The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today is advising hunters to use safety precautions when enjoying the sport this hunting season which runs until December 4 for the Northern zone and December 11 for the Southern zone.

“New York has more than 3,000 dedicated volunteer sportsman education instructors whose goal is to create an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “We want to take this opportunity to remind hunters to be extra vigilant this year and make 2011 one of the safest hunting seasons on record.”

Studies show that individuals wearing hunter orange clothing are seven times less likely to be injured than hunters who do not wear the bright fluorescent color. Over the past 10 years, 15 New York state big game hunters have been mistaken for deer or bear and killed – none wore hunter orange.

Hunters are encouraged to review hunting safety tips at DEC’s website (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9186.html) and pay careful attention to basic firearm safety rules that can prevent hunting-related shooting incidents:

  • Point your gun in a safe direction.
  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  • Be sure of your target and beyond.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Remember to wear hunter orange.

Hunting accidents generally have been on the decline, continuing a 50-year trend of increasing safety.  Reports indicate that 2008 and 2009 were statistically the two safest years in the history of hunting in New York state. Although the 2010 report showed a minor increase in hunting related shooting incidents from the previous two years, the total incidents reported in 2010 were still well below the average of 66 incidents per year from the 1990s, and 137 incidents per year during the 1960s.  Big game hunting incidents continue to be very low compared to previous decades, despite the increase in rifle zones and the passage of the youth mentoring law in 2008.

The number of hunters is declining, but the hunting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) is falling much faster than the number of hunters. During the 1960s, the incident rate was 19 incidents per 100,000 hunters. Since 2000, the incident rate is one-third of that, averaging 6.4 incidents per 100,000 hunters.

To put hunter safety into perspective, hunting is considerably safer than such common activities as swimming, riding a bike or driving a car.

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