LANSING - As the 2009 hunting season winds down, the Department of Natural Resources reports that the Nov. 15-30 firearm season was the safest on record in Michigan with no fatalities.
Only one hunting fatality - during the spring turkey season - was reported the entire 2009 hunting season, DNR Law Enforcement Division records show.
"Michigan has seen a continued drop in hunter casualty incidents since implementation of mandatory hunter education and mandatory hunter orange laws," said Sgt. Jon Wood, program supervisor for the DNR's Hunter Education Program.
The 2009 hunting season recorded 12 hunting-related accidents, and just one fatality. In 2005, the DNR recorded 19 accidents with three fatalities; and in 2000, there were seven fatalities and 32 accidents. In 1950, the department recorded 25 fatalities and 190 accidents.
Hunter safety training became mandatory for first-time hunters ages 12-16 in 1971; while wearing hunter orange became law in 1977. In 1970, there were 18 fatalities and 212 accidents. Ten years later, the number of fatalities dropped to nine, while the number of accidents decreased to 107.
"Most of the credit goes to the nearly 3,000 Michigan volunteer Hunter Education instructors across the state," Wood said. "Without their dedication and professionalism, the sport of hunting would not be as safe as it is now."
Another significant reason for the continued drop in fatalities and accidents is the active role Michigan conservation officers take in educating hunters in the classroom and in the field, said DNR Law Enforcement Chief Gary Hagler.
Hagler and Wood remind hunters to always think about safety while in the field:
- Keep your gun's muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- Treat every firearm as if it was loaded.
- Be sure of your target and what is in front of it and beyond it.
- Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
- Check your barrel and ammunition.
- Unload firearms when not in use.
- Point your firearm only at something you intend to shoot.
- Do not run, jump or climb with a loaded firearm.
- Store firearms and ammunition separately and safely.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs before and during shooting.