Family immerses itself in memories after death of a hunter dedicated to safety

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PITTSFIELD — Whether it was working on landscaping at a family home, building a picnic table with his son, or volunteering his time with a school or community group, Chris Puntin was always on the go.

The Pittsfield resident, who died Saturday while hunting, dedicated his life to bringing joy to those around him, his family said Tuesday.

"He just pictures it and it's done," Puntin's 18-year-old son, Nick, recalled about his father's projects, many of which he assisted with.

"He would never stop," added Puntin's girlfriend, Carla Halley.

Puntin, 44, of Pittsfield, died from a gunshot wound during an annual youth turkey hunt along Monument Valley Road in Great Barrington on Saturday. The incident, which occurred just before noon, prompted an investigation by state and local police. That investigation is still active.

On Tuesday afternoon, Puntin's family sat around a dining room table in the house where he and his sister, Beth, were raised, and they passed around old photos while they talked about his life. There were some tears, but overall memories of Puntin's overwhelming energy brought smiles and laughter to the Allessio Street home.

From a young age, Puntin was all about keeping busy. As a toddler, he'd wake up from a nap and run over to the dining room window to flag down his grandfather, who lived next door, said his mother, Mary Ellen Puntin. The pair would then be off on an adventure, usually with shovels in their hands.

"They were always puttering, doing something," she said of her son and father-in-law working in the yard.

"When he was 12, he bought his first riding lawn mower," said Beth, his younger sister.

He bought the mower, and his first bicycle, with money he collected picking up soda cans in the neighborhood.

His love for working outdoors turned into a career in landscaping and, later, construction.

Outside work, Puntin spent his time with family.

In the summer, the group would gather at their Goose Pond home in Tyringham and, while everyone else swam, Puntin would be working in the yard, his sister recalled.

In the winter, he'd wake up in the middle of the night to plow. When morning rolled around, he'd swing back to the house to pick up Nick to come along, occasionally irritating him with how long he'd spend on each house.

"He was a perfectionist," Beth said.

"He was always dirty," Mary Ellen said of her son's tendency to work outdoors.

Puntin was especially close with his son and father.

"When one was there, three were there," William Puntin said of the closeness with his son and grandson.

At Pittsfield High School, where Nick is captain of the football team, Puntin was well known. At games, he'd be the one with a grill, Nick said.

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As for hunting, Puntin was a natural, learning from his father how to shoot as a kid. When Nick was old enough, Puntin taught him archery and, later, how to shoot a shotgun.

He also became involved in mentoring youths interested in hunting, and volunteered to run local events.

During hunting trips, Puntin primarily gave his attention to less-experienced comrades to ensure they'd walk away with a kill, his father and son said.

"He never hunted for himself," Nick said. "If I got one, he'd be flabbergasted."

"He was completely selfless," Halley added.

On his final hunting expedition, on Saturday, Puntin, Nick and a family friend were mentoring a county teen interested in the sport.

The outing was part of the state's Youth Hunting Day, an annual event hosted by MassWildlife, the Massachusetts State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and participating sportsmen's clubs since 2009.

During the event, which falls on the Saturday before the opening day of the spring statewide wild turkey hunting season, licensed adult hunters and mentors are paired with minors who have completed a basic hunter education course and a turkey hunt seminar.

Though Nick aged out of the event last year, he is interested in becoming a mentor.

"Safety is the key," Nick said of his dad's hunting style. "No matter what we did, the first thing he said was, `Safety on.' "

In Massachusetts, hunting injuries are uncommon, with only about four or five reported each year, according to MassWildlife spokeswoman Katie Gronendyke. The injuries usually aren't fatal, she said.

Still, for Puntin, the most important part of the activity was making sure everyone in his group was doing it safely, his family said.

When it came to state and federal regulations, Puntin was strict, making sure his son took every safety course available before picking up a gun.

Nick would have to agree to do it right, or not do it at all, said his mother, Liz Puntin.

That's why they were outraged when, in reacting to news of Puntin's death, some on social media suggested that it was anything more than a tragic accident.

"The word they used was irresponsible," Nick said of a Facebook comment that he discovered a day after losing his father. "That's not the way dad was."

Nothing about the way Chris hunted, or taught his son to hunt, was irresponsible, his family said.

"My son's father was not one of those people," Liz said, referring to hunters who sidestep regulations. "Since the day [Nick] came into the world, his father has protected him."

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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