Record safe season in 2012

Albany — New York hunters in 2011 compiled one of the safest safety records in state history.

In 2012, they did even better, recording the best safety mark ever, according to statistics from the DEC.

Figures set to be released earlier this month – DEC officials declined comment on them until a formal press release was issued – showed there were 24 hunting-related shooting incidents investigated by DEC officers last season, two of which were fatal.

Prior to the 2012, the lowest number of shooting incidents in the state was 26 in 2009 and again in 2011.

“The number of hunters is declining, but the hunting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) is falling much faster,” DEC’s report read. “Since the 1960s, the number of hunters has declined about 20 percent, while the incident rate has declined over 70 percent.”

New York’s current incident rate is 4.8 per 100,000 hunters. That’s well below the 19 per 100,000 figure of the 1960s, where they was an average of 137 shooting incidents annually.

DEC’s report only addresses incidents involving firearms or archery equipment. It does not include deaths related to falls from treestands or hunting-related ATV accidents; there were several such incidents last year in New York.

The 2012 figures of 24 incidents and two fatalities were down from 26 and four, respectively, in 2011.

More than half of the 2012 shooting incidents involved self-inflicted gunshots, while 10 others involved members of the shooter’s hunting party. In only one case was the shooter and the victim unknown to each other, the statistics showed.

The number of self-inflicted shootings rose dramatically from just two in 2011.

In seven of the shooting incidents, hunters were involved in some kind of illegal activity, such as having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle or hunting outside legal shooting hours.

DEC officials credited the state’s volunteer sportsman education instructors who teach mandatory hunter and bowhunter education courses to create “an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters.” There are over 2,500 instructors across the state.

Over the past 10 years, the highest number of hunting-related shooting incidents occurred in 2010 when 40 were recorded. That year was seen as an anomaly; in four of the past five years the number of incidents has remained in the 20s.

The 2012 report also showed that:

  • more than half (13) of the shooting incidents – including both fatalities – occurred during deer season.
  • 15 of the incidents – including the two fatalities – involved rifle use, while six occurred with shotguns, two with handguns and one with a muzzleloader.
  • there was just one shooting incident that occurred during the spring gobbler season.
  • Orange and Sullivan counties were the site of the most incidents, with three each.

DEC’s report indicated that “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.”

Those rules include treating every firearm as if it were loaded; keeping your firearm’s muzzle pointed in a safe direction; identifying your target and what lies beyond; keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and wearing hunter orange.

New York state encourages but does not mandate blaze orange use. DEC’s incident-by-incident report does not indicate whether blaze orange was worn by any of the shooting victims or whether the lack of blaze orange could have been a factor in the incident.

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