Pennsylvania hunters had one of their safest years on record in 2016.
The number of hunting-related shooting incidents statewide was the second-lowest ever, according to a recent report from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
For only the second time on record, a year passed without a single fatality related to gun handling while hunting or trapping in Pennsylvania.
There were 25 hunting-related shooting incidents statewide during 2016. Only 2015 had a lower number of incidents with 23. The only other year without a hunting-related fatality in Pennsylvania was 2012.
“There’s always work to do when it comes to improving hunter safety, because even one incident is too many," Commission executive director Bryan Burhans said in a news release. “But the fact remains that hunting is safer than it’s ever been, and in Pennsylvania, the credit for that can be shared by the legions of hunters who make a habit out of making good decisions and the dedicated instructors who have trained them so well.”
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. Prior to 2013, there never had been fewer than 33 incidents reported in a year, and 2016 marks the fourth straight year in which fewer than 30 incidents were reported.
In 2016, nine of the 25 incidents with an identified offender resulted from individuals with 10 or fewer years of hunting experience.
One incident involved a youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program. According to the release, the youngster and his mentor were in violation of the rules of the program when the incident occurred. 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.
In its annual reports on HRSIs, the Game Commission established an incident rate by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. The 2.73 incident rate reported for 2016 is higher than the 2015 rate of 2.46.
The leading causes of hunting-related shooting incidents in 2016 were a victim being in the line of fire, which accounted for 44 percent of the total, followed by unintentional discharge, which accounted for 20 percent of the total. Incidents where the victim was shot in mistake for game remained at record-low levels.
According to the report, the use of fluorescent orange in many seasons and ongoing hunter-education efforts are essential to the trend in hunter safety.
In 2016, 35,452 students received their Basic Hunter-Trapper Education certification in Pennsylvania.
Game commissioner Jim Daley, of Cranberry Township, a longtime hunter-education instructor who was recognized in 2009 as Pennsylvania’s Instructor of the Year, said the 2,237 volunteer instructors play a key role in improving hunter safety.
“Before hunter-education training first was launched, hunting-related shooting incidents occurred far too frequently, and to see that number reduced to less than 30 in 2016 with no fatalities in Pennsylvania is quite an accomplishment,” Daley said in the release. “A lot of hard work, and many, many volunteer hours are behind this achievement, and I’m proud to be part of the group working to make hunting in Pennsylvania even safer. With 50-plus years of hunter education in Pennsylvania, a hunter-safety culture is now becoming firmly ingrained in our hunters and mentors”