Safest Deer Season Ever

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Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Vern Ross today announced that deer hunters recorded the safest season ever during the 2002 regular firearms deer season, which was held Dec. 2-14.

"During the 2002 regular firearms deer season, 12 hunting-related shooting incidents occurred," Ross said. "Eight of those incidents were self-inflicted, and the remaining four incidents were two-party related. This marks an unprecedented low for two-party incidents during a regular firearms deer season.

"The decline in hunting-related shooting incidents is a direct result of mandatory wearing of fluorescent orange and mandatory hunter-trapper education certification for all first-time hunters. However, antler restrictions required hunters to take an extra moment to ensure that the deer they were targeting was legal, and that likely played a role in establishing this historic low."

The 2002 calendar year was the second safest hunting year in the 88 years that records have been kept. Last year, there were 68 hunting-related shooting incidents, including three fatalities. The 2002 hunting-related shooting incident rate of 6.49 per 100,000 participants also was the second lowest on record.

The safest hunting year on record was 2001, when there were 62 hunting-related shooting incidents, including two fatalities. The 2001 incident rate of 6.07 per 100,000 participants also was the lowest on record.

"While even one shooting incident is one too many, we are pleased that hunters continue to improve their safety record," Ross said. "Overall, the year 2002 continues a positive trend of declining incident rates. We must, however, continue to strive to do better."

A hunting-related shooting incident is defined as any occurrence in which a person is injured as a result of a discharge of a firearm or bow and arrow during actual hunting or trapping activities. These incidents often result from a failure to follow basic safety rules.

In 2002, most of the incidents occurred during the turkey seasons, 24; and small game seasons, 24. Other categories included: deer, 15 (including the 12 from the regular firearms season, one during the early muzzleloader season and two during the early rifle deer season); waterfowl, 1; furbearer, 1; and other, 3.

People shot in-mistake for game comprised 24 of the hunting-related shooting incidents. Of those, 18 occurred during the turkey seasons; five during the small game seasons; and one during the deer season. The second most common cause for shooting incidents was when the victim was in-the-line-of-fire, which comprised 19 of the hunting-related shooting incidents. Of those, 10 occurred in small game seasons; four in turkey seasons; and two in deer seasons.

Other causes of shooting incidents were: unintentional discharge, 11; sporting arm in dangerous position, 4; ricochet, 2; defective sporting arm, 2; stray shot, 1; dropped sporting arm, 2; slipped and/or fell, 1; and unknown, 2.

Of the 68 incidents, there were three fatalities in 2002. One fatality each occurred in the turkey, deer and small game seasons, and all were two-party incidents where the victim was shot in mistake for game. Of the remaining 65 non-fatal incidents, 48 were two-party incidents and 17 were self-inflicted.