WI: 17 hunting incidents in 2009
January 16, 2010
Safety at all-time high during 2009 hunting seasons
The 2009 Wisconsin hunting seasons were notable for many things,
including the lowest gun deer harvest in 29 years.
But as the full-year data are analyzed, it's clear last year will go down
as a record in arguably the most important category of all - safety.
There were 17 hunting incidents in 2009, fewest since the Department of
Natural Resources and its predecessor, the Wisconsin Conservation
Commission, began keeping records in the early 20th century.
"This was a phenomenal year from the safety perspective," said Tim
Lawhern, DNR hunter safety administrator. "The trend has been toward fewer
accidents, which has been encouraging. And this year the number really
The previous low was 27 incidents in 2007.
Significantly, none of the 2009 incidents was fatal.
The DNR defines a hunting incident as human injury or death resulting
from the "discharge of a firearm or bow and arrow arising from the activity
of hunting, including travel to and from the hunting field."
There were 30 hunting incidents, including two fatalities, during the
Hunter education key
The trend toward fewer accidents is largely due to education, said
Lawhern, with some technology mixed in.
When formal hunter education programs started in Wisconsin in 1967, the
incident rate was 44 per 100,000 participants. This year it will be close to
2 per 100,000 (one case in Rock County remains under investigation and may
later be classified as a hunting incident).
Hunter education became mandatory in Wisconsin in 1985. The state has
5,474 volunteer hunter safety instructors, the largest corps of any state or
province in North America and probably the world, said Lawhern, who is
serving a second term as president of the International Hunter Education
"Our hunter safety educators are second to none," said Lawhern. "They've
played and continue to play a huge role in making our hunters safer."
Last year, about 800,000 hunters took part in various seasons in the
state, according to DNR records.
Lawhern said the blaze orange clothing requirement has also contributed
to safety. And modern communication devices and medical practices have
helped speed and improve treatment, at times preventing injuries from
Many self-inflicted wounds
Seven of the 2009 incidents occurred during the gun deer season; seven
others took place during small game (squirrel and upland game) hunts.
Statistics show most incidents are self-inflicted or involve a victim
being shot by a member of his or her own hunting party. In 2009, seven were
self-inflicted and 10 were in the same party, said Lawhern.
"Each year, we can almost predict who will be injured," said Lawhern. "We
just can't give you a name."
Will the trend to safer hunting seasons continue?
"That's our goal, because even one incident is life-changing for the
people involved," said Lawhern. "It will take the concerted effort of every
hunter and firearm owner to remember and practice the four basic rules of
The state promotes "TABK" for hunters: Treat every firearm as if it were
loaded; Always point the gun's muzzle in a safe direction; Be certain of
target and what's beyond; Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until
you are ready to shoot.
"If they do that, they should have a great time and come home safe," said
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