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Increase in hunting incidents!

Jack Danchak - Columnist
Posted 5/20/21

Hunting-related shooting incidents in New York State during last year's hunting season nearly doubled from the previous year. DEC reported there were 22 hunting-related shooting incidents in 2021, …

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Increase in hunting incidents!

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Hunting-related shooting incidents in New York State during last year's hunting season nearly doubled from the previous year. DEC reported there were 22 hunting-related shooting incidents in 2021, that included three fatalities. That number is above the 2020 total of 12 and also above the five-year average of 15.8 incidents. The three fatalities were all self-inflicted injuries.

Kelly Stang, administrator of the DEC's hunter education program said, “While up from the record-low of 12 incidents documented in 2019, the number of incidents in the 2020 season actually continues the downward trend in shooting incidents observed over the past 20 years. Shooting incidents numbers go up and down each year, which is why we look at an overall decreasing trend over time.”

Statistics show of the 22 shooting incidents that occurred in 2020, 13 were self-inflicted and nine were two-party firearm incidents, seven of the victims were not wearing hunter orange clothing, which is recommended by the DEC but not mandatory by law in New York State.

One reason for the jump in shooting incidents may be because of an increase in hunters afield. DEC said they saw an across-the-board increase in license sales in 2020, that they believe was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic when more people decided to go hunting.

General hunting license sales increased by 11 percent, bowhunting sales jumped by 14 percent, muzzleloader license sales increased 11 percent and junior hunting licenses were up 26 percent.

DEC reported that since the 1960s, the number of hunters has declined about 20 percent, while the shooting incident rate has declined almost 80 percent. DEC said their hunter education instruction safety courses and dedication of thousands of volunteer instructors over more than 60 years has made New York hunting safer than ever.

Last year DEC offered a completely online hunter safety course when in-person classes were canceled just before the spring gobbler turkey season because of the pandemic. A total of 62,000 new hunters were certified last year, compared to an average of about 24,000 in previous years. None of the 22 hunting-related shooting incidents in 2020 involved a hunter who took the hunter safety course online.

When asked why the report was delayed this year, Stang said, “DEC releases the annual Hunter-Related Shooting Incident report when it has been finalized and all incidents are thoroughly investigated by DEC's Division of Law Enforcement.”

Jack Danchak is a longtime sportsmen and spent 30 years as the President of the Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs of Sullivan County, Inc.

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