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KY - Five hunting fatalities (so far)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK
Five hunting fatalities (so far) offer a chilling reminder
By Gary Garth
Special to The Courier-Journal

Law enforcement officials for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources reported four hunting-related accidents last week, including three fatalities, raising the number of hunting deaths since September to five.

"We usually average about two hunting-related fatalities a year," Lt. Mike Fields said.

He said the recent accidents are under investigation, but one in Pulaski County involved the accidental discharge of a gun by a deer hunter. In a Henry County death, a deer hunter was mistaken for game and shot by a companion.

A similar fatality last month involved two squirrel hunters. A deer hunter died last month when his muzzleloader accidentally discharged.

The third fatality last week resulted from a tree-stand accident and is under investigation. Bill Balda, supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Department's hunter-education program, said tree stands account for 20-25 percent of all deer-hunting accidents. One in four stand-related accidents is fatal.

"It takes extra effort to be safe going up into a tree stand," Balda said. "You need to be tied off going up, tied off while you're in it and tied off when you're coming down."

In the wake of last week's string of accidents, enforcement officials are urging hunters to adhere to their safety training.

"It's a matter of going back to the basics," Sgt. John Anderson said. "Of all the incidents I've heard about, they all could have been avoided by following the basic safety rules."

Those include:

Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.

Keep the gun unloaded until you are ready to shoot.

Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Know your target. Do not shoot at a sound or movement.

Know what is beyond your target.

Do not mix hunting or shooting with alcohol or drugs. Prescription medications that warn against operating machinery shouldn't be used when handling a firearm.

State law requires that deer and elk gun hunters wear hunter-orange clothing that is visible from all sides on the head, back and chest.

State law also requires that an adult accompany anyone 15 or younger who is hunting deer, elk or turkey with a firearm. The adult must remain in a position to take immediate control of the youth's gun. One adult may accompany up to two young hunters.

An adult also must accompany any child 11 or younger who's hunting for any species with any equipment if that youngster hasn't passed a hunter-education course.

"All too often what we'll see is an adult taking a child hunting, but the adult wants to hunt himself, so he takes up a position within sight but some distance away," Anderson said. "When hunting with a child, the child has to be the priority."

Successful completion of a hunter-education course is required for anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, except those under 12 and hunters who are license-exempt.

The Fish and Wildlife Department offers a one-time exemption that allows the holder to hunt for one year without an education card. However, anyone who uses an exemption permit must be accompanied by an adult who meets Kentucky's hunter-education law.

The exemption permit costs $5 and is available at www.fw.ky.gov.

Deer harvest up from 2006
Kentucky hunters reported bagging 17,791 deer on the opening day of the modern firearm season, surpassing the 2006 first-day total by more than 3,000.

In the wake of this year's statewide outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, which killed an unknown number of deer, Fish and Wildlife officials were particularly interested in the opening-weekend kill. That two-day total was 30,191, about 1,400 more than last year.

"We were watching last weekend's harvest very closely," said Tina Brunjes, the state's deer and elk program coordinator. "We had a solid opening-weekend harvest that is right on our average. Our deer herd remains strong and healthy."

Gun season will end tomorrow in zones 3 and 4 and Nov. 25 in zones 1 and 2.

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