Lightning strikes may be more likely than hunting accidents
PRATT -- The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) reports that there were 19 hunting accidents in 2007, with one fatality. This is an increase of two accidents over the previous year but still a very small number considering that approximately 271,000 hunters spent more than 3 million days afield in 2006 (the latest year for which figures are available), agency staff report.

It's also a reflection of how hunting is getting safer. As recently as 1995, the lowest ever-recorded number of hunting accidents in Kansas was 21. In 1988, there were 51. In 1994, KDWP recorded 41 accidents, and in 1999 there were 32. In the eight years from 2000 through 2007, Kansas hunters averaged 18.5 accidents per year.

"By any calculation, hunting is safe," says KDWP statewide Hunter Education Program coordinator Wayne Doyle. "Any incident -- particularly a fatality -- is tragic, but the concerted education efforts of our volunteer instructors over the years have made hunting safer than any outdoor activity I can think of. You may be more likely to get hit by lightning."

Doyle's appraisal of the lightning-to-hunting risk comparison is accurate. According to the International Hunter Education Association, 19 people were killed nationwide in hunting accidents in 2007, out of 12 million who hunted. According to the National Weather Service, approximately 70 people are killed annually in the U.S. by lightning.

As in past years, swinging on game accounted for most Kansas hunting accidents in 2007 -- 10 out of the 19 total. Upland bird hunters were involved in fewer than half the accidents. Two happened on opening weekend of pheasant season, and several accidents involved alcohol. There was only one reported tree-stand accident.

Age apparently was not a factor, with the youngest hunter being 11, the oldest 60, and the average age 33.

"All these incidents were preventable with proper observance of the rules of safe gun handling and common sense," Doyle explains. "And after the conclusion of legal proceedings, we'll know more about the fatality."

"Hunting is safe and getting safer," reads one of KDWP's slogans, which leads to another often quoted message from the conservation agency: "Pass It On."