Hunting is One of the Safest Outdoor Activities

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Hunting is a cherished tradition that helps forge deep relationships with the land, the wildlife it supports, and the outdoor experience. A hunter knows and respects the animals hunted, and he or she also follows the law, particularly when it comes to safety.

Hunting is one of the safest forms of recreation in the United States, thanks to hunter safety laws and education. In California and many other states, people cannot legally hunt unless they have completed some type of formal education in the proper handling of firearms. Each year in California, more than 20,000 students complete the 10-hour minimum Hunter Education course.

“It’s a privilege to hunt and to participate in the ethical pursuit of wildlife,” said Joe Gonzales, California Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Hunter Education chief. “Abiding by the laws designed to make hunting safe is paramount in this effort.”

Accidental hunting fatalities due to firearms (the most popular hunting method of take) are at the lowest levels in history. In the past 10 years the rate has declined by 50 percent. Since record-keeping began in 1903, the rate has declined by 91 percent, according to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts® 2003 edition (for the year 2001) and other sources. On average, 10 to 15 hunting-related accidents, including fatal and non-fatal, occur each year among California’s approximate 300,000 hunters.

How safe is hunting compared to other sports? The National Safety Council shows out of every 100,000 football players, 2,369 were injured or killed in 2001 compared to only six per 100,000 hunters in all of North America, according to the International Hunter Education Association. Swimming (319), golf (173), soccer (1,262), and basketball (2,326) all resulted in many more trips to emergency rooms. The above hunting statistic reflects injuries sustained from hunting equipment used, but it does not include other types of hunting-related injuries.

“The vast majority of hunters are safe thanks to Hunter Education,” said Otto Jose, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hunter Education coordinator. Jose recommends that all outdoor enthusiasts take a Hunter Education class to familiarize themselves with the tactics involved with hunting and using a firearm or other method of take. “These classes not only train hunters about proper firearm safety, they cover topics on wildlife conservation, hunting ethics and survival in the wilderness, which could apply to all types who enjoy nature.”

For additional information on DFG’s Hunter Education Program, log on to