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.
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 by a failure to positively identify the target. DEC’S Hunting Safety Statistics and the 2018 Tree Stand Safety Statistics, are on DEC’s 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.
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.