COLUMNS

Rifles a safe way to hunt big game

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

On Oct. 1, 2011, the opportunity to hunt big game with rifles in Yates, Steuben and Chemung counties expires. Hunters using rifles for big game in those counties the past four seasons have demonstrated an extraordinarily good safety record. The ability to hunt big game with rifles is a legislated right. As a result, new legislation needs to be passed if rifle hunting is to continue.

Hunting-related shooting incidents have steadily been reduced as rifle use has been expanded. In 2002 the injury total was 61; in 2003 it was 32; in 2004 it was 34; in 2005 it was 29; in 2006, it was 35; in 2007 it was 37; in 2008 it was 27 and in 2009 there was an all-time record low of 26 injuries. Facts and statistics will show that further expansion of rifle use has the potential to greatly reduce hunting-related shooting incidents. Consider these:    

• 78 percent of all hunting-related shooting injuries are self-inflicted or involve members of the same hunting group. In other words, in nearly four out five of all incidents, the type of firearm used is irrelevant.

• 93 percent of all hunting-related shooting incidents involve shots of fewer than 100 yards. All firearms legal for hunting in New York have the power to shoot beyond 100 yards. In the 7 percent of incidents where the shot causing injury is further than 100 yards, the use of the shotgun is responsible for 80 percent of the injuries.

• Handguns using the same rounds as rifles have been used legally across all of New York State for years.

• Testing for the Pennsylvania State Legislature done by Mountain Top Technologies, Inc. (www.mntntp.com) shows that the rifle is safer in hunting situations than the shotgun.

• Rifles are frequently used legally and safely throughout the entire State for target practice, woodchuck hunting, small game hunting, to harvest deer on nuisance permits and at shooting ranges.

• Farm Bureau supports big game hunting with rifles state-wide because rifle use allows for better management of deer herds and therefore reduces predation of crops.

• Shotgun rounds being large and slow moving have a higher risk of ricochet than high velocity rifle rounds.

• Rifles are innately more accurate that shotguns and allow hunters to use bullet technology better developed to harvest game more humanely than traditional shotgun slugs. The greater accuracy of rifles should mean fewer shots.

• New York State DEC reports that since 2000, hunting-related shooting injuries averaged 6.4 injuries per 100,000 participants. Compare that to bicycle riding which has an injury rate of 1207 injuries per 100,000 participants.

• The DEC reports that the five-year average from 1999-2003 shows that there were 35 shotgun injuries, ten rifle injuries, two muzzle loader injuries and one handgun injury. Throughout history, the number of shotgun injuries is almost always two to four times greater than the number of rifle injuries.

• Hunters almost never shoot non-hunters. 99 percent of hunting accidents involve only hunters.

The bottom line is that hunting is very safe. The law does not mandate rifle use, it merely allows hunters the freedom to choose the firearm that best suits their hunting situation. Firearm-related hunting incidents are not the result of the type or power of the firearm being used, but almost always the result of human error. Rather than demonize the type of firearm being used, society should focus on correcting the poor human judgment. The instructors of the New York State DEC Hunter Education course have done a stellar job preparing new hunters, as demonstrated by hunters’ great safety record.

The economic impact of hunting and fishing in New York are great. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that New York’s 1.2 million sportsmen contribute $1.8 billion to New York State’s economy, directly creating 28,000 jobs and putting $1 billion-worth of paychecks in working residents’ pockets. Expanded rifle use creates more business for firearm retailers. For years, rifle hunters have had to travel to the Adirondacks, Pennsylvania or Western states to use their rifles. Local rifle use now allows the revenue generated by those hunters to stay locally. I encourage you to use facts and not emotion to encourage your legislators to make rifle hunting for big game permanent in Yates, Steuben and Chemung counties and continue to promote expansion of the rifle use until it is used statewide. Hunters pay high license fees for the privilege of assisting the DEC in managing game populations in New York and have performed that task in a competent and safe manner.