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Hunter safety hits new highs

From staff reports

With the statewide spring turkey season about to begin, the state’s hunters have a record performance to match.

In 2019, Pennsylvania’s spring turkey season hit an all-time high for hunter safety. For the first time in history, not a single hunting-related shooting incident was recorded during the season.

“Hunter safety has been at the forefront of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s thinking for decades upon decades, and through effective requirements and programs to educate our hunters, incredible improvements have been made over the years,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “Hunting in Pennsylvania is as safe as it’s ever been. But at the same time, we continue to work toward an even better safety record. Perfection is always the goal, and I couldn’t be more proud of the perfect performance our spring turkey hunters turned in last year.”

Hunter-safety results from the 2019 spring turkey season are part of a larger report on hunter safety the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced today. Overall in 2019, there were 26 hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) – injuries caused by sporting arms while hunting or trapping. It was the seventh consecutive year with fewer than 30 HRSIs and one of the safest years on record. However, four of the incidents in 2019 were fatal.

In 2018, there were 27 HRSIs, one of them fatal.

Pennsylvania has compiled data on HRSIs since 1915. In its annual reports on HRSIs, the Game Commission establishes an incident rate by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. The 3.06 incident rate in 2019 was a decrease from the 2018 incident rate of 3.16.

Fifty-eight percent, of incidents reported in 2019 were inflicted by others, and the primary cause of HRSIs, 42 percent, was a victim being in the line of fire. The second most common cause was the unintended discharge of a firearm.

To view the Game Commission’s 2019 HRSI report, visit www.pgc.pa.gov and click the Hunting Related Shooting Incidents link on the Hunter-Trapper Education page.

Aside from there being no HRSIs in the spring turkey season, there were none in the fall turkey seasons either.

“Following a multi-year initiative to reduce the number of incidents during turkey seasons through education and awareness, the Game Commission is happy to announce a full calendar year without any turkey hunting-related shooting incidents,” said Hunter-Trapper Education Coordinator Meagan Thorpe.

HRSIs in Pennsylvania have declined nearly 80 percent since hunter-education training began in 1959. In 2019, 30,821 students, 22,526 traditional course students and 8,295 online students, received their Basic Hunter-Trapper Education certification in Pennsylvania. This educational effort is spearheaded by a dedicated corps of 1,828 volunteer instructors teaching Pennsylvania’s hunters basic safety and advanced hunting skills.

“These volunteers play an enormous role in keeping Pennsylvania trending toward safer and safer hunting, and they deserve heartfelt thanks from all of us,” Burhans said. “By putting safety first in the minds in new hunters, instructors for more than half a century have helped save lives, reduce injuries and ensure the future of hunting will be a strong and safe one.”

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