Hunting Incidents Increase in 2005

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Last year was likely one of the best year’s for hunting pheasants. It was also one of the most dangerous.

"The recent hunting accident involving Vice President Cheney highlights the level of awareness everyone must have for the potential of a hunting accident while in the field," said Game, Fish and Parks HuntSAFE Coordinator Curt Robertson.

"2005 saw a significant increase in hunting incidents in the state of South Dakota,” Robertson said. "In fact, there were more injuries while pheasant hunting during the first three weeks of the 2005 pheasant season than were total hunting-related incidents reported for all of the 2004 hunting seasons.”

The highest number of hunting-related accidents for a year, since South Dakota began keeping records in 1988, is 40, which includes all hunting-related incidents. As of Oct. 30, 2005, 32 incidents were reported for pheasant hunting alone, and by the end of the 2005 seasons, 54 accidents had been reported. This is an increase of 22 (69 percent) from 2004, and 14 (35 percent) more than the previous high mark of 1988.

"While none of the injuries were fatal, the increase in injuries is a cause for concern," Robertson said. "We need to take every step necessary to make sure that 2005 is an anomaly and not the start of a long term trend.

Game, Fish, and Parks compiles hunter safety statistics every year using the definitions outlined by the International Hunters Education Association (IHEA), the preeminent hunter safety organization worldwide. Only those reported injuries that occur during hunting, whether a gun is discharged or not, are recorded to ensure accuracy.

A majority of the reported incidents happened during the latest pheasant season. "There were two basic reasons why these incidents occurred," Robertson stated. "The number one reason was when hunters were swinging on birds, while at the same time ‘covering’ a person who was behind or near their target."

The second major reason for incidents this year was that the victim was completely out of the line of sight of the shooter. “There were several incidents where one person in the party had bent over to retrieve a downed bird and was out of sight of the shooter," Robertson noted. “The reports would indicate similar circumstances contributed to Vice President Cheney’s hunting incident. Being aware of the location of all party members at all times is essential to a safe hunt."

Remembering the basics of safe hunting can help alleviate the problems of safety when you are out in the field. The four basics are:

· Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

· Be sure of your target and what is beyond.

· Keep the action open and unloaded when not actively hunting.

· Keep your finger outside and alongside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

"As hunters," Robertson states, "we must always be mindful of our situation and surroundings. If there is any doubt to the safety of a shot, don’t take it. Only take the no risk shot. Safe Hunting is no accident!"