Hunting Continues to Get Safer

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported a perfect hunter safety record in 2004.

For the second time in six years, there were no fatalities during small game, big game, waterfowl, wild turkey and prairie chicken hunting seasons in the state. Only a dozen non-fatal hunting-related accidents occurred this year, a 50 percent reduction compared with last year.

A DNR official says safety is very important to Minnesota hunters.

"Hunting is one of the most valued traditions in Minnesota and is safer than ever, thanks in large part to the DNR's hunter education programs," said Captain Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement education program coordinator.

Through these programs, 3,500 volunteer instructors have taught nearly one million hunters how to properly handle a firearm, outdoor survival skills and Minnesota's basic hunting safety laws.

Those safety laws require all hunters born after Dec. 31, 1979 to take a DNR firearm safety training class, emphasize the importance of wearing blaze orange and prohibit hunters from having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle.

As a result of these laws and others, the number of hunting accidents has decreased considerably since firearm safety training was mandated in 1955. In the 1960s, for example, Minnesota averaged 14 hunting fatalities per year and 110 non-fatal accidents. In the past 10 years, hunting accidents dropped to two fatalities and 35 non-fatal accidents annually.

The DNR sold more than 500,000 hunting licenses in 2004, resulting in millions of hunter recreation days across the state. Conservation officers said fewer and fewer hunting incidents occur each year, which is a strong indication that the state's hunter education programs, including youth firearms safety, advanced hunter education, Minnesota bowhunter education, as well as bear, turkey and deer hunting clinics, are working.

"While we hate to see any incidents at all, when you compare the number of hunters and the amount of time they spend in the field with no fatalities and a dozen non-fatal incidents, it tells us that we are getting through to hunters with our safety message," said DNR Chief Conservation Officer Mike Hamm. "Because of the quality of our programs and commitment of our volunteer instructors, we are confident that the trend of fewer incidents will continue into the future."

The DNR 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 DNR in this rewarding volunteer activity, call 1-800-366-8917 for information on becoming an instructor, or visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us

"These people dedicate their personal time to teach the skills of safe and responsible hunting to help make the sport safer," Hamm said.

As a result of hunter education courses, hunting today is safer than many outdoor activities. Based on the number of people seeking emergency-room treatment for sports injuries, The National Safety Council reports that hunting has fewer injuries per 100,000 people participating than football, baseball, cycling, volleyball, swimming, golf, tennis, fishing, bowling, badminton, billiards and ping-pong.