DEC Official: Hunting Accidents Are Avoidable With Some Thought

BUFFALO – Hunting accidents, like one that claimed the life of a Sherman woman, are avoidable if people just remember the basics they are taught in the state Hunter Safety class, according to one Department of Environmental Conservation official. 

While not addressing any specific accidents, DEC Wildlife Biologist and Region 9 Sportsmen Education Coordinator Jennifer Pettit, said memory and common sense help prevent tragedies.

“Most of these incidents that we see throughout New York State can be prevented and it comes back to remembering the rules of firearm safety,” she said. “Assume that every gun is loaded. Control the muzzle in  a safe direction, that includes when you’re walking with your hunting party. Make sure that you’re using a carrying position that is appropriate for the person that’s  next to you so your muzzle isn’t pointed at them. Keep your finger not only off the trigger until your ready to fire, but outside the trigger guard.”

She explained that one should always identify their target before aiming.

“Make sure you know what your target is and what is both in front and beyond your target, that’s so important. You need to identify your target. And, although its not mandatory in New York State, you should be wearing hunter orange,” she said.

Being complacent about safety can be a costly mistake, she noted.

“No matter how long you’ve been doing it, you can’t forget what you learned in the sportsmen education class that you took,” Pettit said. “It’s easy to get used to what you’re doing and start to get lazy about the way you’re holding your firearm or the direction the muzzle is pointing at.”

The DEC actively seeks volunteers to help teach the hunter safety classes, she said, explaining that the volunteers, since they are not paid, have to have a passion for sportsmen safety.

In 2016, there were four reported fatal hunting accidents, she said, noting this was the safest year since records have been kept, and much safer than in the 1960s when the safety programs began to expand and become mandatory.

“Actually 2016 was the lowest number of incidents on record in New York State, unfortunately there were four fatalities last year which is unfortunate,” she said.