Alabama Celebrates No Firearm Fatalities During Deer Season
For the first time since records began in 1973, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division reports this past deer season, which ended on January 31, 2007, there were no firearms or tree stand related fatal incidents. Alabama's hunting incident rate has decreased significantly since the mandatory hunter education program was implemented in 1993. However, WFF cautions hunters to continue using safe hunting practices during other game seasons that continue in Alabama through April.
Nine non-fatal firearms incidents have been reported since the opening of dove season in September and only four of the nine occurred as a result of deer hunting activities. Eight non-fatal tree stand incidents have been reported since the opening of the archery deer season on October 15, 2006.
In Alabama, hunting provides about 5 million man-days of recreation for approximately 423,000 hunters and generates a direct economic impact of approximately $800 million annually. As in all recreational activities, accidents occasionally occur that involve participants. Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Corky Pugh attributes the decline in the hunting incident rate to increased hunter awareness and the mandatory hunter education program. "The hunter education program has positively influenced the actions of Alabama's hunters and the future of our rich hunting heritage," said Pugh.
Statistics from the National Safety Council indicate hunting is one of the safest outdoor recreational activities. In fact, nationwide there are fewer than 10 firearms related incidents requiring emergency room treatment per 100,000 participants. Although hunting is a very safe activity, Pugh reminds all hunters to continue to use good judgment and exercise all safety precautions during the remainder of this hunting season.
Pugh also strongly urges all hunters to properly identify their target and what is beyond prior to squeezing the trigger. In addition, he recommends that all hunters take additional steps to protect themselves.
Abiding by these safety tips offers hunters additional protection from the actions of other hunters.
- Wear at least 144 square inches of blaze orange above the waist, visible from any angle or a solid blaze orange cap. This is required by regulation during gun deer season.
- Turn on a small flashlight while traveling to and from your stand during low light conditions.
The small beam of light identifies you as a human while you are walking around in low light conditions which sometimes make it difficult for another hunter to properly identify his target.
Hunting season for small game species including quail, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and opossums runs through Feb. 28, 2007. Turkey season runs from March 15 through April 30, 2007 in most counties. Check the ADCNR Web site at www.outdooralabama.com for specific hunting season dates. Very few incidents have occurred during previous small game hunting seasons. Turkey hunting incidents have decreased in recent years as a result of increased emphasis on turkey hunting safety in hunter education programs and other efforts by conservation groups.
Hunter education provides participants with basic information regarding wildlife laws, management, firearms safety, tree stand safety, hunter ethics, and other subjects related to becoming a safe, responsible hunter. Hunter education courses are offered in two formats, a traditional style classroom setting and there is now an online course that is completed by attending a field day for three to five hours. This formal education process is enhanced when coupled with learning experiences provided by adult mentors such as parents, grandparents, or other hunting partners.
Mandatory hunter education in Alabama has proven to reduce hunting accidents and made Alabama's next generation of hunters more knowledgeable regarding our vast wildlife resources and hunting heritage. Successfully completing the hunter education course is mandatory prior to purchasing a hunting license at the age of 16 for anyone born on or after August 1, 1977. Adults are encouraged to enroll their children in a hunter education course between the ages of 12-14 as these younger students are eager to learn and implement the newly acquired safe hunting tips.
For more information on hunter education and hunting accidents in Alabama, call the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Hunter Education Coordinator at (334) 242-3620 or 1-800-245-2740.