Safe Hunting Year - For Most
Posted: 01/31/2012
A common thread still links many of the hunting incidents reported through 2011.

Overall, Iowa’s approximately 250,000 hunters remain safe—especially compared to their counterparts a few decades back. In 2011, the Department of Natural Resources investigated 28 incidents; 20 involving injuries and eight with property damage. There were no 2011 deaths, a drop from the single fatality reported in 2010.  

“Over the last eight to 10 years, we had been at 20 to 24 a year. It was slightly higher, but not out of the ordinary,” assesses Megan Wisecup, DNR recreational safety program supervisor. “Any incidents are too many, but we still fall well below numbers seen in the 1960s.”

However, the cause of many of those current day incidents sounds familiar.  “We see the majority of our hunting incidents during our shotgun deer seasons. One of the main causes is the shooter focusing on the deer,” says Wisecup. “(They) are not paying attention to what is beyond their target. In return, unfortunately, someone is getting shot.”

Iowa’s December shotgun seasons allow party hunting, in which some hunters ‘post up’ while others drive deer toward them. It is efficient--and safe…if each hunter knows where everybody is positioned and stays within their safe shooting zones.

And, it is not always deer. Pheasants are the sights in a few incidents each season, too. That point will be driven home this March at the annual hunter education workshops. Those 1,800 or so volunteer instructors—along with DNR officers—are on the front line each year teaching 10,000 more hunters or potential hunters hunting ethics, laws, safe gun handling and more about wildlife and the outdoors.

Several injuries this year—and each year—occur without any one shooting at game.  “An individual was carrying several bags along with his loaded firearm,” recalls Wisecup.  “He reached into his vehicle, tried to get the gun unsnagged from the bags and it accidentally discharged, hitting him in the foot.”

Hunter education gets most of the credit, for driving down those numbers. It was not uncommon in the 1960s, even into the 70s, to have 10 or 12 deaths…and scores of hunting related injuries. In 1965 alone, 20 hunters died. Since then, over half a million students have gone through hunter education classes.

A bowhunter in Monona County died after a fall from his tree stand. However, that occurred in the New Year. It will go down in 2012 statistics; also categorized separately from shooting incidents…as are a couple similar falls year to year.

Boosting blaze orange requirements also gets some of the credit; making hunters more visible to each other. Deer hunters must have their torsos covered with blaze orange. Small game hunters are required to have a visible item of clothing that is at least half blaze orange in color.