A tracking dog apparently stepped on a loaded shotgun in the bed of his owner's pickup truck, firing a fatal blast into the man's thigh during a goose hunt, officials said.

Perry Alvin Price III died Saturday at a hospital from severe blood loss from his femoral artery shortly after the freak accident in southeast Texas.

Chambers County sheriff's investigators said Price, 46, was hunting on a lease near Stowell, about 60 miles east of Houston, when he shot down a goose.

Price then set the gun in the back of his truck and was about to open the tailgate to release his tracking dog when the shotgun fired, investigators said. The blast penetrated the truck's tailgate before hitting Price.

Paw prints from the dog, a chocolate Labrador retriever named Arthur, were found on the muddy shotgun, Sheriff Joe LaRive said. Daniel Groberg, Price's hunting partner, said he tried to stop the bleeding with clothing before driving him to seek help.

"It's the strangest case that I've seen," LaRive said. "We couldn't talk to Perry and Groberg was at the front of the truck when he heard the shotgun blast and didn't see what happened."

Price's sister, Patricia Payne, said her brother was always very careful while hunting.

"His dog was so excited," she said. "He was jumping all around, because he was about to get out and go get that goose.

"That gun had to be knocked around just right to fire. I believe the dog knocked the safety off and hit the trigger, too," she said.

Price, who taught math at Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown, was known for his love of hunting and dogs, friends and family members said.

Earlier this school year, Price developed an award for especially determined students that included a T-shirt naming them "Bird Dog of the Week," said Melanie Turner, a fellow teacher.

"His loss will be felt for quite some time," Turner said.

LaRive said hunters should be extra careful to make sure the safety is enacted on any gun that's not immediately being fired and that barrels should always be pointed away from people when guns are stored.

Price's survivors include his wife, Kelli, and two stepchildren, Payne said.