New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reports the number of hunting accidents has declined considerably in recent years. In fact, the 2011 hunting season tied 2009 for the state's safest year of hunting on record.
In the 2011 season, 26 personal-injury hunting-related shooting incidents were reported, including four fatalities, one of which, sadly, was in Chautauqua County. All of the fatalities occurred during the regular deer season, the DEC reported.
The number of incidents per 100,000 hunters has declined over the years. Since the 1960s, the number of hunters has declined about 20 percent, while the incident rate has dropped more than 70 percent, according to the DEC report.
The recent five-year average is 5.3 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 in the 1960s.
Every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. Many can be prevented if the shooter or victim had followed primary rules of hunter safety. As we have noted in the past, the common sense safety rules are: treat every firearm as if it were loaded; keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction; identify your target and what lies beyond; keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire; and wear hunter orange.
Hunters must pass hunter-safety courses to be eligible to buy a hunting license. The courses stress safe practices and ethics, along with information on the state's game species and their management.
No one should hunt without fully understanding proper safety measures. If all hunters aim for safety first, the number of hunting accidents will continue to fall and we will set new records.