Hunting accidents and fatalities in Texas continued their long-term decline in 2007, still down below three accidents per 10,000 hunters in recent years. That compares to about 12 accidents per 10,000 hunters in 1966, the year records began.
Short-term, Texas had 26 injuries from hunting accidents in 2007, two less than the year before. The state had four fatalities in 2007, the same as the previous year.
Although any fatality is tragic, Texas accident numbers are small compared to the number of hunters. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national survey, 1,112,099 people hunted in Texas in 2007.
“The statistics show hunting is safe and getting safer in Texas,” said Steve Hall, education director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “And we do believe that is directly related to hunter education.”
The state’s worst year on record for hunting accidents was 1968, when 105 accidents were reported, including 37 fatalities.
The steady decline in the number of accidents per 10,000 licensed hunters tracks the growing number of people who take hunter education in Texas. In 1972, 2,119 people were certified in hunter education. In 2007, more than 3,000 volunteer hunter education instructors trained more than 30,000 hunters across the state. In 1988, hunter education became mandatory in Texas for anyone born on or after Sept. 2, 1971.
Hall said even hunters who are not required to take the education course are more aware of basic safety principles than before.
“It’s things like the ‘10 Commandments of Shooting Safety,’ the very basic safety principles that are promoted a whole lot more now than 30 or even 20 years ago,” Hall said. “Highlighting the accidents is an education in and of itself.”
The 2007 hunter accident profile involved people who violated a cardinal rule of hunter safety, were usually Anglo males 29 years of age on average, were not under the influence of alcohol, had not taken hunter education, and did not wear hunter orange clothing. People involved in accidents exhibited behavior like swinging a shotgun on game outside of the safe zone of fire (if not self-inflicted), handling a firearm carelessly in a stand or vehicle (if self-inflicted), or carrying a loaded firearm in and around a vehicle. Victims were typically in light to open cover with clear weather visibility. Most accidents occurred towards dusk. Fatigue was a factor in most accidents.
According to Hall, all accidents were preventable if the hunters had followed basic safety principles like those taught in hunter education courses.
“You know you’re not going to stop accidents altogether,” he said. “But you’re going to help people build knowledge and skills to avoid accidents.”