For the first time since the commission began tracking such incidents in 1915, a year came and went without a single human fatality related to gun handling in hunting and trapping. There were 33 non-fatal incidents, a number that also represents a decrease from the previous year, and extends a continuing trend of increased hunter safety statewide.
Hunting-related shooting incidents have declined by nearly 80 percent in Pennsylvania since hunter-education training began in 1959.
Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said the numbers are encouraging.
“While one accident is too many, we are pleased to see that these types of shooting incidents continue to drop in Pennsylvania, and we look forward to continuing this impressive trend in safer hunting,” Roe said.
An HRSI is defined as any occurrence in which a person is injured as the result of a discharge from a firearm or bow during actual hunting or furtaking activities.
Aside from the absence of fatalities, the report for 2012 contains what could be another first for Pennsylvania.
Statewide, there was not a single hunting-related shooting incident during the fall turkey-hunting season in 2012.
While the number of such incidents sharply dropped following the Game Commission’s 1992 requirement for all fall turkey hunters to wear hunter orange, there is no other year on record without at least one incident during fall turkey season.
In its annual reports on HRSIs, the Game Commission establishes an incident rate by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. The 3.52 incident rate reported for 2012 is slightly lower than the 2011 rate of 3.88.
An analysis of offender ages revealed individuals ages 16 and younger had an incident rate of 5.86 per 100,000 participants. A total of 14 incidents – 42 percent of all 2012 incidents with an identified offender – were caused by individuals with 10 or fewer years of hunting experience.
However, no incidents in 2012 resulted from youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program – a program whereby hunters under the age of 12 are permitted to harvest certain wildlife species, if they are accompanied by a licensed adult. More than 33,400 mentored youth permits were issued during 2012.
The leading causes of hunter-related shooting incidents in 2012 were a sporting arm carried in a dangerous position and a victim being in the line of fire, each accounting for 24 percent of the total.
The Game Commission attributes the trend of declining hunter-related shooting incidents, in part, to mandatory hunter-education training and requirements for hunters to wear fluorescent orange during certain firearms seasons.
The Game Commission also has partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation for the past 20 years to increase safety among turkey hunters.
Nearly 38,000 students statewide were certified in 2012 through one of the commission’s Basic Hunter-Trapper education courses – an effort made possible by fewer than 2,300 volunteer instructors.
Roe applauded the commitment of instructors, and congratulated graduates of the course and the hunting public on a safe year of hunting in 2012.
“For our hunters and ourselves, we are committed to many more years like this one,” Roe said.
For more information on safe hunting practices, go to the Game Commission’s Web site, www.pgc.state.pa.us.