This past year has brought some great news for hunters in Pennsylvania. According to a newly released report from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2014 brought a record low number of hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs). For the second time since records have been kept-and for the second year in a row-a year came and went with fewer than 30 shooting incidents. The Game Commission has been tracking HRSIs since 1915, and – prior to 2013 – there never had been fewer than 33 incidents reported in a year. Decades ago, hundreds of incidents occurred each year. But 2014 marked only 29.
There are many reasons for this. The report states that requirements for hunters to wear orange in many seasons have helped this upward safety trend. Even more important are ongoing hunter-education efforts. In 2014, 41,462 students received their Basic Hunter-Trapper Education certification in Pennsylvania. Those student graduates, their volunteer hunter-education instructors and the hunting public at large all can be proud of the role they have played in making hunting the safest it's ever been, said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough.
In Pennsylvania, hunting-related shooting incidents have declined by nearly 80 percent since hunter-education training began in 1959.
"The latest report is further proof that Penn's Woods are safer than ever," Hough said. "The numbers are encouraging, but there's still work to do. Even one incident is too many."
One of the 29 incidents reported in 2014 was fatal. Except for 2012 (the first year without a single reported fatality related to gun handling in hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania) at least one fatality has been reported each year.
In 2014, six of the 29 incidents with an identified offender resulted from individuals with 10 or fewer years of hunting experience. One incident involved a youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program. It is important to note, however, that the mentored youth hunter involved was the victim in the incident, not the offender.
The Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which enables hunters under the age of 12 to harvest certain wildlife species if they are accompanied by a licensed adult, continues to be safe. More than 34,000 Mentored Youth Permits were issued during this timeframe.
Game Commissioner Timothy Layton said hunter education is instrumental in reducing the number of HRSIs, and the dedicated corps of 2,243 volunteer instructors play a crucial role in improving safety. He thanked those instructors, and the state's hunters for continuing to put safety first.
"Focused efforts to make certain hunting in Pennsylvania stays safe, and continues to get safer, really are what have led to these record numbers," said Layton, who chairs the commissioners' Information & Education committee. "We all can take pride in how far we've come as we look forward to many more safe seasons ahead."