Hunter safety in Pennsylvania is at an all-time high.
There were 23 hunting-related shooting incidents statewide during 2015, according to a newly released report from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
That’s the lowest number on record.
It speaks to the strides that have been made over many decades to make hunting safer, said Game Commission executive director R. Matthew Hough.
“There still is work to do, because even one incident is too many,” Hough said in a news release. “But if you look back at the hundreds of incidents that occurred year after year in Pennsylvania decades ago, it really is remarkable how far hunter safety has come — and it’s been accomplished largely through a team of hard-working volunteers dedicated to making hunting continually safer.”
Two of the 23 incidents reported in 2015 resulted in fatalities. One was self-inflicted, and one resulted from a shot where the victim was in the line of fire. Except for 2012 — the first year without a single reported fatality related to gun handling in hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania — at least one fatality has been reported each year. There was one fatal incident in 2014. And, as a whole, the number of fatal incidents has declined sharply over the years.
Pennsylvania has compiled data on hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) since 1915. HRSIs in Pennsylvania have declined nearly 80 percent since hunter-education training began in 1959. The previous record-low was 27 incidents in 2013. Prior to 2013, there never had been fewer than 33 incidents reported in a year, and 2015 marks the third straight year in which fewer than 30 incidents were reported.
In 2015, five of the 23 incidents with an identified offender resulted from individuals with 10 or fewer years of hunting experience.
No incidents in 2015 involved a youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program. The Mentored Youth Hunting Program enables hunters under the age of 12 to harvest certain wildlife species if they are accompanied by a licensed adult. About 32,680 Mentored Youth Permits were issued during this time frame.
In its annual reports on HRSIs, the Game Commission establishes an incident rate by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. The 2.46 incident rate reported for 2015 is significantly lower than the 2014 rate of 3.07.
The leading causes of hunting-related shooting incidents in 2015 were a victim being in the line of fire or unintentional discharge, each of which accounted for 35 percent of the total.
Requirements for hunters to wear orange in many seasons and ongoing hunter-education efforts are essential to the upward trend in hunter safety, the report states.
In 2015, 38,671 students received their Basic Hunter-Trapper Education certification in Pennsylvania.
Those student graduates, their volunteer hunter-education instructors and the hunting public at large all can be proud of the role they have played in making hunting the safest it’s ever been, Hough said.
Game Commissioner Jim Daley, of Cranberry Township, is a longtime hunter-education instructor who was recognized in 2009 as Pennsylvania’s Instructor of the Year, recognized the key role the dedicated corps of 2,326 volunteer instructors play in improving safety.
He thanked those dedicated instructors, and the state’s hunters for continuing to put safety first.
“Pennsylvania has reached many safety milestones, particularly in recent years, but also over the 50-plus years since hunter-education training first began,” said Daley, who chairs the commissioners’ Information & Education Committee. “A lot of hard work, and many, many volunteer hours have led to these results. Every student we teach becomes an ambassador for safe, responsible and ethical hunting; over time this model has created a cultural shift among hunters as we work to make hunting in Pennsylvania even safer. I think we all can be proud of how far we’ve come and can look forward to continued improvement.”