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November 9, 2010

Hunter safety administrator statistics tell the story

MADISON - Wisconsin statistics show hunting is safe and getting safer, but the rate of unintentional self-inflicted injuries is on the rise.

Hunter Education Administrator Tim Lawhern has witnessed both subtle and significant changes in his 22-year Department of Natural Resources career. And changes have been both good and annoying.

"We have had great success in educating hunters to be safe - and with that comes success in the hunt," Lawhern said

When Lawhern was named head of the hunter education program in 1994, there were 60 hunting incidents for all seasons combined - 55 injuries and 5 fatalities. The incident rate was 7.6 when compared with incidents per 100,000 hunters. In 1966, the year before hunter education programs began in the state, the incident rate for all hunting seasons was 43.5. Last year, there were 18 hunting incidents - 17 injuries and one fatality - translating into an incident rate of 4.19.

For the gun-deer hunting season, the incident rate in 2009 was 1.26 for 8 incidents.

"These statistics show us that our Hunter Education Program is working. And it shows us our volunteer instructors are doing a good job training hunters to be safe, knowledgeable and responsible," Lawhern said.

The flip side of the equation is the number of hunters shooting themselves.

"It used to be self-inflicted injuries amounted to roughly 20 to 25 percent of the total number of hunting incidents," Lawhern said. "Today that number is 40 to 50 percent each year."

Lawhern says it is not uncommon for a hunter to say the gun went off on its own.

"In nearly all of these cases, the gun has not been the problem. It has been handler error," Lawhern said. "If the hunter takes care to do two things, these types of incidents will decline.

"One is to never point a loaded gun in your direction or in the direction of anyone else. It must be appointed in a safe direction," Lawhern said. "And, do not put your finger in that the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot at your target.

"Just doing those two things would wipe out self-inflicted injuries and cut by half the total number of hunting incidents," he said. "Most of the self-inflicted injuries are just smart hunters momentarily turning stupid. So stay smart and safe this hunting season."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Lawhern - (608) 266-1317.

Last Revised: Tuesday, November 09, 2010

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