DEC Encourages Hunters to Continue Tradition of

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For Release: Friday, November 15, 2002

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DEC Encourages Hunters to Continue Tradition of Safety

Reminder of Tips and Regulations Offered As Southern Zone Big Game Season Begins
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today encouraged hunters in New York State to continue their tradition of safe hunting during the Southern Zone big game season that begins Monday, November 18, 2002.

"New York hunters have continued to show great responsibility and attention to safety over the years, and I hope that will continue this season," Commissioner Crotty said. "Virtually all hunting-related shooting are preventable, and our ultimate goal is to have an injury-free season in New York. The success of our hunter education program has enabled sportsmen to become more aware of proper safety guidelines and made hunting safer."

Hunting injuries have declined more than 60 percent during the past 35 years. With nearly 700,000 hunters in New York State, only 31 injuries were reported in 2001. New York's mandatory hunter education course was first implemented in 1949 and is supported by 3,000 volunteers who teach courses in regions across the state.

"Every hunter learns the safety rules when they participate in the state training course required for all new hunters," Commissioner Crotty said. "As a graduate of the hunter education course, I appreciate the efforts of all the volunteers who make the program possible. But it is up to individual hunters across the state to make safety their top priority at all times in order to enjoy a successful season."

Commissioner Crotty encouraged hunters to follow a few simple safety rules that can prevent virtually all hunting related shooting incidents:

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

Wearing Hunter Orange Saves Lives: The effectiveness of flourescent orange safety clothing has been proven. Twenty-two big game hunters in New York have been killed since 1989 after being mistaken for dear or bear. Only one of these victims – a hunter shot after sunset – was wearing hunter orange. Approximately 85 percent of big game hunters in New York already wear hunter orange. Studies show that deer are very sensitive to colors in the green range, but they see orange much less brightly than humans do. That explains why deer hunting success has continued to increase since hunters have been using hunter orange.

Take Care Even When Not Shooting. Nearly half of the hunting-related shooting incidents in recent years have resulted from unintentional discharges. Unintentional discharge injuries have decreased only three percent during the past decade, compared to a 25 percent decline in shooting injuries. DEC safety experts urge hunters to practice constant muzzle control, keeping the safety on at all times and fingers outside the trigger guard while carrying firearms.

Friendly Reminders Can Save Lives. Hunters who see a partner's finger inside the trigger guard when he or she is not shooting, or a barrel momentarily swinging in an unsafe direction, owe it to themselves and their companions to remind them of proper safety rules. Most injuries from unintentional discharges are self inflicted and the remainder injure friends and relatives.

Hunt at a Safe Pace. Hunters should avoid overexertion, pacing themselves within the limits of their individual and physical limitations. Exhaustion can lead to carelessness in carrying firearms, as well as decreased shooting accuracy.

Know Where Other Hunters Are. Pay attention to everyone who may be in the area. This is especially important in deer drives. Most hunters like to use their knowledge of the deer's natural habitats and movements, but some hunters still organize "drives" with some hunters moving deer out of an area toward waiting hunting partners. Many of New York's deer hunting injuries are associated with this practice.

Falls Pose a Hazzard. While firearms-related hunting injuries are declining significantly, falls from tree stands continue to cause dozens of injuries. Several New York State hunters died as a result of falls in recent years.

To minimize the possibility of tree stand injury, hunters should obey the following rules:

Strap in first. A body harness and short safety line to prevent falls works best;

Never climb with a gun or bow. Raise and lower it unloaded with a rope;

Climb up and down the tree with a fall restraint. Most falls happen when climbing; and

Use a reliable portable tree stand. Permanent tree stands, ladders and steps may rot.
Tree stand makers have produced significant improvements in safety equipment. The best option is a chest harness or a full-body harness that supports a person's weight by the torso and legs. These improved safety harnesses are now available in sporting goods stores or mail-order and online hunting supplies retailers. A single safety belt was the standard at one time, but a fall while wearing a safety belt around the midsection can suffocate the wearer. If a hunter still uses a simple safety belt, it should be worn high – just under the armpits. That will keep the hunter upright in case of a fall, and keeps the belt from tightening around the waist, cutting off the ability to breathe. It is also important to use a very short tether to attach to the tree, to prevent long falls and allow the hunter to use the stand to right him or herself.

DEC is always looking for experienced hunters and trappers to pass on the traditions of safety, responsibility and conservation to the next generation. Volunteers can apply for free training this winter to teach one or more of the following courses: hunter education; bowhunter education; trapper education, or waterfowl hunter education. If you are interested in joining DEC in this rewarding volunteer activity call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 for applications and information on becoming an instructor, or visit the DEC website at http://www.dec.state.ny.us and click on "Hunt/Fish/Trap" under the green "Outdoors & Natural Resources" banner.
 


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