A record safe year for state’s hunters

Albany – DEC officials are calling the 2008 hunting season the
safest in New York state history, with just 27 hunting-related
shooting incidents.

Still, four of those incidents were fatal, a number that’s just
above the 5-year average of 3.6.

The state’s busiest hunting season – deer season – was also the
safest ever, DEC officials said, with just 12 shooting
incidents.

“Big-game incidents continue to be very low compared to the
previous decade, despite the increase in rifle zones and the
passage of the youth mentoring law which now allows 14- and
15-year-olds to hunt big game,”_DEC officials said in the safety
statistics report for the 2008 season.

The 27 total shooting incidents is sharply below the 1990s
average of 66 incidents per year. In the 1960s, that number
averaged 137 annually.

“This year’s total of 27 (shooting incidents) brings the average
for this decade down to 39 incidents per year, which indicates that
this decade will be the safest ever, continuing a 40-year trend of
increasing safety,” DEC officials said.

New York is compiling a solid hunter safety record even though
the state – unlike many in the Northeast – doesn’t have a mandatory
blaze orange law requiring hunters to wear that color while in the
field. DEC officials – and the more than 3,000 volunteer hunter
education instructors – encourage its use, however, and statistics
show that most hunters wear at least some blaze orange while
hunting.

DEC’s sportsman education program leader, Mike Matthews, says
that despite the encouraging numbers, they’re looking for an ever
safer season in 2009.

“Many, if not all of these incidents could have been prevented
if only the shooter and/or victim had followed the primary rules of
hunter safety,”_Matthews said. “Assume every gun is loaded. Control
the muzzle. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
Be sure of your target and beyond. And wear hunter orange.”

Nearly half (12) of the incidents occurred during the deer
season, including three of the four fatalities. Ten took place
during small-game or predator hunting season; three during the
spring gobbler season and two during waterfowl season.

The other fatal incident occurred during upland bird season,
DEC’s preliminary statistics showed. Officials said final
investigation reports may take several months to complete; in some
of the incidents reported the shooter was participating in an
illegal or unlawful act.

Of the four fatalities, one was self-inflicted and the other
three involved two-party incidents. Three of the four fatal
accidents came at the hands of rifles; the other by shotgun.

Matthews said that while the number of hunters in the field is
declining, “the hunting incident rate (incidents per 100,000
hunters) is falling much faster than the number of hunters. During
the 1960s, the incident rate was 19 incidents per 100,000 hunters.
Since 2000, the incident rate is one-third of that, about 6.5 per
100,000.”

DEC officials again credited the state’s hunter education
instructors for their efforts in creating “an extremely
safety-conscious generation of hunters.”

A complete look at the hunting-related shooting incidents can be
found on Page 4 of this issue of New York Outdoor News.

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