Another safe season

Albany — New York state hunters had one of the safest seasons on record in 2015, with 23 hunting-related shooting incidents and no fatalities.

Statistics from the DEC show the solid safety record of 2015 continues a three-year trend during which Empire State hunters recorded the three safest seasons afield on record.

Last year was the first in which there were no shooting-related fatalities, DEC sportsman education coordinator Chuck Dente said in his annual report.

“The number of hunters is declining, but the… incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) is falling much faster,” Dente said in his report. “Since the 1960s, the number of hunters has declined by about 20 percent, while the incident rate has declined almost 80 percent. The current five-year average is four incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 hunters in the 1960s.”

The 23 hunting-related shooting incidents in 2015 is up from 22 in 2014 and 10 in 2013, and just above the five-year average of 22.8.

New York state’s hunters have averaged 1.8 fatalities over the past five years.

The statistics includes only hunting-related shooting incidents involving firearms, bows or crossbows. Injuries and fatalities related to other hunting-related activities such as treestand falls, ATV mishaps or hunter health-related incidents are not included.

Of last year’s 23 incidents, 10 involved self-inflicted injuries and 13 were “two-party” incidents in which one individual was injured by another.

Thirteen of the incidents occurred during deer seasons, while eight occurred during small-game or non-game seasons. Waterfowl hunting and spring gobbler hunting accounted for one incident each.

Rifles were involved in 10 of the incidents, shotguns in nine, muzzleloaders in two and crossbows and handguns one each.

Three of the incidents were recorded in Jefferson County, while two occurred in Chautauqua County. They were the lone counties with more than one incident.

Three of the shooting incidents occurred while hunters were involved in a deer drive and one hunter fired a shot that struck another.

Dente said a closer look at the two-party shooting incidents showed that in eight of the 11 cases the victim was not wearing blaze orange, which is not mandatory in New York state. “This indicates that not wearing hunter orange increases your risk of being involved in a two-party firearm incident,” Dente’s report noted.

Dente praised the work of the state’s volunteer sportsman education instructors for their efforts in creating legions of safe hunters across the state.

The statistics were compiled from preliminary reports; final investigations by DEC officers may take several months in some cases.

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