2003 Was Safest Year Ever for Hunters
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced that 2003 was the safest year ever recorded for the nearly 700,000 sportsmen and women who hunt in New York State. The number of hunting-related injuries reported to DEC last year was 32, compared with the previous low of 43 in 2000.
"New York has a long history of promoting safety in the field, with our State being the first in the nation to implement requirements for hunter safety courses for minors in 1949 and all hunters since 1960," Commissioner Crotty said. "DEC will continue to support the ongoing efforts of New York's Sportsman Education Program to promote responsible and safe hunting in our communities, because even one injury is too many."
New York State's Sportsman Education Program has led to a 65-percent decline in the hunting injury rate over the past four decades, due in large part to the dedication of more than 3,300 volunteer instructors. The average number of hunting injuries has fallen from 137 per year in the 1960s to 48 per year so far this decade. This safety record emphasizes the fact that hunting has one of the lowest injury rates of any recreational activity.
Averages by Decade for New York Hunting Injuries*
Decade Average Annual Hunting Injuries
* All figures are 10-year averages, except for 2000-2003
Hunting-related shooting incidents are thoroughly investigated by the State's Environmental Conservation Officers and Investigators, usually in conjunction with State Police, county sheriffs, or local authorities. The lessons learned from these incidents are used to continually update and improve hunter safety courses in an effort to reduce the number of hunting injuries each year.
"Last year's season also gives us reason to be proud of our 20,000 junior license holders ages 12 to 15 who hunt small game under adult supervision," Commissioner Crotty said. "These young people are the future of our American hunting tradition and not a single one of them caused an injury during 2003."
Tragically, two of the injuries reported in 2003 resulted in fatalities. Twenty of the 32 incidents, including both fatalities, involved deer hunting. Seven of these incidents, including one of the fatal injuries, were self-inflicted. Nine of the 2003 injury incidents occurred during spring wild turkey hunting. All of these were visibility-related, when hunters failed to notice another hunter in the line of fire or mistook them for game through the vegetation. Four out of five hunters now wear some hunter orange safety clothing and this practice has reduced the number of injuries related to visibility.
DEC is always looking for experienced hunters to pass on the tradition of hunting safety and responsibility to the next generation. If you are interested in joining DEC in this rewarding volunteer activity, call 888-HUNT-ED2 for information on becoming an instructor, or visit the DEC website at www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/sportsed/index.html