OLYMPIA -- Thirteen people were injured, none fatally, in gun-related hunting accidents in Washington state last year, according to a report released today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Ten of the 13 hunters injured during the annual reporting period ending June 30 were shot accidentally by members of their own hunting party. The other three were injured when their own weapons discharged by accident.
The good news, said state wildlife officials, is that - for the first time in three years - no one died as a result of a hunting accident in Washington state. In each of the previous two years, one hunter died from an accidental gunshot wound suffered in the field.
"We're pleased that none of the hunting accidents we've seen over the past year have resulted in fatalities," said Bruce Bjork, WDFW enforcement chief. "On the other hand, most hunting accidents could be prevented if everybody just followed some basic safety rules."
Three of the most important hunting safety rules cited by Bjork are:
- Be aware of where your gun is pointing at all times;
- Always keep your gun unloaded in and around vehicles, as required by state law; and
- Wear fluorescent "hunter orange" clothing to increase your visibility to other hunters.
Mik Mikitik, WDFW hunting education instructor, said increased awareness of safety issues has helped to significantly reduce the number of hunting accidents in Washington state in recent years. Since 1997, the number of hunting accidents has averaged about 10 per year, compared to as many as 57 per year in the 1960s.
While part of that decline is due to the overall decline in the number of hunters in the state, other factors have also helped to reduce the accident rate, Mikitik said. Since 1992, for example, anyone hunting deer, elk or upland birds with a modern firearm has been required to wear "hunter orange" clothing for greater visibility. In addition, since 1995, all first-time hunters in Washington born after Jan. 1, 1972 have been required to complete a basic WDFW hunter safety class to be eligible to purchase a state hunting license.
"These new rules have made a real difference in recent years," Mikitik said. "Also, I think society as a whole has become more aware of safety issues - and that awareness extends to hunters. Hunting is actually a relatively safe outdoor activity, provided that hunters make safety their first priority."
Those interested in information about the basic hunter education class, or the advanced class, should call WDFW at (360) 902-8111 or see http://www.clearlight.com/hunting/ on the WDFW website.