Some half-million hunters are gearing up for Minnesota’s firearms deer opener, ready to head into the woods armed with rifles or shotguns. This cherished tradition brings tens of thousands of whitetails down, yet remarkably, very few firearms-related hunting accidents occur. In fact, the odds of getting hurt in a car accident while driving to deer camp are much higher than being injured while hunting.
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The Misconception of Danger
Contrary to what non-hunters may believe, hunting is not a dangerous activity. According to statistics compiled by federal agencies and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), more injuries occur while playing football, basketball, soccer, riding bicycles, or even running than while hunting. The NSSF’s Bill Brassard asserts that the perception of danger surrounding hunting is unfounded. Jon King from the Wisconsin DNR agrees, stating that one is more likely to die riding a bike or being involved in a car accident than to be injured while deer hunting.
The Numbers Speak
Minnesota had 17 firearms-related incidents last year, with only five involving deer hunters. On the other hand, there were 30,653 people injured in state traffic crashes in 2013, including 387 fatalities. Nationally, out of the 16.3 million hunters, there were approximately 7,300 injuries, which averages out to one injury for every 2,233 hunters. Meanwhile, 25.5 million basketball players suffered 570,000 injuries, and 35.6 million bike riders had 521,000 injuries.
Training and Safety Measures
The decline in hunting accidents can be attributed to firearms safety training and the implementation of blaze orange clothing requirements. Mandatory firearms safety training started in Minnesota in 1979, with voluntary training available since 1955. In 1986, a law was passed requiring deer hunters to wear blaze orange or red clothing during the firearms deer season. Blaze-orange clothing became mandatory in 1994. Wisconsin also saw a decline in hunting incidents after implementing mandatory blaze orange requirements in 1980 and mandatory hunter education in 1985.
The Importance of Ethical Hunting
Both Minnesota and Wisconsin have experienced a slow, steady decline in hunting incidents. According to Jon King from the Wisconsin DNR, this decline can be attributed to hunters becoming more ethical. The majority of injuries are caused by failing to properly identify the target or knowing what lies beyond it. Shooting at a running deer without considering the surroundings or mistaking a person in camouflage for a squirrel or turkey are common causes of accidents.
The Personal Responsibility
For Ken Soring, the Minnesota DNR enforcement chief, hunter safety is a personal matter. He has known two people who were killed in fatal firearms accidents while hunting, including a friend and a cousin. Soring emphasizes the responsibility of treating firearms safely, regardless of age. The importance of not letting an accident befall a loved one weighs heavily on every hunter’s conscience.
In conclusion, contrary to popular belief, deer hunting in Minnesota is one of the safest outdoor activities one can partake in. With the implementation of mandatory firearms safety training and blaze orange clothing requirements, the number of hunting incidents has significantly decreased. By being ethical hunters and taking personal responsibility for firearm safety, hunters can ensure that this cherished tradition remains safe for generations to come.
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