|“||We'll wait until first light. It's more fun when they're not expectin' it.||”|
— The Mulford Family
The Mulford Family was responsible for a number of murders committed in and before Open Season.
Joe was born on April 16, 1950. He was drafted by the U.S. military in 1968 at the age of eighteen and was discharged two years later following reports of him hallucinating and upholding delusions. He later obtained a criminal record of assault and battery and eventually came to own a service station on Highway 2. He then killed a person for unspecified reasons, presumably by hunting and killing that person in the woods, taking his/her driver's license afterward, apparently as a kind of trophy. While he/she was the only victim confirmed to have been killed by Joe, it is possible that he may have killed several more of the other sixteen victims shown below, and it is possible that others were killed before Paul and John were born. All that is confirmed is that at some point, after the killing of the unnamed victim, Joe's unnamed sibling and their spouse died, leaving their sons, Paul and John, to be raised by Joe.
Joe raised and educated the brothers completely on his own. He also taught them how to hunt and navigate through the woods and also shared his bizarre, psychotic beliefs. As a result, the two brothers completely imprinted on him as their sole parent, being the only family they had left beside each other. When Joe passed away from unspecified causes, Paul and John inherited the station and started hunting and killing people in the woods, apparently as a result of being taught to do so by Joe. Whether or not Joe actually intended for them to kill anyone is not clear: while Joe may have possibly had personal reasons for killing his selected victims, Paul and John's were selected completely at random, as they had come to view the act of hunting, torturing and killing anyone they could abduct as nothing more than a sport, a game for their amusement.
The BAU are called in after Alex Harrison, a victim, is found killed in the woods. While the team works with the local police to find the killers, Paul and John pick up Bobbi Baird on Highway 2 when her car breaks down and release her into the woods. As she runs, she comes into contact with two camping couples. Realizing they won't be able to keep track on so many at one time, Paul kills one of the couples. The other one, Luke Hamilton and his wife/fiancée Heather, flees together with Bobbi. Eventually, Luke is killed by Johnny. Bobbi then takes a pocket knife from Luke's jacket and keeps running with Heather. Understanding that they are only giving the Mulford brothers what they want by running, they stop and set up an ambush which resulted in Johnny killing Heather before being stabbed in the stomach multiple times by Bobbi.
Paul leaves Johnny by a fireplace and leaves to kill Bobbi. At the time, the local police and the BAU have tracked them down and follow the trail to Johnny, who they believe to be another victim. Realizing that he had been stabbed, not shot with an arrow, Gideon tells him that other law enforcement officers are looking for Paul with an order to shoot if necessary. Johnny then pleads that they don't kill Paul, as he is all he had, and tells them the direction Paul has gone. At the same time, Bobbi ambushes Paul as he unknowingly approaches her hiding place, jumping on him from a tree branch and stabbing him in the back twice. Paul gets up and shoots an arrow at her, but misses in the midst of his pain. When he aims again, Morgan arrives and tells him to stand down. When Paul refuses, Morgan shoots and kills him. Meanwhile, Johnny overhears the gunshots and starts grieving for his brother. Moments later, Gideon watches as he bleeds out from his stab wounds and dies.
- Joseph "Joe" Mulford (uncle and founder; deceased). Portrayed by an uncredited actor via mugshot.
- Paul Mulford (Joe's nephew; deceased). Portrayed by Jim Parrack.
- John "Johnny" Mulford (Joe's nephew and Paul's brother; deceased). Portrayed by Jake Richardson.
Paul, Johnny, and presumably Joe would all hunt their victims like wild animals in the Boise National Forest. Since nothing is specified about how and why Joe killed, it is safe to speculate that he may have known and had something personal against his selected victims, although Paul and Johnny's victims were selected completely at random. Joe's weapon of choice is also not specified, but it was most likely a compound bow and arrow, a preference he passed on to Paul and Johnny, who would abduct people whose cars broke down on Highway 2. They would subdue the victims, dispose of their victims' cars in shipping containers at their service station, drive into the forest, cut them loose, and tell them to run, giving them a head start.
The hunts would go on for roughly a week, with the victims always surviving that long on instinct alone, all the while being psychologically tortured the whole time by the knowledge that Paul and Johnny could kill them at any time. Sometimes, during the hunts, Paul and Johnny would let the victims go even if they had them in their sights, taking delight in allowing them to run for the time being. Unlike most regular hunters who prefer to put their game out of their misery if they are simply mortally wounded, Paul and John took delight in watching their victims die a slow death. The family originally had the habit of taking driver's licenses from the people they killed, presumably as trophies, although there is no evidence that Paul and John did this to their last few victims.
"You want to have some fun? Go ahead, you, you want to tell her?"
- Paul and Johnny
The unsubs are two male offenders in their mid-to-late-twenties (later revealed to be three after the revelation of Joe) in good physical condition. They would have to be fit to make it through the terrain. No one would go too deep into the woods without back up. Killing teams are like most partnerships, with one of the members being weak and the other one stronger. The lack of sexual activity seen on the victims' bodies suggests that they are either developmentally prepubescent or related, as close relatives wouldn't discuss, much less perform sexual acts in front of each other. If they are related, they may have an us-versus-them mentality and will have an unbreakable bond with each other because it is all they know.
Most hunters put their prey out of their misery; however, the unsubs don't show any mercy. They take pleasure in watching their victims die slowly. Every spring for the past five years, people went missing, so the unsubs wait for their victims to migrate through the woods. Some of their victims were smart, healthy adults who survived for days by following their instincts. They likely obtain victims either by approaching in a non-hostile manner or by waiting for a moment of weakness, both in the middle of nowhere. These particular hunters are very seasoned and very effective. It is not unusual for them to have chosen to use a compound bow as their weapon of choice. It requires the utmost precision, and it provides them with a challenge every time. Like the trophy hunter, these men plan their killings with care. They decide what type of victims they want, how and where they want to kill them, and with what weapon. Hunting is their sport. Humans are their targets.
The Mulford Family might have been inspired by serial killer Robert Hansen, who would also abduct his victims and hunt them in the wilderness as if they were animals, though they are similar in only that one aspect, with many differences outnumbering the similarities.
- At least sixteen victims killed by Joe or Paul. Named ones are:
- Post-2000: Phillip Fitzroy
- Colin Bradford
- -her Osgood (first name partially obscured)
- Post-2002: Colby Freeman
- Post-2003: Brad Jepson
- Hayward (first name obscured)
- David Sutterman
- Unspecified date: Dustin Strafford
- March-April: Lydia Charles
- March-May 2006:
- Courtney Jacobs (killed by Paul)
- Shane Everett (killed by Paul)
- April 28: Alex Harrison (was shot with two arrows by Paul)
- April 30: Bobbi Baird (abducted by Paul and Johnny and attempted to kill; was rescued on May 2)
- May 1: Joel and Taylor Brause (incidental; both killed by Paul)
- May 2:
- Luke Hamilton (killed by Johnny)
- Heather (Luke's wife or fiancée; killed by Johnny)