Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trainers To Thank For All-Time Low Number Of PA Hunting Accidents

The news was unquestionably good.
But who will hear it?
Last week the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced there were 23 hunting accidents — officially “hunting-related shooting incidents” — in 2015. That's an all-time low, beating the 27 of 2013.
Last year also was the third straight with fewer than 30 accidents.
That's reflective of a long-term trend.
The commission has been tracking accidents since 1915. Then, and in the decades after, it was common for incidents to number in the hundreds each year. They have steadily declined over time, though, and are down 80 percent since the advent of mandatory hunter education training in 1959.
Fatalities are also trending downward.
There has been only one year (2012) without a single reported fatality related to gun handling in hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania. But there was just one fatality in 2014 and only two last year, one of them from a self-inflicted wound.
The commission credits that in large part to its corps of volunteer hunter education instructors, who last year taught 38,671 students.
The tribute is well-deserved. Those men and women give up thousands of hours to teach youngsters and adults that their own actions largely determine how safe any trip to the fields and woods will ultimately be.
The state's ever-improving safety record shows those students are getting it.
But what about everyone else?
The perception among many in the general public remains that, for safety's sake, it's best to stay out of the woods when hunters are around.
Whenever the subject of legalizing hunting on Sundays comes up, for example, hikers and others who oppose the idea commonly justify their position by suggesting that's the one day a week in fall when they feel comfortable in the outdoors. And that's because they're not sharing it with people carrying bows and firearms.
On my way home from an assignment last autumn I stopped by a state park in the Laurel Highlands for a quick hike. Archery season was open.
I'd finished up and was coming around the trailhead gate, exiting the woods, as a young woman prepared to enter. She stopped short upon seeing a sign that read something like, “Caution, this area open to hunting.”
I'd seen it and never given it another thought, but she asked me who was hunting, what they were hunting and whether it was safe to go into the woods.
I assured her it was, but she didn't appear convinced.
As sportsmen, it's easy for us to dismiss those fears. But they are real, and we have to continually address them, carrying the message that sharing the woods with hunters doesn't mean inevitable human carnage.
Much like hunter education instructors who do what they do out of a love for their sport and a desire to perpetuate our sporting heritage, we all have to work to change minds.
We've taught ourselves to be safe. Now we have to get the word out to others.
Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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