Latest hunting statistics indicate a continuing improvement -- and record outcomes -- for safety while hunters went afield in New York State in 2008.
Fatalities -- four investigated this past year -- always hit the headlines and draw discussion about firearms handling. But 2008 big-game and season totals both tie record low years and fall well below incident-rate averages.
Department of Environmental Conservation officials examine each shooting occurrence to determine if it is a hunting-related shooting incident (HRSI). Deaths and injuries, the result of falls, heart conditions, or other non-shooting activity, are all factored out of these statistics.
Overall totals have 2008 tied with 2005 for the safest hunting year in this state. With just 29 HRSIs reported, 2008 fell well below the 5-year average of 32.8 and below a 10-year average of 40 incidents.
Small-game hunting incidents (16) outnumbered reported big-game mishaps (13) statewide. These low numbers were recorded despite the fact zones were added where rifles are now allowed for big-game hunting plus and days were added for weekend hunting.
It's been noted that numbers of hunters have declined in recent years but so has the rate of incidents. A DEC summary notes, "During the 1960s, the incident rate was 19 per 100,000 hunters. Since 2000, the incident rate is one-third of that, averaging 6.5 per 100,000."
Ideally, no injuries or deaths should occur while more than a half million firearms handlers go hunting. Descriptions of 2008 incidents cite the same causes for shooting incidents in previous years: uncertain of the target and beyond, loss of control of firearm muzzle, finger on or near the trigger before ready to shoot, and general mishandling of a device that should be considered loaded at all times.
To learn more about the state's hunter safety program, make a visit to dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7860.html.
Allied Sportsmen in Marilla aims to pit gunners against bow users in a competition between talented pistol and bow shooters.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., shooters can bring their gear to the club at 12846 Clinton St. and post scores. If equipped, competitors can enter scores on both sides for the $10 entry fee. Top score of the top 10 entrants decides the winner.
Handguns must be center fire, using lead range bullets only, pistol coordinator John Floriano said. Archers can use any type of bow (stick, self, recurve, or compound), note archery handlers Mike Kurtowicz and Mark Lane.
This Pistol versus Archery match is in its 21st year. "The gunners have won the past two years, but we're looking for a better showing this year," said Kurtowicz.
An entry includes snacks, drinks, and a noon cookout. To register as a pistol shooter, call Floriano (725-5822); bow shooters check in with either Kurtowicz (983-8544) or Lane (893-0949).
Bang for your buck
Successful hunters with sizable deer-antler racks can have those trophies officially scored during a New York State Big Buck Measuring Day at Niagara Outdoors, 223 Witmer Road, North Tonawanda.
Scoring officials will take measurements 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. The free sessions also include coffee, doughnuts, and pizza. For specifics, call 695-5873.