Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mike Matthews: Hunter Safety

What follows is a guest essay contributed by Mike Matthews, DEC Sportsman Education Coordinator a member of the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership:

It’s about 45 minutes after sunrise, but because of the fog I can=t see more than 20 yards in any direction. Off to my right I can hear a deer walking toward me. I can hear the foot fall – it=s not a squirrel – I know that sound. Slowly the deer approaches, stops and gives out a grunt – it is a buck! Here is where training, experience and ethics come into play. I do not raise my firearm and the firearm remains on safe – I wait.
The reason I wait? I can’t see my target. I can=t see what is beyond my target – a house, another hunter, another deer? I don=t have a clear, clean and killing shot – I have no shot. What I have just described is something that responsible and safe hunters in New York go through when afield hunting game: they choose safety first.

This year, 2011 is the 62th anniversary of the Sportsman Education program in New York. Thanks to the more than 3,000 volunteer instructors, New York=s great outdoors are safer than ever. Our instructors receive no compensation for their efforts. They do it because they love to hunt, bow hunt and trap and they want to pass this tradition to others. The program could not function without them. All new hunters must attend a 10-hour hunter=s safety course before they are allowed the privilege of hunting in New York. If these new sportsmen and sportswomen decide to bow hunt; they must take an additional 8-hour bowhunter education course. Interested in trapping? An 8-hour trapper education course is needed. The course work for the gun course includes wildlife management, hunting heritage, laws, firearm (shotgun, rifle, muzzleloader) handling and hunting ethics. As Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management, said: A…ethics is doing the right thing when no one is watching.

Why all this training? Unfortunately, hunting-related shooting incidents accidents happen every year. Each incident is investigated and we that many, if not all, could have been prevented, if only everyone had followed the key hunting safety rules:

* Assume every gun is loaded
* Control the muzzle
* Finger off the trigger until ready to fire
* Be sure of the target and beyond
* Wear hunter orange

DEC has found that many hunting-related shooting incidents are associated with unlawful practices, such as shooting to close to a building. Finally, remember that 99.9% of the people who hunt have safe and enjoyable experiences. Over half a million people hunted in New York this year, and for every incident listed, there are thousands of other hunting stories of people who safely and responsibly took game. Just as important, even more passed up shots for the sake of safety, conservation, and respect for wildlife.

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

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