New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that the 2019 hunting seasons in New York were the safest on record. DEC documented seven tree stand incidents and one fatality in 2019.
Of the 12 Hunting Related Shooting Incidents (HRSIs) that occurred last year, seven were two-party firearm incidents, five were self-inflicted, and one resulted in a fatality. All of these incidents could have been prevented if hunting safety rules had been followed. The one fatal incident was caused by a failure to positively identify the target.
Further examination of the seven two-party firearm incidents reveals that four of the victims involved were not wearing hunter orange, reinforcing the importance of identifying the target and beyond, and wearing hunter orange or pink when afield, two of the major principles of DEC’s hunter safety courses. For more information on hunter safety basics, visit DEC’s website.
New York State has recorded HRSI rates since the 1960s. In 1966, 166 incidents were recorded, 13 of which were fatal. In 2019, 12 incidents were recorded, one of which was fatal. While the number of hunters is declining overall, the hunting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) is falling even faster. Since the 1960s, the number of hunters in New York has declined about 20 percent, while the incident rate has declined almost 80 percent. The current five-year average is 1.8 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. Through more than 60 years of dedicated efforts from Volunteer Hunter Education Program Instructors, an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters and trappers has been developed. 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 2019, seven tree-stand incidents were reported and investigated, none were fatal. All seven incidents involved a hunter who was not wearing a body harness or the harness was not attached to the tree.
Tree stand safety has been integrated as a 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 the tree stand before use;
- Buckle on the 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 or pink.
More information, including the 2019 Hunting Safety Statistics and the 2019 Tree Stand Safety Statistics, is available on DEC’s website.