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VARIOUS HUNTING ACCIDENTS

Aiming for safe hunting season

By Jeff Pikulsky

VALLEY INDEPENDENT

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

It is open season for buck hunters in the state, and officials are asking those keeping their eyes peeled in the fields to be extra careful.

According to the state Game Commission, there were 25 shooting accidents last year in the two-week buck season. Three hunters died from gunshot wounds.

During the first day of this year's antlered deer season Monday, six hunters were injured in the state. Three incidents were shooting accidents that were not life-threatening, game officials said.

Locally, two hunters were injured after falling out of tree stands.

A 42-year-old man was flown to UPMC Hospital from a Washington County hunting spot.

A 45-year-old man was transported by emergency helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital with head injuries after he was injured along Newell Road in Jefferson Township.

Two hunters died of natural causes while hunting Monday, according to the state Game Commission.

The number of injuries were minimal, considering there were about 900,000 out of more than one million registered hunters out in the state, said Clyde Haywood, a retired game commission volunteer.

Haywood, a Monongahela resident, retired this year from a 53-year career of teaching year-round hunting safety courses in the Mon Valley.

He said the state's hunters have progressively shown they are concerned about safety.

But with such a large amount of hunters out during the short season, accidents are expected, Haywood said.

"When you have over a million people out there, there's bound to be some sort of an accident," he said.

Haywood said requiring hunters to attend safety courses before they get their licenses helped curb accidents.

"We're getting a better hold on it. We're reducing it every year," Haywood said of hunting mishaps. "It is down this year over last year."

Haywood said those who are training young hunters should be sure the newcomers learn to be patient and not overreact in the field.

And even veterans need to maintain their cool during the hunt, he added.

"There's a lot of trigger-happy people that get out there and they shoot the first thing they see," Haywood said.

However, Haywood said all age groups are involved in hunting accidents.

He said it is important for hunters to make sure they are wide awake before they go out.

Haywood said some hunters fall out of their tree stands because they aren't fully awake.

"They're sleepy because they get in there before daylight," he said. "We don't have an all-day hunter like we used to."

Game Commission spokesperson Jerry Feaser agreed hunters should give up or not go out at all if they are not well rested.

That decision and making sure to wear full body harnesses when using tree stands should cut back on accidents, he said.

Feaser said the number of hunting accidents in the state is not alarming, but most accidents are preventable.

With the busiest, first day of the season past, Feaser said it is possible to have a reduction in injuries over last year.

"Statistically, they will tell you the number of accidents per 100,000 (hunters) is low," he said of state hunting reports. "But we always view one accident as one too many."

Jeff Pikulsky can be reached at jpikulsky@tribweb.com

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