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2014 Marks the Second Best Year for Safe Hunting in New York

The 2014 New York hunting season closed with the second lowest number of hunting related-shooting incidents on record, State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced today.

“Hunting is a tradition in New York State that continues to be safely enjoyed by many,” said Commissioner Martens. “Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative recognizes all the benefits the sporting community brings to New York’s economy and commends hunters for continuing their safe hunting practices. I thank our hunters for following the safety guidelines and for making this past year a successful hunting season.”

New York’s hunting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) has fallen by more than 75 percent since the 1960s. The past five-year average is down to 4.3 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 in the 1960s.

A total of 22 hunting incidents occurred in 2014, including one unfortunate fatality which occurred while hunting small game. Eight of this year’s accidents were self-inflicted, eleven involved members of the same hunting party and only three occurred where the victim and shooter did not know each other. This was the first year on record without an incident occurring during the spring turkey season. The lowest total number of hunting incidents in any year occurred just a year ago (19 incidents in 2013).

All incidents are thoroughly investigated by trained Environmental Conservation Officers. The findings of these investigations are used to improve New York’s Hunter Education Course to ensure that the most common causes of incidents are addressed and emphasized during instruction. Only incidents involving firearms, bows, and crossbows are included. Incidents involving tree stand use or other hunter health-related mishaps are not.

“These declining statistics prove that New York has a safety-conscious generation of hunters. This is due in part to the committed efforts of more than 2,500 volunteer Sportsman Education Instructors who are trained and certified by DEC,” added Commissioner Martens.

Sportsman education is an essential background to have in the field and teaches future sportsmen and sportswomen how to be safe, responsible and ethical hunters and trappers. All courses are offered free of charge.

While hunting is safer than ever, accidents happen, and it is important to remember that every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. Many, if not all of these incidents could have been prevented, if only the shooter or victim had followed the primary rules of hunter safety to:

assume every firearm to be loaded;
control the firearm muzzle in a safe direction;
keep finger off the trigger until ready to fire;
identify your target and what lies beyond; and
wear hunter orange.

The NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State. In support of this initiative, $10 million in NY Works funding has been dedicated to fish hatchery repairs and 50 new land and water access projects such as boat launches, hunting blinds, trails and parking areas.

Under the initiative, the 2015-16 Executive Budget proposes to establish a new capital account, the Habitat Conservation and Access Account. The bill would provide up to $1.5M annually from the State Fish and Game Trust Account and all proceeds from the sale of the Habitat Stamp to a new Habitat Conservation and Access Account to ensure that DEC has funds available for management, protection and restoration of fish and wildlife habitat, and for the improvement and development of public access for fish and wildlife related recreation.

For more information, including the 2014 Hunting Safety Statistics, visit the Sportsman Education Program page on DEC’s website.