With several hunting seasons underway, and the start of the Southern Zone big game season just weeks away, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today reminded hunters to put safety at the forefront this fall when going afield.
"Hunting in New York State is safer than ever," Commissioner Seggos said. “However, hunting-related accidents and falls from tree stands still occur. Our investigations show that every hunting-related accident is preventable. DEC urges New York's 500,000 hunters to use common sense, follow the tenets taught in DEC’s Hunter Education Course, and put safety first in every hunting trip this season.”
The four rules of firearm safety:
- Treat every firearm as if it is loaded;
- Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction;
- Hunters should keep their fingers off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot; and
- Always be sure of the target and what is beyond.
Be Safe, Be Seen: Hunter Orange Saves Lives
DEC encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or pink. Wearing orange or pink makes hunters highly visible in the field and prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal or shooting in their direction. Hunters who wear hunter orange are seven times less likely to be shot. New York State law requires hunters age 14 and 15 and their mentors who are hunting deer or bear with a gun to wear fluorescent hunter orange or pink that is visible from all directions—a shirt, jacket, or vest with at least 250 square inches of solid or patterned fluorescent orange or pink (the pattern must be at least 50 percent orange or pink) OR a hat with at least 50 percent fluorescent orange or pink.
During the past 10 years, no hunter wearing hunter orange was mistaken for game and killed in New York. Most big game hunters involved in firearm-related incidents were not wearing hunter orange.
Tree Stand Safety Tips
Every year, hunters are seriously injured, paralyzed, or killed by falling out of tree stands. Falls from tree stands have become a major cause of hunting-related injuries and fatalities in New York. In 2017, DEC Commissioner Seggos requested the agency's Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) to track and investigate tree stand injuries. DEC investigated five tree stand accidents in 2018. All five accidents involved a hunter who was not wearing a harness or were using a harness that was not attached to the stand or tree at the time of their fall. The proper use of tree stands and full-body harnesses helps to prevent these injuries and fatalities.
Hunters are encouraged to use a full-body safety harness and a climbing belt and stay connected from the time they leave the ground to the time they get back down. Most tree stand accidents occur when hunters are climbing in and out of the stand. In addition, follow these safety tips:
- Never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm;
- Read the manufacturer's instructions and warnings before using the tree stand and check stands (including straps and chains) every season. Replace any worn or missing parts; and
- Hunters should tell friends and relatives where they will be hunting and when they will return. A map showing the tree stand location makes it easier for others to find a hunter if they do not return on time.
Legal Hunting Hours
DEC reminds hunters that legal hours for big game hunting across the state are from official sunrise to sunset. It is the hunter’s responsibility to know when these times are in his or her location. Consult the DEC hunting guide, use the DEC HuntFishNY app, or search weather data on the internet to find the official sunrise and sunset times for the hunter’s area. It is illegal to hunt deer and bear before sunrise or after sunset (link leaves DEC's website).
Fitness for Hunters
Hunting is an exciting sport, but it can also be physically demanding. Every year, some hunters suffer heart attacks and strokes. Walking in heavy clothing, carrying gear, and dragging a deer through the woods can require vigorous exertion and may be more stress than the heart can handle. It is a good idea to exercise and build up endurance before hunting season. In addition, hunters should be prepared for winter conditions when venturing in the woods, inform a friend or relative of their whereabouts, and pack emergency supplies like flashlights, water and high energy foods.
Hunter Education Program
DEC requires every hunter to take a Hunter Education Course free of charge before they can receive a license to hunt. Since New York's Hunter Education Program was first introduced in 1949, the number of hunting-related accidents have declined by 80 percent. Thanks to the efforts of 2,600 DEC staff and volunteer hunter education program instructors that teach nearly 50,000 students each year, New York's hunting safety statistics continue to improve.
Trained volunteer instructors certified by DEC teach safe, responsible, and ethical hunting and trapping practices and the important role of hunters and trappers in wildlife conservation.
In 2018, 13 hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSI) were reported in New York. In 1966, there were 166 incidents, 13 of which were fatal.
For more information on these and other important hunting safety tips, please visit DEC's website and watch a video about hunter safety and tree stand safety (links leave DEC's website) for more tips on how to prevent accidents.