The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced that the 2014 spring turkey season has gone down as the safest in the state’s history. Hunters ended the four-week season without a single incident, which is an unmatched record since the state formally instituted turkey hunting in 1960.
“In the early 1990s, spring turkey hunting incidents had double digit figures with near double digit figure fatalities before hunter education became mandatory,” said DNR conservation officer Tim Coleman. “Thanks to the volunteer instructors and natural resources police officers of the West Virginia Hunter Education Program, and to the hunters who have made safety a part of their culture, incidents and fatalities for the spring turkey season were eliminated this year.”
The DNR defines a hunting accident as a situation in which a hunter is injured or dies as a result of hunting. This includes accidental shootings, environmental hazards, and in very rare cases, animal attacks. The last fatality during West Virginia’s spring gobbler season occurred in 2009 when 58-year-old Robert Tobias mistakenly shot and killed 31-year-old Shawn Stewart in Stonewall Jackson State Park. According to the Associated Press, Tobias was sentenced to five years behind bars for wanton endangerment and failing to render aid.
These kind of accidents are incredibly rare and—thanks to an increased focus on hunter safety—becoming even more so. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that a person is 14 times more likely to be injured playing volleyball than hunting, and 50 times more likely to be hurt playing basketball. Among outdoor activities, hunting is safer than mountain biking, water skiing, hiking, and camping. From 2010 to 2013, the West Virginia DNR only recorded one to three accidents every year.
Wildlife officials say that even veteran hunters or those who have already taken a course in hunter safety may find it useful to enroll in a class to learn about recent changes.
Image courtesy West Virginia Department of Natural Resources