The blast, said Jerry Cusick, felt “like being hit in the side of the head with a baseball bat,” a stunning blow from out of nowhere that spun the Washington County sheriff’s commander fully around.

Cusick said he was wrapping up an unarmed scouting expedition for wild turkeys Tuesday morning when dozens of shotgun pellets sprayed across his face, shoulders and neck.

He had hoped to be back in the same Wisconsin woods Wednesday, but instead he was home in Scandia after a long day at Regions Hospital recovering from an errant shotgun blast by another hunter. He will require surgery to remove a pellet near his eye, and a shattered front tooth. “I still have my vision, but there’s a pellet in a bad spot that should be removed,” he said.

“I had been out hiking for a while at the northern end of the property, and I pretty much decided I had seen everything I needed to see,” Cusick said. He never saw or heard the shooter, who turned out to be a 27-year-old White Bear Lake man who apparently was hunting on adjoining land and had strayed into Cusick’s hunting site.

Then the shot rang out.

“I just yelled ‘You shot me! You shot me!’ and I reached into my pocket for my cellphone,” he said. But it was smeared with blood, and couldn’t work. “I hollered to him ‘Call 9-1-1! Call 9-1-1!’ At that point, I still hadn’t seen him.”

Unsure whether the shooter would help him, his police training kicked in. “I decided I’m not going to stay here and die,” Cusick said. When the shooter arrived, he seemed disoriented — but eventually called for help. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘he’s not much value to me,’ ” Cusick said.

Cusick, losing blood, knew he needed to get to his vehicle. He eventually reached a nearby farmhouse, where the couple gave the ambulance a clear address to reach.

“I’m lucky. None of the pellets penetrated my heart or lungs,” Cusick said. “But I’ve got a lot of trauma from all these pellet wounds.”

The shooter has not been charged, but authorities continue to investigate.

Cusick said he plans to go back to work as quickly as possible, though he has a future date for eye and dental surgery. Much of his job is administrative, so he said that shouldn’t pose a problem. But he is also eager to return to the physical aspects his job also demands.

“I guarantee you it won’t be long before I’m back 100 percent,” he said.


Twitter: @StribJAnderson