When is an accident not an accident?
As I See It
Monday, October 18, 2010
Hunting season is here again, and that means we'll
likely see reports of people shooting each other, shooting
themselves or falling out of tree stands. This is not slapstick. It
is a tragedy, because unfortunate incidents such as these are
Law enforcement first investigates hunting-related
fatalities as homicides, not accidents. A hunting fatality last
fall was no different. A man aimed and pulled the trigger. He
thought it was a deer coming out of the brush, but it was a human.
Police determined the incident was not a criminal homicide, so no
charges were filed.
One of the 10 Commandments of Gun Safety:
- Always identify your target before touching the trigger.
The victim, by the way, wasn't wearing hunter
orange. It wasn't required on private land, but still …
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(FWC) law enforcement officers respond to all kinds of preventable
hunting incidents, which is why hunter safety courses are so
Hunters seeking white-tailed deer are involved in
the most hunting incidents, because this is the most-sought
By age, the biggest group of shooters written up in
incident reports consists of seasoned, 40-49 year-olds (25 percent
in two recent years). Statistics show a clear problem with careless
handling of firearms, including dropping them.
In 2008-2009, seven hunters wounded themselves. A
hunter walking through the woods with a loaded rifle slipped as he
tried to cross a rain-swollen ditch and shot his foot when his
rifle discharged. Another incident involved a man in a party of
three hunters and 25 hunting dogs who was trying to catch a runaway
dog and was shot by his own shotgun. He laid it down before the
chase, but another dog stepped on the trigger, and the shotgun went
off. Buckshot struck the man's hand, as well as one of the
Here's a troubling statistic. In addition to eight
hunting incidents involving firearms last year, there were four
that involved falls from tree stands. All four reports state, "The
hunter was not using a Fall-Arrest System/Full Body Harness."
Unfortunately, one incident was fatal.
The first victim was an archery hunter. The
33-year-old was setting up a ladder stand and adjusting the strap
when the stand tilted; he fell 17 feet and broke his leg.
Also last fall, the strap holding a hunter's
climbing stand broke, and he fell 25 feet, broke an ankle and had
to hobble for three hours to get help.
Another hunter climbed to the top rung of her stand
ladder and grabbed something to pull herself up. It gave, and she
fell, landing flat on her back. She was airlifted from the woods
If a tree stand isn't properly secured to a tree,
hunters can fall to their death, as happened in the fourth tree
Despite these tragedies, the good news is that
education is paying off. According to the FWC's 2009-2010 Florida
Hunting Incident Report, the number of hunting incidents and
fatalities per 100,000 hunting licenses generally decreased from
1980 to 2010 - the decreases showing up after mandatory hunter
education began in 1991 for everyone 16 years old or older and born
after May 31, 1975.
Hunting safely pays. Follow these other
commandments when handling firearms or standing near someone
- Always point the gun in a safe direction.
- Presume every firearm is loaded.
- Unload firearms when not in use.
- Never point a gun at anything you don't want to shoot. This
includes never using the scope as a pair of binoculars.
- Don't climb a fence or tree or jump a ditch with a loaded
- Never shoot at a flat, hard surface or water. Bullets
- Make sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
- Store firearms and ammunition separately and safely.
- Don't use alcohol or mood-altering drugs before or during
Accidents do happen. However, many hunting
accidents could have been avoided if the shooter followed the 10
Commandments of Gun Safety. Everyone should follow these
rules. For more information, go to MyFWC.com/HunterSafety.