New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the 2022 hunting seasons tied 2021 for the safest-ever year, with the lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidents since record-keeping began. DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) investigated nine hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) in 2022, including one fatality.
"It's clear from these findings that the vast majority of New York hunters follow the State's stringent safety guidelines and do their part to ensure a safe and enjoyable season," Commissioner Seggos said. "This record year for safety is a testament to the DEC expert staff, volunteers, and local hunting clubs that work collaboratively to teach safety to hunters of all ages. I commend their efforts and for all hunters who safely and responsibly contributed to our conservation efforts this season."
Four of the nine HRSIs that occurred in 2022 involved two-party firearm incidents, while the other five were self-inflicted. The one recorded fatality occurred due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound by a turkey hunter. All identified shooters were experienced hunters with an average of 30 years of hunting experience, emphasizing the need for all hunters to remain vigilant when heading afield. Each incident could have been prevented if those involved followed the proper hunting safety rules.
All first-time hunters, bowhunters, and trappers must successfully complete a hunter, bowhunter, or trapper education safety course before being eligible to purchase a hunting or trapping license or bowhunting privilege in New York State. DEC-trained and certified volunteer instructors have taught hunters and trappers to be safe, responsible, and ethical since 1949. Recently, DEC announced the results of the second year of a pilot program allowing mentored 12- and 13-year-old hunters to harvest deer with a firearm or crossbow. The results showed youth big game hunters enjoyed another safe, successful, and well-attended season afield. Learn more about DEC's Hunter Education Program.
DEC encourages hunters to remember the primary rules of hunter safety:
- Treat every firearm as if it were loaded;
- Control the muzzle, keep it pointed in a safe direction;
- Identify your target and what lies beyond;
- Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire; and
- Wear hunter orange and pink.
For the past several years, DEC has also tracked and investigated Elevated Hunting Incidents (EHIs), previously referred to as tree stand incidents. EHIs are underreported and DEC is not always notified when falls occur. In 2022, DEC received reports of 13 EHIs, four of which were fatal. Only two of the 13 hunters involved were wearing a safety harness. Tree-stand safety is integrated into DEC's hunter education course because those incidents have become a major cause of hunting-related injuries. The proper use of tree-stands and tree-stand safety equipment will help prevent injuries and fatalities. Used correctly, a full body harness and a lifeline keep hunters connected from the time they leave the ground to the moment they get back down.
Most tree-stand incidents are preventable when hunters follow the "ABCs" of tree stand safety:
- Always inspect the tree stand before every use;
- Buckle full body harness securely every time; and
- Connect to the tree before your feet leave the ground.
A video showing the proper way to climb into and out of a tree stand can be viewed on DEC's YouTube channel. More information, including the 2022 Hunting Safety Statistics (PDF) and 2022 Tree Stand Safety Statistics (PDF), is available on DEC's website.