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Safety education reducing number of hunting mishaps

Hunters again this past year exercised care and good judgment while afield.

Mishap reports involving hunters can be misleading when incidents of ill health or falls, especially from treestands, are included in the count. For this reason, the state Department of Environmental Conservation collects data purely on hunting-related shooting incidents.

Reduced incidents have been the trend virtually since sportsman education programs began across New York.

Figures could be skewed with reports of hunt numbers declining, as has been seen in recent years. But statistics each year are based on the number of incidents per 100,000 hunters, and the results have shown a drop of more than 75 percent since this system has been in place – dating back to the 1960s. A five-year average for the past half decade has dropped to 4.4 incidents per 100,000 hunters afield; in the ’60s that count was 19 incidents for 100,000 hunters.

Spring turkey hunters finished the month of May hunting season without one incident of injury or fatality. Hunters through all big-game seasons went afield without one fatality. In all, 22 incidents per 100,000 were reported in 2014, slightly up from the record of 19 incidents in 2013.

The one fatality confirmed for the 2014 hunting seasons occurred not during a big-game hunt but while small-game hunting. Most shootings involved known parties; eight were self-inflicted, 11 were members of the same hunting party and just three shootings were people who did not know the shooters.

Much of the successful reduction of incidents can be attributed to the efficient upgrading of sportsman education programs, with instructors providing classes for hunters afield with firearms, bows and crossbows, along with instruction for trappers and specialized fish and game management. Those efforts have helped to foster hunter and trapper ethics and responsibility while afield and whenever one handles firearms.

Hunters in Western New York and across the state should be credited for developing a keener sense of values while partaking in all outdoors and shooting-gear handling in recent decades. While hunter numbers have declined in recent years, those still involved in all shooting sports have a greater sense of accountability for their actions while afield or whenever they are responsible for anything firearms-related in their care.

Good hunter conduct, including a stress upon positive image building, has helped in reducing so-called “accidents” afield and wherever firearms are in a shooter’s possession. Hunting remains an enjoyable, fun-based pursuit, but showmanship or careless handling of shooting gear has become a thing of the past.

To view the DEC stats for 2014, visit dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7860 and click on “Hunter Safety Statistics”.

email: odrswill@gmail.com