2010 Fall Turkey Hunting Season Safety Reminders
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, contact: Bob Kasun, Pa. Chapter of NWTF public relations, 814-942-3990.
Turkey hunting safety: Know the risks and the penalties
Fall Turkey Hunting Related Shooting Incidents (HRSIs) have declined dramatically in Pennsylvania in the past decade. The decline is more pronounced in the fall season than in spring but the average number of shooting mishaps has declined for both seasons. Since 2000 (2000-2009) the average annual number of fall turkey hunting related shooting incidents has been 5.8. Between 1990 and 1999 the average number of incidents was 15.9 annually.
Hunter education has made a huge difference in hunter behavior and has contributed significantly to reducing the number of shooting incidents. Other educational efforts by the Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation have played a role too. Both the state agency and the state chapter have maintained outreach and education efforts ranging from public service announcements to billboards and placement of safety reminders in the PGC Hunting and Trapping Digest.
Declining participation in fall turkey hunting is another part of the equation. Fall turkey hunter numbers declined from more than 250,000 in 1991 to under 150,000 today. Careful analysis of turkey hunting related shooting incidents reveals that hunter density (the number of hunters per square mile of turkey habitat) affects incident rates. When hunter numbers decline as they have for fall turkey hunting incident rates also trend downward. We may have reached a point where fall turkey hunter numbers are low enough that shooting incident rates have dropped off. Plus, today’s hunters are hunting smarter and hunting safer.
The recent low incident rates in the fall are encouraging. There is still work to do to promote safety. Every hunter must understand that being involved in a hunting related shooting incident is serious business. The lives of the shooter and the victim are changed forever. The injured hunter may never recover from being shot. Insurance claims and litigation are precipitated by these incidents and the finances of the shooter can be profoundly affected. Whole families are impacted, especially when there is a fatal shooting or when serious bodily injury or impairment results from the incident. Family incomes can be destroyed, health and longevity affected and stress levels elevated. Even in the less serious cases the hunting experience for both the shooter and the victim will never be the same.
Anyone involved in a hunting related shooting incident in which someone is injured is required to report the incident to the Game Commission or a Game Commission officer within 72 hours. The shooter is required by law to render immediate assistance to the victim. Statutes describing the extent of injury and the penalties for hunting related shooting incidents are covered in the Game and Wildlife Code (Title 34).
There are three gradients describing the nature of the offense and penalties brought to bear on the shooter in a Hunting Related Shooting Incident. The first is a summary level offense. Incidents where a hunter shoots at another hunter and either does not hit the victim or causes bodily injury fall into this category. The definition of “bodily injury” is “impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.” Conviction of a summary violation of the 1st degree will result in a fine of $1,000 to $1,500 and the shooter may be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 3 months. The penalty also includes mandatory 2 year loss of hunting privileges.
A HRSI in which the victim suffers serious bodily injury is classified as a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree. “Serious bodily injury” is defined as “Bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” Fines for a conviction at this level are not more than $5,000 and the shooter can be imprisoned for up to 12 months. Such a conviction results in the loss of hunting privileges for 5 to 10 years.
A hunter who kills another human being while hunting is guilty of a misdemeanor of the 1st degree. Any fines imposed at this level are distributed to the victim’s next of kin. The penalty for a conviction on this count is a fine of not more than $10,000 and the shooter may be imprisoned for up to 18 months. The shooter faces a mandatory loss of hunting and furtaking privileges for 15 years. A hunter convicted of a HRSI at any level must complete a remedial hunter education course and must provide evidence of a vision examination to prove their vision meets specific standards contained in Game Commission regulations.
The penalties described above are sobering. Every time you take to the woods remember the penalties associated with these incidents. Think about the impact HRSIs have on lives. As serious as the penalty is the guilt the shooter has to live with and the permanent affect being shot has on the victim. Don’t think for a minute that you could not make a mistake. Be careful, hunt defensively, handle every firearm as if it were loaded, make certain of your target and what is beyond. Follow all the common sense rules of firearm safety. Think Safety, Hunt Safely!