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DEC releases NYS hunting safety statistics for 2023


Fri, Mar 1st 2024 11:45 am

Second safest season on record, tying 2019

Submitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos has released hunting safety statistics for the 2023 seasons, and thanked hunters for their ongoing commitment to following responsible practices to keep communities safe.

There were 12 incidents during the 2023 hunting seasons, tying with 2019 for the second-fewest hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) on record.

“Thanks to New York’s hunter education program and hunters following the rules of firearm safety, hunting continues to be a safe activity enjoyed by thousands of New Yorkers and visitors each year,” Seggos said. “Following proven hunting safety tips is the best way to keep hunting safe, and prevent incidents in future seasons.”

The 12 HRSIs recorded in 2023 include six two-party firearm incidents and six self-inflicted incidents; two of the 12 HRSIs resulted in fatalities. The two fatalities include one self-inflicted incident resulting from hauling a loaded firearm into a tree stand, and one incident from a two-party firearm incident caused by carrying a loaded firearm while dragging a harvested deer out of the woods. Hunting safety statistics are available on DEC’s website.

DEC-trained and certified volunteer instructors teach safe, responsible and ethical hunting and trapping practices, and the important role of hunters and trappers in wildlife conservation. New York has an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters and trappers, thanks largely to more than 70 years of dedicated efforts of volunteer hunter education program instructors.

All first-time hunters, bowhunters and trappers must successfully complete a hunter or trapper safety course and pass the final exam before being eligible to purchase a hunting or trapping license. As a result of these and other steps to increase public awareness of hunting safety, incidents have sharply decreased from decades ago. For example, 166 hunting-related shooting incidents were reported in 1966.

In 2017, Seggos directed the agency's environmental conservation police officers (ECOs) to begin tracking and investigating tree stand injuries for the first time. Tree stand injuries are under-reported, and DEC is not always notified when tree stand falls occur. In 2023, eight tree stand incidents were reported and investigated; none were fatal. Seven of the hunters involved in these incidents suffered extensive injuries after falling while not using a fall-arrest harness system. One hunter was wearing a harness, but it was attached to the stand, not the tree, and when the stand broke, the hunter fell with the stand. Additional information about tree stand incidents is available on DEC’s website.

Tree stand incidents are a major cause of hunting-related injuries, so tree stand safety has become a regular part of the hunter education course required for all first-time hunters in New York. The proper use of tree stands and tree stand safety equipment will help to prevent these injuries and fatalities. Used correctly, a harness and fall-arrest system keep the hunter connected from the time they leave the ground to the moment they get back down.

Many, if not all, tree stand incidents could be prevented if hunters follow the "ABCs" of tree stand safety: 

√ Always remove and inspect the tree stand before use.

√ Buckle on the full body harness securely every time.

√ Connect to the tree before your feet leave the ground.

Additional safety tips for hunters include: 

√ Inspect your tree stand before using it. Replace any worn or broken parts.

√ Buckle your full-body harness securely and use a tether and a lifeline. 

√ Connect to the tree before your feet leave the ground, and stay connected from the time you leave the ground to the time you get back down.

√ Let someone know where your stand is located and when you plan to be home. 

√ Use a haul line to raise your unloaded gun or bow or cocked (but unloaded) crossbow with quiver up into the stand. 

√ Always carry emergency equipment, such as a knife, cell phone, flashlight and whistle in your pockets (not in your pack hanging in the tree).

A video showing the proper way to climb into and out of a tree stand can be viewed on DEC's YouTube channel.

DEC encourages hunters to remember that every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. Many, if not all incidents, could have been prevented if the people involved had followed the primary rules of hunter safety: 

√ Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.

√ Control the muzzle, keep it pointed in a safe direction.

√ Identify your target and what lies beyond.

√ Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

√ Wear hunter orange or pink.

More information, including the 2023 hunting safety statistics and 2023 tree stand safety statistics, is available on DEC's website

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