MAYODAN, N.C. -- NC Wildlife says a 14-year-old boy accidentally shot himself Thursday morning while hunting.
The investigating officer told WFMY News 2 paramedics airlifted the boy to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he is in critical, but stable condition.
The boy was hunting on family land just before dawn in the area of Odell and Ayersville roads.
"He's a very safe hunter - he just made a bad mistake," said James Brim, the victim's grandfather.
At first, it was hard for the boy's family to believe.
"They play tricks on me," said Brim. "When he called and told me that, I told him, 'Son, don't be kidding with me like that.' And he whimpered, and I know he wasn't kidding with me."
The officer said he was in the process of tying rope around the gun before climbing up into a tree stand. The firearm discharged and shot him in the upper leg while he was still standing beside the tree.
"Everything that could've went wrong went wrong here today," said Barry Joyce with the NC Wildlife Commission. "And, this is what happens when everything goes wrong."
After inspecting the area, NC Wildlife said the ladder for the tree stand the boy was going to use was not in good condition. They said the boy tried to tie the loaded gun - with the safety off - near the trigger.
NC Wildlife says the boy did not take a hunting safety class. A North Carolina law, SL 2013-63, says people of any age must take the course to get a hunting permit. The course is free in every county. Details are on the NC Wildlife website.
The investigating officer said if the boy took the hunting safety class, he would have known not to tie the gun like he did.
The investigator said the boy didn't have a parent beside him, but his uncle was nearby.
NC Wildlife says Thanksgiving is their biggest hunting day of the year.