2021 was safest-ever season for NY hunters

NYSDEC

The 2021 hunting seasons in New York were the safest ever, with the lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidents since record-keeping began. DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECO) investigated nine hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) in 2021, including one fatality.

Seven of the nine HRSIs that occurred in 2021 were two-party firearm incidents; two incidents were self-inflicted. All identified shooters were experienced hunters with an average of 40 years of hunting experience, emphasizing the need for all hunters to remain vigilant when heading afield. All incidents could have been prevented if those involved followed hunting safety rules.

Seven of the nine hunting related incidents that occurred in 2021 were two-party firearm incidents; two incidents were self-inflicted. All identified shooters were experienced hunters with an average of 40 years of hunting experience, emphasizing the need for all hunters to remain vigilant when heading afield.

A new hunting regulation that took effect in 2021 extended legal shooting hours for big game to 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. None of the deer hunting incidents last year took place during the new extended hours. The four incidents involving deer hunters occurred between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Another new regulation change effective last year requires all persons hunting deer or bear with a firearm, or anyone accompanying these hunters, to wear a solid or patterned fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink hat, vest, or jacket, visible from all directions. Unfortunately, the single fatality that occurred in 2021 involved a deer hunter not wearing fluorescent orange or pink. The hunter was mistaken for game and shot by a hunting partner.

Also new in 2021, 52 upstate counties passed local laws allowing 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow while under the supervision of an experienced, licensed, adult hunter. None of the nine HRSIs investigated in 2021 involved a 12- or 13-year-old hunter.

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. Learn more about DEC's Hunter Education Program.

For the past several years, DEC has also tracked and investigated Elevated Hunting Incidents (EHI), previously referred to as tree stand incidents. EHIs are underreported and DEC is not always notified when these falls occur. In 2021, 10 EHIs were reported; one was fatal. Only one of the 10 hunters involved was wearing a safety harness. However, the harness was not connected to the tree when the fall occurred. Tree stand safety is integrated into DEC's hunter education course because these incidents have become a major cause of hunting-related injuries. The proper use of tree stands, and tree stand safety equipment, will help prevent these 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
  • Connect to the tree before your feet leave the ground

You can find more information, including the 2021 Hunting Safety Statistics (PDF) and 2021 Tree Stand Safety Statistics (PDF), on DEC's website.