RAY BROOK — With several hunting seasons underway and the start of big game season just weeks away, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos is reminding hunters to put safety at the forefront of their actions this fall when going afield.
"Statistics show that hunting in New York State is safer than ever," Commissioner Seggos said in a press release.
"But we know through our investigations that every hunting-related accident is preventable. So DEC is urging New York's 500,000 hunters to use common sense, follow the tenets taught in the DEC Hunter Education Course, and put safety first in every action you take this season."
WEAR ORANGE, PINK
DEC encourages every hunter to wear blaze orange or pink.
Wearing orange or pink prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal or shooting in your 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 who are hunting deer or bear with a gun to wear fluorescent hunter orange or pink 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 with at least 50 percent fluorescent orange or pink.
During the past 10 years, not one person wearing hunter orange was mistaken for game and killed in New York.
On the contrary, the majority of big game hunters involved in firearm-related incidents were not wearing hunter orange.
TREE STAND SAFETY
Every year, hunters are seriously injured, paralyzed, or killed falling out of tree stands.
Falls from tree stands have become a major cause of hunting related injuries and fatalities in New York.
In 2017, DEC Commissioner Seggos requested the agency's Environmental Conservation Police Officers to track and investigate tree stand injuries for the first time.
DEC investigated 12 tree-stand accidents last year, and 50 percent proved to be fatal.
All 12 accidents involved a hunter who was not wearing a harness or the harness was not attached to the stand or tree at the time of their fall.
The proper use of tree stands and full-body harnesses will help to prevent these injuries and fatalities.
Other tree-stand safety tips include:
• When hunting in tree stands, use a full body safety harness and a climbing belt and stay connected from the time you leave the ground to the time you get back down, as most tree-stand accidents occur when hunters are climbing in and out of the stand.
• Never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm.
• Read the manufacturer's instructions and warnings before you use your tree stand and check your stands (including straps and chains) every season.
• Replace any worn or missing parts.
• Let a reliable person know where you will be hunting and when you will return.
• A map showing your tree stand location makes it easier for others to find you if you do not return on time.
LEGAL HUNTING HOURS
The DEC would like to remind hunters that the legal hours for big game hunting across the state run from official sunrise to sunset.
It is the responsibility of hunters to know when those times are in their locations.
Consult the DEC hunting guide, use the DEC wildlife app or search weather data on the internet to find the official sunrise and sunset times for your area.
Not only is it unsafe but it is illegal to hunt deer and bear in the dark.
FITNESS FOR HUNTERS
Hunting is a physical sport.
Every hunting season is marred by hunters who suffer heart attacks and strokes.
Walking while carrying gear, spotting, and shooting at a deer and dragging a carcass can cause more stress than the heart can handle.
That's especially true if you are not physically active, smoke, have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or other health problems.
It is a good idea to start building up your endurance before hunting season.
Any activity that gets you moving around, even if it's just 30 minutes each day, can start strengthening your heart and lungs so you can have a safe hunting season.
In addition, hunters should always be prepared for winter conditions when venturing in the woods, inform a friend or relative of their whereabouts and pack emergency supplies.
THE 4 RULES OF FIREARM SAFETY
• Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
• Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
• Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
• Always be sure of your target and what is beyond. Once you pull the trigger, you can't take the bullet back.