DEC Announces 2021 Was Safest-Ever Season For New York Hunters

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced that the 2021 hunting seasons in New York were the safest ever, with the lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidents since record-keeping began. DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECO) investigated nine hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) in 2021, including one fatality.

The two hunters in this picture (one wearing camo and the other hunter orange) are invisible to deer if they don’t move.
Who would you want to be if there were another hunter nearby, and a deer between you? (NY DEC)

“Hunting is an enjoyable and safe form of outdoor recreation with a long and storied history in New York State,” Seggos said. “This past year was the safest-ever on record in New York, with the lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidents since DEC’s Hunter Education Program began in 1949. I’m proud of our Hunter Education Program and our educators and volunteer instructors, working to ensure licensed hunters experience a safe hunting season. Every hunting fatality is preventable when New Yorkers hunt safely and responsibly.”

Seven of the nine HRSIs that occurred in 2021 were two-party firearm incidents; two incidents were self-inflicted. All identified shooters were experienced hunters with an average of 40 years of hunting experience, emphasizing the need for all hunters to remain vigilant when heading afield. All incidents could have been prevented if those involved followed hunting safety rules.

A new hunting regulation that took effect in 2021 extended legal shooting hours for big game to 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. None of the deer hunting incidents last year took place during the new extended hours. The four incidents involving deer hunters occurred between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Another new regulation change effective last year requires all persons hunting deer or bear with a firearm, or anyone accompanying these hunters, to wear a solid or patterned fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink hat, vest or jacket, visible from all directions. Unfortunately, the single fatality that occurred in 2021 involved a deer hunter not wearing fluorescent orange or pink. The hunter was mistaken for game and shot by a hunting partner.

Also new in 2021, 52 upstate counties passed local laws allowing 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow while under the supervision of an experienced, licensed, adult hunter. None of the nine HRSIs investigated in 2021 involved a 12- or 13-year-old hunter.

All first-time hunters, bowhunters and trappers must successfully complete a hunter, bowhunter, or trapper education safety course before being eligible to purchase a hunting or trapping license or bowhunting privilege in New York State. DEC-trained and -certified volunteer instructors have taught hunters and trappers to be safe, responsible and ethical since 1949.

Learn more about DEC’s Hunter Safety Program on the DEC website: Hunter Education Program – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

DEC encourages hunters to remember 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

For the past several years, DEC has also tracked and investigated Elevated Hunting Incidents (EHI), previously referred to as tree stand incidents. EHIs are underreported and DEC is not always notified when these falls occur.

In 2021, 10 EHIs were reported; one was fatal. Only one of the 10 hunters involved was wearing a safety harness. However, the harness was not connected to the tree when the fall occurred. Tree stand safety is integrated into DEC’s hunter education course because these incidents have become a major cause of hunting-related injuries.

The proper use of tree stands, and tree stand safety equipment, will help prevent these injuries and fatalities. Used correctly, a full body harness and a lifeline keep hunters connected from the time they leave the ground to the moment they get back down.

Most tree stand incidents are preventable when hunters follow the “ABCs” of tree stand safety:

  • Always inspect the tree stand before every use
  • Buckle full body harness securely every time
  • Connect to the tree before your feet leave the ground

A video showing the proper way to climb into and out of a tree stand can be viewed on DEC’s YouTube channel. More information, including the 2021 Hunting Safety Statistics and 2021 Tree Stand Safety Statistics, is available on DEC’s website.

Submitted by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

Christy Hinko
Christy Hinko is a managing editor at Anton Media Group. She is a New York Press Association (NYPA) and Press Club of Long Island (PCLI) award-winning writer and photographer.

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