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Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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New York's hunters were good at shooting game, and not shooting each other, last fall.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Thursday that the "hunting related shooting incidents" tied for the lowest on record, with just 13 occurring last year. Incidents of treestand-related injuries dropped notably as well.

Part of the years-long drop in hunter-related shootings stems from a decline in the number of hunters, but a greater emphasis on safety programs, such as use of blaze orange and treestand restraints.

We are still waiting for the big game statistics from last fall, but initial indications are the deer take will be up.

The full DEC press release can be found below.

DEC RELEASES NEW YORK STATE HUNTING SAFETY STATISTICS FOR 2018

 

Incident Rate Ties Lowest Annual Total in History, Past Six Years are Safest on Record

           The 2018 hunting seasons in New York tallied the lowest number of recorded hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) and tied the 2016 mark – 13 – as the safest on record, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. DEC documented five tree stand incidents and zero fatalities in 2018, down from 12 tree stand incidents the previous year. 

            "The tradition of hunting is enjoyed by nearly 600,000 New Yorkers and visitors each year, and the declining number of hunting incidents prove that today's generation of hunters continue to be the most safety conscious," said Commissioner Seggos. "In large part, hunting in New York continues to be a safe and enjoyable activity thanks to the efforts of 2,600 DEC staff and volunteer hunter education program instructors that teach nearly 50,000 students each year.”

           Of the 13 HRSIs that occurred last year, seven were two-party firearm incidents, six were self-inflicted, and three resulted in fatalities that could have been prevented if hunting safety rules and common sense were followed. Of the three fatalities, two were self-inflicted and caused by unsafe handling of firearms and one was a two-party firearm incident caused bya failure to positively identify the target. DEC’S Hunting Safety Statistics are available on the DEC website.

           Further examination of the seven two-party firearm incidents reveals that six (86 percent) of the victims involved were not wearing hunter orange, reinforcing the importance of identifying the target and beyond, and wearing hunter orange when afield—two major tenets of DEC's hunter safety courses.

           "Although the number of hunting-related incidents have declined dramatically in the last several decades, we believe every one of these could be avoided if hunters follow the laws and basic rules of hunting safety," Commissioner Seggos said. "We encourage hunters to wear hunter orange and to be sure, beyond a doubt, of their target and what lies beyond."

           New York's HRSI rate recorded 19 incidents in 2017, 13 in 2016, and 23 in 2015. There were 98 incidents in 1991, 110 in 1979, and 166 in 1966, 13 of which were fatal. While the number of hunters is declining, the hunting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) is falling even faster. Since the 1960s, the number of hunters has declined about 20 percent, while the incident rate has declined almost 80 percent. The current five-year average is 3.1 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 hunters in the 1960s.

           DEC-trained and certified volunteer instructors teach safe, responsible, and ethical hunting and trapping practices and the important role of hunters and trappers in wildlife conservation. New York has an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters and trappers, thanks largely to more than 60 years of dedicated efforts of volunteer Hunter Education Program instructors. All first-time hunters, bowhunters, and trappers must successfully complete a hunter or trapper safety course and pass the final exam before being eligible to purchase a hunting or trapping license. All courses are offered free of charge.

           In 2017, DEC Commissioner Seggos directed the agency's Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) to begin tracking and investigating tree stand injuries for the first time. Tree stand injuries are under-reported, and DEC is not always notified when tree stand falls occur. In 2017, 12 tree stand incidents were reported and investigated, six of which proved to be fatal. In 2018, there were just five documented tree stand incidents and zero fatalities, and all five falls resulted from the hunter failing to use a body harness. Additional information about tree stand incidents is available on the DEC website.

           Tree stand safety has become a regular part of the hunter education course required of first-time hunters in New York. Tree stand incidents are becoming a major cause of hunting-related injuries. The proper use of tree stands and tree stand safety equipment will help to prevent these injuries and fatalities. Used correctly, a harness keeps the hunter connected from the time they leave the ground to the moment they get back down.

           Many, if not all tree stand incidents could be prevented if hunters follow the “ABCs” of tree stand safety:

  • Always remove and inspect your tree stand before use;
  • Buckle on your full body harness securely every time; and
  • Connect to the tree before your feet leave the ground.

           While hunting is safer than ever, DEC encourages hunters to remember that every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. Many, if not all of these incidents could have been prevented if the people involved had followed the primary rules of hunter safety:

  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded;
  • Control the muzzle, keep it pointed in a safe direction;
  • Identify your target and what lies beyond;
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire; and
  • Wear hunter orange.
     

           For more information, including the 2018 Hunting Safety Statistics and the 2018 Tree Stand Safety Statistics, DEC’s website.

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