Total an increase of five over 2009; one fatal, all avoidable
PRATT — The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) reports that there were 17 hunting incidents in Kansas in 2010, five more than the record low of 12 in 2009. One of the accidents was fatal.

The one fatal accident occurred in Dickinson County when two turkey hunters had finished hunting for the day and were walking across a plowed field to their vehicle. The shooter stated that he was carrying his 20-gauge shotgun in the high ready position when he heard a turkey gobble behind him. He turned to his left, toward the victim, and the shotgun discharged, striking the victim in the side of the neck. The victim died at the scene.

In an average year, about 50 percent of Kansas hunting accidents involve swinging on game while hunting upland birds. That figure held true last year, when eight of the 17 cases involved swinging on game. Although the single fatality involved careless gun handling, 2010 showed a drop in the number of careless handling incidents, a point stressed in KDWP’s hunter education courses.

“We place great emphasis on gun handling skills in our courses — always controlling the muzzle, keeping the finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger, as well as the other rules of safe gun handling,” says Kent Barrett, statewide Hunter Education Program coordinator for KDWP. “We can only hope to prevent these unfortunate incidents from occurring in the future. In fact, they were all preventable. All of our instruction and all of our hunter education course activities included in our field days emphasize this point and constantly promote safe gun handling practices.”

Although there was an increase in 2010, the number of accidents is still very small compared to the number of hunters and hours spent afield. According to the latest available statistics in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 271,000 hunters spent more than 3 million man-days hunting in Kansas.

In addition to the official hunting incidents reported, three bowhunters fell from treestands, one fatally. In none of these incidents was the hunter wearing a restraint harness, as is taught in hunter education and bowhunter education courses.

“The simple use of a fall restraint system would have prevented these incidents from occurring,” Barrett notes. “Bowhunters need to remind themselves to use these safety devices.

“But the take away message from 2010 is that hunting is still incredibly safe,” he continues. “Studies consistently show that hunting is one of the safest outdoor activities, with only five injuries per 100,000 participants. With more 19 million hunters in the U.S., our volunteer hunter education instructors should rightfully feel pride in their efforts to educate students. They must be listening.”

As in past years, young hunters were involved in fewer incidents than more seasoned hunters; the average age of shooters involved in these incidents was 37.

Hunting is indeed safe. According to the National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2008 Edition, hunting is by far the safest sport. Figures show that while football players suffer 2,585 injuries per 100,000 participants, baseball players suffer 1,122 injuries per 100,000, and even billiards players suffer 15 injuries per 100,000 participants.