Hunting accidents at an all-time low in 2012

The 2012 hunting season in New York had the lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidents on record, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Governor Andrew Cuomo recognizes all the benefits the sporting community brings to New York’s economy and commends sportsmen and women for setting a record in hunting safety,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens in a written statement. “The Governor and DEC are working to expand hunting opportunities in New York state and hunter safety is part and parcel to these efforts. These declining statistics prove that New York does have a safety-conscious generation of hunters, in great thanks to the committed efforts of more than 2,500 volunteer Sportsman Education Instructors.”

DEC conservation officers conduct professional investigations of each hunting-related shooting incident. The 2012 season included 24 personal incidents with just over half being self-inflicted, according to the DEC. Most unfortunate were two fatalities that occurred during the deer season where the individuals were shot by members of their own hunting group.

Incidents involving two or more individuals stress the importance of one of hunting’s basic tenets: identifying your target and what lies beyond. There were no hunting-related shooting incidents reported during the first youth hunt for deer that took place Columbus Day weekend.

Though the number of hunters is declining in the state, the hunting-incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) is falling much faster, according to the DEC. Since the 1960s, the number of hunters has declined about 20 percent, while the incident rate has plunged more than 70 percent. The past five-year average is 5.3 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 in the 1960s.

Trained instructors certified by DEC teach safe, responsible and ethical outdoors practices and the important role of hunters and trappers in conservation. All first-time hunters and bowhunters must successfully complete a hunter safety course and pass the final exam before being eligible to purchase a hunting license. All courses are offered free of charge.

While statistics show that hunting is safer than ever, accidents happen and it is important to remember that every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, according to the DEC. Many, if not all of these incidents could have been prevented, if only the shooter and/or victim had followed the primary rules of hunter safety.

– Treat every firearm as if it were loaded

– Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction

– Identify your target and what lies beyond

– Keep finger off the trigger until ready to fire

– Wear hunter orange

For more information, including the 2012 Hunting Safety Statistics, visit the Sportsman Education Program section on the DEC website

DEC limes lake

The DEC was scheduled to begin delivery of 80 tons of lime to an acidified lake in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area north of Stillwater Reservoir in the town of Webb, Herkimer County on Wednesday, the DEC announced.

State police helicopters and their crews were to be among the 40-plus staff required to complete this liming operation. From a staging area at Stillwater Reservoir on the ice near the boat launch site, sling loads of 2,000 pounds of lime were to be hauled by helicopter for 3.8 miles into Lyon Lake. The lime was to be left on the lake and helicopter to return to Stillwater for the next load. This trip was scheduled be repeated 80 times over four days, weather cooperating, to get all the lime out to Lyon Lake where DEC staff spreads it across the lake’s frozen surfaces.

“This is the largest liming operation DEC ever embarked on, an effort involving months of planning and coordination with DEC staff, forest rangers and the critical state police helicopters and pilots and crews,” DEC Region 6 Director Judy Drabicki said in a press release. “Adding lime to the lake will allow brook trout to once again live in this waterbody. This is just the latest effort by Governor Cuomo and DEC to expand opportunities for the fishing and hunting community.”

When the lake thaws in the spring, the lime will combine with lake water and make the water less acid. This will be the first lime treatment for Lyon Lake. DEC plans to stock the lake with native Adirondack brook trout during this fall’s aerial stocking.

DEC has great hopes for reestablishment of brook trout in some larger Adirondack ponds and lakes. Fisheries staff has noted that the larger water bodies maintain a deep cold water layer right through the summer (referred to as stratification), unlike the smaller ponds which now mix right through the summer. This results in warmer water temperatures in these smaller ponds that are not as suitable for brook trout.

Anyone looking for additional information on DEC’s liming program or a list of Adirondack trout ponds can call the Watertown fisheries office at 315-785-2263.