Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting

WI: Twelve shooting incidents in gun deer hunt

Twelve shooting incidents - but zero fatal - in gun deer hunt

Nov. 29, 2010

Twelve hunters were injured in shooting incidents during the 2010 Wisconsin
gun deer season, according to information released Monday by the Department
of Natural Resources.

Significantly, none of the injuries was fatal, signaling the first season
without a shooting death since 1974.

"This is a gigantic deal for Wisconsin," said Tim Lawhern, DNR hunter
education adminstrator. "Hunting has been getting safer for a long time, but
to have zero fatalities is almost like winning the lottery, it happens so

The 2009 gun deer season had seven non-fatal and one fatal shooting

Hunting has shown a record of markedly improved safety since formal hunter
education began in Wisconsin in 1967. The state has 5,630 hunter safety
instructors, the "largest volunteer corps of hunter education instructors in
the world," according to Lawhern.

Lawhern credited the instructors, mandatory hunter education classes and
regulations such as blaze orange clothing for improved hunter safety.

According to DNR statistics, in 1966 - the year before formal hunter
education began - there were 44 shooting incidents per 100,000 hunters in
Wisconsin. By 1994, the rate had dropped to 4 per 100,000.
And this year, Lawhern said it is 1.9 per 100,000.

"The more we have low rates of injuries, and especially fatality-free
seasons, the more it drives home the point that hunting is a safe activity,"
Lawhern said.

In 1974 - the last season without a fatal shooting - Wisconsin sold 556,815
gun deer licenses and hunters registered 100,405 deer.

This year, 621,094 licenses were sold, according to preliminary numbers from
the DNR; hunters registered 106,404 deer in just the first two days of the
2010 gun season.

The state has averaged 2.1 fatal shooting incidents over the last 10 gun
deer seasons.

Two of the 2010 shooting incidents occurred in Marathon County. One each was
recorded in Adams, Burnett, Crawford, Door, Douglas, Jackson, Manitowoc,
Marquette, Oconto and Wood counties.

Although it was the first gun deer season without a fatality in 36 years,
the 2010 shooting incidents had a familiar theme: Most involved members of
the same hunting party or were self-inflicted.

Seven of the 12 incidents occurred when a hunter was shot by another member
of his hunting party. Three of the 12 were self-inflicted.

Statistics, though, are no consolation to the injured.

Lawhern said each shooting incident is traumatic to the injured hunters,
their friends and families, as well as the shooters.

"Safe hunting is no accident," Lawhern said. "It's a lifestyle by those that
practice safe and responsible hunting. Safety does not take a holiday.
Either you are safe all the time, every time, or you are not."

Lawhern said shooting incidents result from violations of one of the four
basic rules of firearm safety - treat every firearm as if it were loaded;
always point the muzzle in a safe direction; know your target and what's
beyond it; and keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to

According to DNR statistics, about 940,000 residents have graduated from
state-sponsored hunter education classes since 1967.

Lawhern said there was no doubt education works.

"I'm looking forward to more seasons with no fatals," Lawhern said. "With
the good work of our hunter education instructors and a continued commitment
to safety, it can be done."

A preliminary report of statewide deer registrations for the 2010 Wisconsin
gun deer season should be available Tuesday afternoon, according to the DNR.

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