New Jersey Hunters banner
1 - 5 of 5 Posts

10,944 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hunting Is Safe, but It Could be Safer
Hunting has a safety record few other sports can match, but hunter education volunteers are determined to make it even better.

Here is a sports safety quiz. You are least likely to suffer an injury: a) playing soccer, b) cheerleading, c) doing aerobics, d) hunting, or e) horseback riding.

If you chose hunting, go to the head of the class. A study of sports injuries conducted by American Sports Data, Inc., ranked hunting 29th out of 100 sports in the number of reported injuries per capita. The injury rate for hunters was just 1.3 per hundred, compared to 1.7 for aerobics, 1.8 for horseback riding, 9.0 for cheerleading and 9.3 for soccer. Football was the most dangerous, with 18.8 injuries per 100 participants.

Knowing this, why do hunting accidents get so much attention?

"I think expectations have a lot to do with it," said Bryan Bethel, outdoor skills coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "People see gun violence on television and in movies, so they think of guns as being dangerous. That doesn't take into account the huge effort that goes into hunter education nationwide. You would have a hard time finding a more safety-conscious group than hunters."

Bethel said the nature of hunting accidents also contributes to the perception that hunting is dangerous. He noted that while firearms-related hunting accidents are rare, the resulting injuries often are much more severe than those associated with other sports.

"More people die every year in swimming accidents than in hunting accidents, and people die playing football and ice hockey and riding bicycles. But the run-of-the-mill injuries in those sports-sprained ankles, cuts that require stitches and so on-are not on par with the average gunshot wound. There is good reason to take hunting accidents seriously."

That, said Bethel, is why anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, must complete a certified hunter education course before they can buy a hunting permit.

Hunter education has dramatically reduced the number and severity of hunting accidents. In 1987, the year before hunter education became mandatory in Missouri, the Conservation Department recorded 85 hunting accidents, including 11 fatalities. Last year the total was 28, including two fatalities.

The International Hunter Education Association estimates that hunters today suffer approximately one injury for every 347,000 days of hunting activity. Fatalities occur at the rate of approximately one per 3.2 million hunting days.

Nevertheless, hunting accidents do happen, and Bethel said hunters need to be aware of the most common causes of such accidents. Following are the leading causes of hunting accidents listed in the Conservation Department's 2004 Hunting Accident Summary. These four types of accidents accounted for 26 (92 percent) of the 28 hunting accidents recorded last year.

Victim Mistaken for Game
This category leads the list every year. In 2004, nearly one-third of all hunting accidents were attributed to this cause. Six hunters were injured because the shooter failed to identify his or her target correctly. This type of accident also accounted for two of the three hunting fatalities recorded in Missouri last year.

One way to prevent this type of accident is to wear hunter-orange clothing. However, hunter-orange clothing is not required for every type of hunting. Ultimately, shooters are responsible for holding fire until absolutely certain of their targets.

Victim Out of Sight of Shooter
Also known as "line-of-fire" incidents, these mishaps result when a victim is between the shooter and the intended target or beyond the target. Seven people were injured in this type of accident last year.

Hunters can protect themselves from these mishaps by staying out of other hunters' areas. Shooters can prevent line-of-fire accidents by shooting only when bullets that miss the mark will be stopped by a solid backstop. One of the cardinal rules of hunting safety is never to shoot at game silhouetted against the sky.

Shooter Swinging on Game
Six hunters suffered injuries last year when other hunters were trying to hit moving targets and caught the victims in their line of fire. Several measures can prevent this type of accident.

One is keeping close track of partners' positions and pausing when necessary to let trailing hunters catch up with the group. This requires constant attention to hunting companions' locations.

Wearing hunter-orange clothing can help alert distracted hunters to danger. However, the only sure way to avoid this type of accident is to develop the mental discipline needed to maintain good judgment in spite of excitement.

Victim Moved into Line of Fire
Three of the five accidents of this type recorded in 2004 involved turkey hunters who moved into areas being used by other hunters. In four of the incidents, the shooter and victim were friends or relatives hunting together.

This also illustrates the critical importance of knowing where hunting companions are at all times and not infringing on others' hunting areas. In some cases, the use of hunter-orange clothing might have prevented the accidents.

Planning Is Critical
Bethel summed up one highly effective preventive measure for a variety of accident types, saying "Plan your hunt, and hunt your plan." He said this starts by agreeing ahead of time on hunting positions and movements. By following details mapped out ahead of time, hunters can prevent unsafe situations from arising.

"Planning your hunt also means establishing safe-shooting zones," said Bethel. "Every hunter should have an agreed-upon zone where they can shoot. Deciding up-front that everything else is off-limits cuts down drastically on the chances of an accidental shooting."

Other Risk Factors
A surprising number of hunting accidents involve self-inflicted gunshot wounds. One of Missouri's three hunting fatalities in 2004 involved a hunter whose deer rifle fell from his tree stand and discharged, mortally wounding him.

Another surprise in annual hunting-accident statistics is the number of injuries and deaths that occur before or after hunting. Taking loaded firearms out of vehicles, putting them into vehicles or transporting them is a perennial problem. Always unload firearms when not actually hunting.

Another recurring theme is triggers that catch on objects, causing firearms to discharge. In these instances, deaths or injuries could be avoided by obeying the first rule of safe firearm handling; "Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction."

Thirteen of 2004's 28 hunting accidents involved shooters and victims who were relatives or friends. In one a father shot his son with shotgun pellets in the back, arms and head while the younger man tried to drive turkeys toward the shooter. In another incident a woman suffered wounds from shotgun pellets on her hands and face when her husband fired at a flushing quail. In yet another case, a 12-year-old boy was shot in the leg by his uncle when the shooter apparently forgot he had cocked his deer rifle and tried to set it down on the ground.

"Imagine how these shooters felt when their careless actions hurt loved ones," said Bethel. "No matter how much we reduce hunting accidents, it will always be too many. Our goal is no one injured, no one killed."

To learn about hunter education classes in your area, call the nearest Conservation Department office or visit
1 - 5 of 5 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.