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DEC attempts to curtail accidental discharges, fatalities

December 7, 2016
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is taking up an awareness campaign in the wake of several hunting-related shooting deaths this year.

This campaign comes after last year's hunting incident report showed that zero shooting-related fatalities occurred in 2015. Last year was the first in more than a half-century with no gun related hunting deaths.

But just in the last two weeks, there have been two deaths from accidental discharges, and the DEC is reminding hunters that safety is of the utmost importance.

Article Photos

Peter Price, a Wilmington-based hunting guide, poses with a large buck in the northern Adirondacks. Price is wearing blaze orange like the state Department of Environmental Conservation recommends all hunters and woods users do during hunting season.
Photo provided by Peter Price

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, a woman was fatally shot during a hunting trip with three other people near the Genesee River in Caledonia, south of Rochester. The investigation into her death is ongoing.

"While statistics show that hunting in New York State is safer than ever, mistakes are made every year. But every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a press release. "We urge hunters to use common sense and remember what they were taught in their DEC Hunters Education Course."

All hunters are required to complete a hunting education course before they can get a hunting permit. The course requirement was instituted in 1950, and since then, hunting-related shooting deaths have declined by 80 percent.

In 2015, there were no shooting related deaths, but there were still 23 incidents of injuries due to firearms. Ten of those were self-inflicted, while 13 were not. Those 23 incidents are the third lowest on record for any year since 1960, when the state started keeping track of these statistics.

According to the DEC's report on last year's hunting season, the number of hunters is declining, but the number of incidents is going down even faster. Now, there are only about four incidents for every 100,000 hunters. In the 1960s, that rate was about 19 incidents per 100,000 hunters. The DEC estimates there are more than a half-million people who hunt in the state each year.

Although the number of hunters has dropped by around 20 percent, the state's educational programs have caused the chances of an incident to drop much more.

"New York has an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters, thanks largely to the dedicated efforts of thousands of volunteer Sportsman Education Instructors over the last 60 years," the 2015 report says. "Hunting is safer than ever, but we cannot become complacent as every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. The DEC highly recommends that hunters going afield during any firearm season wear hunter orange to be visible to other hunters."

Taking the 10-year averages of hunting incidents, there is a noticeable decline over the last several decades. In the 1960s, there was an average of 137 incidents per year. By the 2000s, that number had dropped to 38.

But the rash of incidents this year has DEC working hard to remind hunters that the passtime is still dangerous, and hunters should take measures to prevent accidental shootings and discharges.

The DEC says that all guns should be assumed to be loaded at all times and that hunters should control the muzzle of their guns and keep their finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. Hunters also need to think about not just their target, but what lies beyond it as well, and everyone, including hunters, hikers and other recreators, who venture into the woods during hunting season should wear blaze orange and make sure they're visible to hunters.

The state also says that hunters using tree stands should sport a safety harness and belt, and be extra cautious when climbing in and out of the tree stand, as that's when most tree stand-related incidents occur. No one should ever climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded gun. Four of the shooting incidents last year were tree stand-related.

Hunters also need to be prepared for winter conditions whenever they enter the woods, and they should tell a trusted friend or family member where they are going and when to expect them back.

To read last year's hunting incident report, which details the circumstances of all 23 shooting-related incidents, visit To find a hunter education course near you, go to



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