil war.
    Hun warrior: Bleda will lead us to ruin! Perhaps he should not return from his boar hunt. Accidents can happen...
  • It's not assassination per se, but Friedrich von Glower in Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within uses this to turn Ludwig II of Bavaria and later Gabriel himself into a werewolf.
  • One method of assassinating rivals in Crusader Kings is to arrange a hunting accident. Hunting events can also result in genuine hunting accidents.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • 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 before 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.

    Real Life 
  • Although the exact circumstances are subject to debate, this was basically the method by which Genghis Khan offed his brother Begter when he was a teenager.
  • Same for Attila the Hun and his brother, Bleda.
  • 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. In any case, the man who supposedly shot the deadly arrow — Walter Tirel, a long-time acquaintance of both brothers — immediately decided that a quick trip and a very long stay in France (lovely lands; solid income) would be a really good idea. Even if it really was an accident, it's not exactly safe to be either the fellow who accidentally killed the king or the guy who knows who else accidentally did, but for whom you might have taken the blame because you were all mates.
  • Two rival Russian 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.
  • Eastern Roman Emperor Basil the Macedonian, an old man but 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.
  • Subverted in Finland 2017 when a murderer with a very bizarre modus operandi - a serial drowner - was caught. He had lured his victims on a fishing trip on which they had gone fishing on a rowboat, then they had drunken heavily, and then he had deliberately capsized the rowboat, leaving his victim to drown (he himself was a good swimmer). Everything had looked like a tragic accident - fishing, heavy drinking, capsized Savonian-style rowboat (which is notoriously unstable), no life vests. He had managed to drown at least five victims until the authorities began to suspect foul play.
  • Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria wrote to his wife, Princess Stéphanie, that he would have invited Emperor Wilhelm II "only to get rid of him in some elegant hunting accident", his cousin who Rudolf found obnoxious (and the sentiment was mutual). Rudolf later ended up dead of a gunshot at the Mayerling hunting lodge, and Emperor Franz Joseph note  had to politely and tacitly ban Wilhelm from Rudolf's funeral to avoid any incidents of gloating at the Irony.
  • This was a commonly made joke regarding an incident in February of 2006, when Dick Cheney, the then-Vice President to George W. Bush, ended up shooting Harry Whittington, a Texas lawyer and an acquaintance, in his right side during a quail hunt. Unlike most media examples, it was determined that the incident was an actual hunting accident, and Mr. Whittington not only survived but made a full recovery since bird shot is pretty terrible at taking down large game.


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