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Safe Hunting?

Hunting Accidents Generally Avoidable
By GARY GARTH

Statistically, deer hunting is a safe sport, but a handful of accidents are reported each year. According to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, 13 hunting-related accidents were reported last year, and seven of them involved deer hunters.

The details:

A 40-year-old man fell from a tree stand, resulting in a serious injury. The victim was not wearing a safety harness.

A 70-year-old woman was lowering her .270-caliber rifle from her tree stand when the string broke. The rifle discharged upon hitting the ground, striking her in the knee.

A 32-year-old man was injured in a fall from a tree stand.

A 68-year-old hunter failed to properly identify his target and fired, wounding another 68-year-old hunter who was not wearing state-required blaze-orange clothing.

A hunter with his bow at full draw tripped or stumbled and shot his partner, who was standing beside him. Both hunters were younger than 18. The injury was not fatal.

A 65-year-old man died in a fall when his hand-built stand broke from the tree to which it was attached.

Another hunter was killed when his muzzleloader discharged while he was crossing a fence.

Mac Lang, hunter training supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Department, says his office typically receives 12 or 13 accident reports annually, including one or two fatalities.

"A lot of accidents go unreported because people are embarrassed by them," he said.

Lang has received nine accident reports this year, including three that were deer-related and weren't fatal. One involved a fall from a tree stand. One hunter dropped an in-line muzzleloader, which discharged and struck the man.

Another hunter discharged his muzzleloader into the woods at the conclusion of his hunt. The bullet stuck his hunting partner, who was in his tree stand concealed by timber and foliage more than 150 yards away.

Going into the modern firearm season, Lang encourages hunters to follow the three basic safety rules.

Don't load your firearm until you are in the field.

Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times.

Don't touch the trigger until you are ready to fire, and remove your finger from the trigger immediately after the shot.

"Those are the big three," Lang said. "If people would do those three things, virtually all accidents would disappear.

Kentucky's hunter-orange clothing law saves lives and prevents injuries. It requires that all hunters pursuing any species and anyone accompanying a hunter during the modern gun, muzzleloader or a youth firearm deer seasons must wear solid, unbroken hunter-orange color visible from all sides on the head, back and chest.

Copyright 2003 The Courier-Journal.

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