AUSTIN, Texas -- A recent fatal hunting accident that might have been averted if basic safety rules were followed provides a tragic reminder of what can happen afield and reinforces the need to practice hunter safety at all times.
A hunter in South Texas was killed in December after being shot in the hip when his hunting companion^s high-powered rifle discharged accidentally. According to Steve Hall, education director with Texas Parks and Wildlife and past president of the International Hunter Education Association, the accident illustrates how a tragedy can occur in an instant.
"Hunting accidents, while extremely tragic in some cases, reminds all hunters to follow basic rules to stay safe," said Hall. "The two most important rules are to always point the muzzle in a safe direction and to be absolutely sure of your target before raising the firearm."
Hall went on to point out that in that particular hunting fatality, the victim might have been saved if the out-of-state hunter simply knew his location on the ranch in South Texas. "Even though the shooter was able to immediately call 911, it was too late when the searchers found the pair because they were unable to receive any information on the specific hunting location.," said Hall.
The accident marked the seventh hunting-related fatality in Texas in 2000, the largest number since 1991. Six deaths in Texas in 1999 were attributed to hunting-related accidents, and all might have been prevented, according to Hall, if hunters followed safety rules.
"We see the same things over and over, such as hunters swinging weapons on game outside of their safe zones of fire or careless handling of firearms -- hunting accidents that could easily be avoided," he explained. "If hunters only followed a few simple safety tips there would be few accidents."
A recent study by Texas A&M University of hunting accidents in the last 30 years concluded that while mandatory hunter education requirements and revisions to game laws have helped to reduce fatality and injury rates dramatically, certain types of incidents continue to occur at a high rate.
According to the study, incidents involving a victim injured or killed when a shooter swings on game, as well as careless firearm handling are two areas needing more attention from hunters. Other findings showed that more incidents occurred after 5 p.m. and that wearing "blaze orange" clothing might have helped some victims avoid being shot. Although hunter orange is required of hunters on public lands, most hunting occurs on private lands in Texas.
Although hunting seasons are winding down, the need to reinforce hunting safety is a year-round mandate. Hunter education courses are offered through TPW and are required of every hunter, including out-of state hunters, born on or after Sept. 2, 1971.
The minimum age to qualify for hunter education certification is 12 years. The course costs $10. Hunters must carry roof of certification while hunting; but it is not required to purchase a hunting license.
For course information call (800) 792-1112 or consult Texas Parks and Wildlife^s Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/).
As a refresher, TPW offers the following hunter safety rules.
Always point the muzzle of your firearm or your bow and arrow in a safe direction
Treat every firearm or bow with the same respect you would show a loaded gun or nocked arrow
Be sure of your target and what is in front of and behind your target
Unload and safely store firearms or unstring conventional bows when not in use
Handle firearms, arrows and ammunition carefully
Know your safe zone-of-fire and stick to it
Control your emotions when it comes to safety
Wear hearing and eye protection when shooting
Don^t drink alcohol or take mood-altering drugs before or while handling firearms, bows and arrows
Be aware of additional circumstances which require added caution or safety awareness