Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pennsylvania Continues Safe-Hunting Trend

Hunting-related shooting incidents nearly match record low number in 2014.

           Pennsylvania again made safe-hunting history in 2014.

For the second time since records have been kept – and for the second year in a row – a year came and went with fewer than 30 hunting-related shooting incidents. 

There were 29 hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) in 2014, according to a newly released report from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. 

The Game Commission has been tracking HRSIs since 1915, and – prior to 2013 – there never had been fewer than 33 incidents reported in a year. Decades ago, hundreds of incidents occurred each year.

           Requirements for hunters to wear orange in many seasons and ongoing hunter-education efforts are essential to the upward safety trend, the report states.

In 2014, 41,462 students received their Basic Hunter-Trapper Education certification in Pennsylvania. 

Those student graduates, their volunteer hunter-education instructors and the hunting public at large all can be proud of the role they have played in making hunting the safest it’s ever been, said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough.

“The latest report is further proof that Penn’s Woods are safer than ever,” Hough said. “The numbers are encouraging, but there’s still work to do. Even one incident is too many.”

In Pennsylvania, hunting-related shooting incidents have declined by nearly 80 percent since hunter-education training began in 1959.

The latest numbers sustain both long-term and recent trends. During the previous reporting period, a record-low 27 hunting-related shooting incidents were recorded. It was the second straight year a record-low number was realized. In 2012, there were 33 incidents, which tied the previous record-low.

One of the 29 incidents reported in 2014 was fatal. Except for 2012 – the first year without a single reported fatality related to gun handling in hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania – at least one fatality has been reported each year. The number of fatal incidents has declined sharply over the years.

In 2014, six of the 29 incidents with an identified offender resulted from individuals with 10 or fewer years of hunting experience. 

           One incident involved a youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program. It is important to note, however, that the mentored youth hunter involved was the victim in the incident, not the offender.  

The Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which enables hunters under the age of 12 to harvest certain wildlife species if they are accompanied by a licensed adult, continues to be safe. More than 34,000 Mentored Youth Permits were issued during this time frame.

In its annual reports on HRSIs, the Game Commission establishes an incident rate by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. The 3.07 incident rate reported for 2014 is slightly higher than the 2013 rate of 2.85.

An analysis of offender ages revealed individuals ages 16 and younger had an incident rate of 0.81 incidents per 100,000 participants, which is significantly lower than the 2013 incident rate of 3.26.

The leading cause of hunting-related shooting incidents in 2014 was a victim being in the line of fire, which accounted for 34 percent of the total. Accidental discharge and a victim being shot for game, each accounted for 21 percent of the total. HRSIs caused by accidental discharge decreased compared to the previous year, and incidents caused by victims being shot in mistake for game increased from three in 2013 to six in 2014.

Game Commissioner Timothy Layton, of Windber, said hunter education is instrumental in reducing the number of HRSIs, and the dedicated corps of 2,243 volunteer instructors play a crucial role in improving safety. He thanked those instructors, and the state’s hunters for continuing to put safety first.

“Focused efforts to make certain hunting in Pennsylvania stays safe, and continues to get safer, really are what have led to these record numbers,” said Layton, who chairs the commissioners’ Information & Education committee. “We all can take pride in how far we’ve come as we look forward to many more safe seasons ahead.”

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