According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the 2019 hunting seasons in New York were the safest on record. DEC documented seven tree stand incidents and one fatality in 2019.
More than a half million people hunt each year in New York State. Staff and volunteer hunter education program instructors teach about 40,000 students each year according to DEC.
Of the 12 Hunting Related Shooting Incidents (HRSIs) that occurred last year, seven were two-party firearm incidents, five were self-inflicted, and one resulted in a fatality. All of these incidents could have been prevented if hunting safety rules had been followed. The one fatal incident was caused by a failure to positively identify the target.
Further examination of the seven two-party firearm incidents reveals that four of the victims involved were not wearing hunter orange, reinforcing the importance of identifying the target and beyond, and wearing hunter orange or pink when afield, two of the major principles of hunter safety courses. More information on hunter safety basics can be found HERE.
New York State has recorded Hunting Related Shooting Incident rates since the 1960s. In 1966, 166 incidents were recorded, 13 of which were fatal. In 2019, 12 incidents were recorded, one of which was fatal. While the number of hunters is declining overall, the hunting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) is falling even faster according to DEC’s statistics. Since the 1960s, the number of hunters in New York has declined about 20 percent, while the incident rate has declined almost 80 percent. The current five-year average is 1.8 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 hunters in the 1960s.
In 2017, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos directed the agency’s Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) to begin tracking and investigating tree stand injuries for the first time. Tree stand injuries are considered under-reported as is not always notified when tree stand falls occur. In 2019, seven tree-stand incidents were reported and investigated, none were fatal. All seven incidents involved a hunter who was not wearing a body harness or the harness was not attached to the tree.
Tree stand safety has been integrated as a part of the hunter education course required of first-time hunters in New York. The proper use of tree-stands and tree stand safety equipment will help to prevent these injuries and fatalities. Used correctly, a harness keeps the hunter connected from the time they leave the ground to the moment they get back down.
Many, if not all tree stand incidents could be prevented if hunters follow the “ABCs” of tree stand safety:
- Always remove and inspect the tree stand before use;
- Buckle on the full body harness securely every time; and
- Connect to the tree before your feet leave the ground.
Every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. Incidents can be prevented by following the primary rules of hunter safety:
- Treat every firearm as if it were loaded;
- Control the muzzle, keep it pointed in a safe direction;
- Identify your target and what lies beyond;
- Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire; and
- Wear hunter orange or pink.
More information, including the 2019 Hunting Safety Statistics and the 2019 Tree Stand Safety Statistics, is available on DEC’s website.
Photo of two hunters, one wearing camo and the other hunter orange courtesy DEC.