With several hunting seasons underway New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reminding hunters to put safety at the forefront when going afield. DEC estimate about 500,000 people hunt in New York State, which has a population of about 19.54 million.
In 2018, 13 hunting-related shooting incidents were reported in New York, leading to three deaths, down from 166 incidents in 1966, of which 13 of which were fatal. Most big game hunters involved in firearm-related incidents were not wearing hunter orange. 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. Hunting safety statistics from last year are available online [pdf].
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.
Hunter Orange Saves Lives
Hunters are encouraged 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 who are 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 with at least 50 percent fluorescent orange or pink.
Tree Stand Safety Tips
In 2017, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos ordered the agency’s Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) to track and investigate tree stand injuries. DEC investigated five tree stand accidents in 2018. All five accidents involved a hunter who was not wearing a harness or were 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
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. It is illegal to hunt deer and bear before sunrise or after sunset .
Fitness for Hunters
Hunting 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. Hunters should 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.