With several hunting seasons underway or about to start, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today reminded hunters to put safety at the forefront this fall when going afield.
"Thousands of New Yorkers are getting outside for a nature break this year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and we’re seeing record-setting enthusiasm from both experienced hunters and anglers and those new to the sport," Commissioner Seggos said. "We want 2020 to be the safest hunting season on record and to make sure all hunters, whether they have decades of experience or are just starting out, follow the principles of hunter safety. Nearly all hunting-related accidents are preventable. DEC urges New York's 500,000 hunters to use common sense, follow the tenets taught in DEC's Hunter Education Course, and put safety first in every hunting trip this season."
HUNTER EDUCATION PROGRAM
DEC requires every hunter to take a Hunter Education Course before receiving a license to hunt. Since New York's Hunter Education Program was introduced in 1949, the number of hunting-related accidents has declined by 80 percent. Thanks to the efforts of 1,700 DEC staff and volunteer hunter education program instructors who teach tens of thousands of students each year, hunting in New York continues to get safer. In fact, last year had the fewest hunting-related shooting incidents and was the safest hunting season on record.
DEC-certified, trained volunteer instructors teach safe, responsible, and ethical hunting and trapping practices and the important role of hunters and trappers in wildlife conservation. In 2019, 12 hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSI) were reported in New York, one of which was fatal. In 1966, there were 166 incidents, 13 of which were fatal.
DEC and contractor Kalkomey Enterprises provided online hunter education classes for the first time this spring, and more than 50,000 people became certified. Hunting license sales continue to show significant increases as more New Yorkers look for ways to enjoy the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people certified in hunter safety is more than twice the average of approximately 20,000 certified in typical years. In July, Kalkomey began offering a fully online bowhunter education certification course. To date, more than 21,000 aspiring bowhunters have been certified, double the usual annual total of about 10,000. DEC staff are now working with Kalkomey to develop a fully online trapper education certification course.
The four rules of firearm safety:
Treat every firearm as if it is loaded;
Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction;
Hunters should keep their fingers off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot; and
Always be sure of the target and what is beyond.
Be Safe, Be Seen: Hunter Orange Saves Lives
DEC encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or pink. Wearing orange or pink makes hunters highly visible in the field and prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal or shooting in their direction. Hunters who wear hunter orange are seven times less likely to be shot. New York State law requires hunters age 14 and 15 and their mentors hunting deer or bear with a gun to wear fluorescent hunter orange or pink that is visible from all directions—a shirt, jacket, or vest with at least 250 square inches of solid or patterned fluorescent orange or pink (the pattern must be at least 50 percent orange or pink) or a hat at least 50 percent fluorescent orange or pink.
During the past 10 years, no hunter wearing hunter orange was mistaken for game and killed in New York State. Most big game hunters involved in firearm-related incidents were not wearing hunter orange. For more information and a helpful visual on the effectiveness of fluorescent orange or pink when afield, go to this recent DEC hunter safety demonstration on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=935754986915622
TREE STAND SAFETY TIPS
Every year, hunters are seriously injured, paralyzed, or killed by falling out of tree stands. Falls from tree stands have become a major cause of hunting-related injuries and fatalities in New York. These accidents primarily involve a hunter who was not wearing a harness or using a harness that was not attached to the stand or tree at the time of their fall. The proper use of tree stands and full-body harnesses helps to prevent these injuries and fatalities.
Hunters are encouraged to use a full-body safety harness and a climbing belt and stay connected from the time they leave the ground to the time they get back down. Most tree stand accidents occur when hunters are climbing in and out of the stand. In addition, follow these safety tips:
Never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm;
Read the manufacturer's instructions and warnings before using the tree stand and check stands (including straps and chains) every season. Replace any worn or missing parts; and
Hunters should tell friends and relatives where they will be hunting and when they will return. A map showing the tree stand location makes it easier for others to find a hunter if they do not return on time.
LEGAL HUNTING HOURS
DEC reminds hunters that legal hours for big game hunting across the state are from official sunrise to sunset. It is the hunter's responsibility to know when these times are in his or her location. Consult the DEC Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide, use the DEC HuntFishNY app, or search weather data on the internet to find the official sunrise and sunset times for a hunting area. It is illegal to hunt deer and bear before sunrise or after sunset.
FITNESS FOR HUNTERS
Hunting is an exciting sport, but it can also be physically demanding. Every year, some hunters suffer heart attacks and strokes. Walking in heavy clothing, carrying gear, and dragging a deer through the woods can require vigorous exertion and may be more stress than the heart can handle. It is a good idea to exercise and build up endurance before hunting season. In addition, hunters should be prepared for winter conditions when venturing in the woods, inform a friend or relative of their whereabouts, and pack emergency supplies like flashlights, water and high energy foods.
For more information on these and other important hunting safety tips, visit DEC's website and watch a video about hunter safety and tree stand safety for more tips on how to prevent accidents.
This fall as in every fall, DEC’s Environmental Conservation Police Officers are on patrol to help ensure safety this hunting season and will take appropriate enforcement action if violations are observed.