PIERRE – Hunting is safe, and it appears to be getting safer. Game, Fish and Parks officials say fewer people were injured in hunting accidents during the 2000 hunting seasons than last year or on the ten-year average, although seasons were longer than usual in 2000, and wildlife and hunter numbers were high.
Hunting Safety Specialist Bill Shattuck said there were 24 hunting accidents during the year, below the 10-year average of 29.5. As well, no fatalities were reported.
"Credit for the good news belongs to South Dakota’s 300 volunteer Hunt Safe instructors, the 58 Wildlife Conservation Officers who assist them and to the 100 Bowhunter Education instructors who teach hunter education courses," he said.
Participants in Hunt Safe and Bowhunter Education courses learn much more than how to safely handle firearms and other hunting implements, he said. They also learn about wildlife management, hunter’s responsibility to themselves, the land, other hunters, landowners and to wildlife, including those species that are not hunted.
Shattuck added that students are also introduced to the rich traditions of hunting that have helped shape our state and country.
During 2000, 3,900 students of all ages completed a Hunt Safe course in South Dakota. This brought the number of certified participants, since the course became mandatory in 1956, to 204,750. Since 1993, Bowhunter Education instructors have qualified 10, 945 students, including 1,382 people during 2000.
"It is a real success story," Shattuck said, "and the people of South Dakota owe those who have made it happen a sincere ‘Thank You.’ These instructors are volunteers in the finest tradition of that name, freely giving of their time, talent and experience to make South Dakota a better place to live."
Most Hunt Safe and Bowhunter Education courses are held in the spring, summer and early fall. Persons interested in attending either course can contact their local conservation officer or Game, Fish and Parks office for further details.