Hunting in New York State last year was the safest ever, according to the DEC’s year end report, which showed the lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidents. DEC officers investigated 9, including one fatality. Two of the hunters shot themselves. DEC says all could have been prevented if those involved followed hunting safety rules. The fatality was a hunter not wearing fluorescent orange or pink, who was mistaken for game. Ten hunters fell from tree stands, one fatally. Only one was wearing a harness, and that was not connected to the tree at the time.
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today 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. 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.
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.