A 36-year-old man was admitted to hospital after he was "shot" by his own dog in Wright County, Iowa, during a hunting trip, in what is being described as a "freak accident."

The incident happened on Nov.29 when William Rancourt, from Lebanon, New Hampshire, was hunting for pheasants in the Boone River Greenbelt public hunting area in the county around 1:20 p.m. local time (2:20 p.m. EST), Radio Iowa reported. 

Rancourt was accompanied by three men and two dogs.

He was hit on his back with bird-shot pellets when one of the hunting dog stepped on the trigger guard of a 12-gauge shotgun lying on the ground, according to a news release from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Rancourt sustained injuries that weren't considered life threatening but still were "fairly moderate," said Ken Lonneman, a state conservation officer.

 “Long story short — it was really a freak accident — one of the hunters in the hunting party set his gun down on the ground and one of the dogs in the hunting party just stepped just right, or just wrong, onto the trigger guard of that shotgun, and the gun fired,” Lonneman said.

He added that Rancourt was taken to Trinity Hospital in Fort Dodge, Webster County.

Lonneman said that Rancourt was "lucky" as he was about 22 yards away when the dog accidentally fired the 12-gauge.

“He’s fortunate that the distance was as far as it was because shotguns are extremely dangerous at close ranges. At 22 yards he caught most of the shot pattern in his back from his waist up to his neck. He was on x-rays yesterday as they were determining if they would require surgery to remove the pellets, or if they could get most of them with a forceps. …At three yards it’s going to do a lot more damage than at 22 yards. But he still got peppered pretty good at 22 yards,” he said. 

The investigation of the incident is still ongoing and the DNR is being assisted by the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.

In the light of the accident, Lonneman said it is important to know about hunting safety. He urged others to learn from the hunters’ carelessness and advised them to unload their guns before putting them down.

 “And what we want to emphasize to the hunters is a friendly reminder – we can learn from these people’s mistakes — always unload your gun and double-check the safety before putting a firearm down. Whether it is on the ground or leaning it up against a fence or a tree because you never know when something like that is going to knock it over,” Lonneman said. 

Lonneman said that in his 31 years of experience as a conservation officer, he has come across similar incidents only twice. “It’s only happened twice that I’ve seen in my 31 years as a conservation officer where a dog actually was responsible for the accidental discharge of a gun. But it does happen,” he added. 

“They were good bird dogs and I think as any of us can imagine, accidents can happen and that one put its foot in the wrong place at the wrong time.”