A Wesley Chapel man may start looking for a new best friend after he recovers from a bullet wound that he suffered on a recent hunting trip.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials, Billy E. Brown, 78, of Wesley Chapel, was deer hunting with his dog, Eli and a friend on December 10. It was a trip that Brown and Eli had made dozens of times, taking a pickup truck to an area north of Wesley Chapel during Pasco County’s deer hunting season (December 3 – February 19) to try and bring home a buck. Unfortunately, it was Brown, the vice president and general manager of Withlacoochee River Electric Co-op (WREC), who ended up with a bullet in him.

According to the wildlife officials, the trio was traveling in the truck on a bumpy, unpaved back road when Eli, a bulldog, got excited and jumped from the back seat of the truck to the front and bumped the trigger of Brown’s high-powered, Browning .308 hunting rifle. The loaded rifle went off and a bullet struck Brown’s right thigh bone and also hit a major artery above his right knee. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa where he underwent two major surgeries and was in critical condition for a short time. The incident happened in the woods near Old Pasco Rd. and Gillette Rd., roughly three miles south of Hillcrest Preserve.

Brown is a well-known figure in Pasco County. He grew up in Dade City, where he was a star baseball player and went on to play semi-pro ball before serving in the Korean War. After the war, he returned to Dade City, and began working for WREC in 1956, where he still works today. In the last two decades, Brown has helped Pasco County’s growth by pushing for more development, such as Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club and area Wal-Marts which have created hundreds of jobs.

Brown’s sister, Pat Weaver, told WTVT-TV Fox 13 News if Eli could speak he would tell Billy “I’m so sorry. This was an accident.” Since Brown was shot, FWC officers have continued to tell hunters to never transport loaded guns, even if it is only a short distance between hunting sites, and to always practice safe hunting techniques. -SB

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