Let’s Help Responsible Hunters Make Hunting Safe

November 28, 2005

Hunting season began last weekend, and with it came three accidental shootings in the Finger Lakes and Central New York areas that, thankfully, were not fatal. With a little more effort, everyone can have a much safer, enjoyable hunting season.

In Weedsport, Cayuga County, a man was shot in his left thigh while hunting deer around 5 p.m., a time when it is already dark. He was struck by a stray shotgun slug. Both the injured hunter and the man who fired the shot were wearing dark clothing. In Livingston County both a father and son were injured while hunting.

Cayuga County Sheriff Rob Outhouse said, “This is yet another case that necessitates an investigation where it appears there was a lack of communication in the hunting party and high visibility clothing was not worn by the two hunters involved.”

New York state does not require licensed hunters to wear orange clothing. Even though it is not required by law, many hunters are safety-conscious and have taken it upon themselves to wear the highly visible orange clothing as recommended by the N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation.

In fact, statistics show that hunters wearing orange clothing are seven times less likely to be shot at while hunting than individuals who don other gear such as camouflage apparel. From 1994 to 2003, four out of five hunters wore orange, and not one of them was mistaken for a deer and shot by another hunter. However, 15 hunters who did not wear orange clothing while hunting during those years were mistakenly shot and killed. Deer cannot see any shades of red; therefore, orange is no more visible to them than green.

I believe it is time to make hunter safety a priority for everyone, that is why I have introduced legislation that would require hunters of big game to wear a minimum of 250 square inches of solid or patterned fluorescent orange material above the waist or a hat of such material. Not only are hunters more likely to be injured if not wearing the fluorescent orange, but the trauma of accidentally shooting another person is a heavy burden none of us would want to carry.

Additionally, this legislation would model our hunter safety requirements after neighboring state’s laws. Furthermore, it would allow properly licensed hunters to easily participate in the overlapping hunting seasons, with states like Pennsylvania, for example, without having to purchase additional safety gear to move from one state to the other.

As hunting season continues, please be cautious and make sure firearms are unloaded when carrying to and from a hunt, as well as into and out of tree stands. It’s a good idea to never carry a loaded gun while transporting or loading a deer because of the likelihood of dropping or mishandling the firearm.

By taking some level of extra care, gun-related injuries were preventable. A safe hunt is a happy, successful hunt. By taking precautions, hunters make their environment safer for themselves and fellow hunters, and a better experience for all.