WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally wounded a companion with shotgun pellets on a weekend quail hunt in Texas, his office said on Sunday.
Cheney's companion, Austin lawyer Harry Whittington, 78, was listed in stable condition after being brought in on Saturday night, said Yvonne Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Cheney's office said Whittington had been sprayed by birdshot while hunting at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, about 200 miles south of San Antonio.
The shooting was first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. The vice president's office did not disclose the accident until the day after it happened.
Katharine Armstrong, whose family owns the ranch, was a member of the hunting party and witnessed the accident.
She said Cheney, an experienced hunter, did not realize Whittington had rejoined the group without announcing himself, which is proper protocol among hunters.
"They had no idea he was there," Armstrong said.
"A bird flew up, the vice president followed it through around to his right and shot, and unfortunately, unbeknownst to anybody, Harry was there and he got peppered pretty good with a spray of 28-gauge pellets," Armstrong said in a telephone interview.
"He was turning, facing the vice president, but turning to the right, and it sprayed him across the right side of his face, his shoulder, his chest and along the rib cage area," she said.
Armstrong said Cheney's medical team attended to Whittington before he was taken to the hospital.
She described Cheney as "an excellent, conscientious shot."
"The person who is not doing the shooting at the point is just as responsible and, should be, as the person actually shooting," Armstrong said.
Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said the vice president had been with Whittington at the hospital on Sunday.
"The vice president visited with Harry Whittington at the hospital and was pleased to see he is doing fine and in good spirits," McBride said.
Cheney has been a frequent visitor to the Armstrong Ranch and in October spoke at the funeral of family patriarch Tobin Armstrong.
Armstrong's wife, Anne, served as U.S. ambassador to Britain and as an adviser to presidents Nixon, Reagan and George Bush.
The 50,000-acre ranch was settled in 1882 by his grandfather, John Armstrong III, a Texas Ranger known for capturing outlaw John Wesley Hardin.
Whittington serves on the Texas state Funeral Services Commission and the state Office of Patient Protection and is a former member of the the board of the Texas Department of Corrections.
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