Hunting incidents continue to decline
According to information provided by the DEC, 2012 was statistically the safest hunting season in New York’s history. Statewide, there were only 24 hunting “incidents” as the agency likes to call them and slightly more than half were self-inflicted. Subtract the number of hunters who somehow managed to shoot themselves and we find there were fewer than 12 hunters injured by someone else. Two of these hunters were killed – shot by someone in their own hunting party.
It’s no secret the number of hunters going afield every fall is smaller than it was when I first moved to New York in the 1960s, but what’s impressive is that the “incident rate” has dropped more than 70 percent during this time. In fact, the number of hunters injured during hunting season is only about one fourth of what it was in the 1960s.
When rifles were legalized for hunting here in the Southern Tier I heard howls of protest from a minority of well-meaning but uninformed members of the hunting community. Many said landowners would feel threatened by the perceived danger of hunters using rifles on their land and would post their properties in protest. Hunting “incidents” would increase dramatically if rifles were legalized, they said. In fact, after rifles were approved for deer hunting, just the opposite proved to be true. The number of hunting incidents actually decreased, along with the number of shots heard on the opening day of deer season. Prior to rifles being legalized for deer hunting it was not unusual to hear volleys of shots ring out throughout the day as one or more hunters fired up to five shotgun rounds at a fleeing deer. With all that lead flying around it’s a wonder more hunters weren’t hurt.
We can attribute this decrease in hunting-related injuries to a number of factors, but I can’t help thinking it is due in large part to the more than 2,500 volunteer hunter education instructors throughout the state who unselfishly give their time and expertise to help neophyte hunters learn how to conduct themselves as hunters and how to safely carry and use a firearm. To these people I say thank you. Thank you on behalf of those whom you instruct and thank you on behalf of those of us who go afield with the expectation of coming home at the end of the day. It’s clear the lessons being taught have had an impact on the hunters in our state, and because of your efforts our woods are safer than they have ever been before.
If you know a hunter education instructor, take the time to thank him or her personally for the time they devote and for the excellent job they are doing. I’m sure the comment will be appreciated.