How dangerous is hunting?
I had to listen to some crazy anti-hunting lady being interviewed on some weekend talk show a few days ago (late night weekend radio between major markets, I take what I can find) due to my insane traveling schedule. She was tirading against hunting. Cheney’s accident being in the news, I shouldn’t be surprised that the anti-hunting anti-gun people started pushing their ideology on the rest of us. Vultures.
As it was, she mentioned two statistics, fifty-three people die each year due to hunting accidents, and about 500 are injured. Raw numbers don’t prove anything. Over 40,000 people die in cars each year, but you divide that number by the total number of people driving and you get .04% of dying in a car each year (huge overestimate, the number is probably half that). So if you drive for a hundred years, there’s a 4% chance you’ll die from a car accident. Thus, it would take 2,500 years of driving before you would expect to die.
I couldn’t find any real good numbers, but I did find out there are about 19 million hunters going out into the field each year. If I take the 53 fatality number per year at face value (I couldn’t verify it), then deaths while hunting are extremely rare. How rare? Well…if it takes 2,500 years of driving before one would expect to die, it would take 40,000 years of hunting (assuming you take an average number of hunting trips per year) before you could expect to even be hurt in a hunting accident, 400,000 years before you’d expect to die.
Of course, you’d have to take the numbers I gave you and divide by the total number of hours spent driving on average versus hours hunting and compare them. I would guess driving and hunting to be about as equally dangerous.
Over the past four decades, the number of hunting-related firearms accidents have dropped by half and the number of fatalities by much, much more.
In 1966, the first year TPWD’s law enforcement division began investigating and maintaining records of hunting-related firearms accidents, game wardens chronicled 81 such accidents. A stunning 28 of them involved fatalities.
Two years later, that number had jumped to 105 accidents with a sobering 37 fatalities.
In 2003, game wardens investigated 42 hunting-related firearms accidents. Only one involved a fatality.
Texas has seen fewer than 10 fatal hunting-related firearms accidents each of the past 12 years.
In 1966, TPWD recorded 12.6 hunting-related firearms accidents per 100,000 hunting licenses sold, and averaged 10.92 accidents per 100,000 for the five-year period 1966-70.
This past year, the accident rate was 3.9 per 100,000 hunting licenses. For the five years 1999-2003, the average accident rate was 4.02, or not much more than a third of what it was a generation before.
Thomas Baumeister, education bureau chief for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Helena, heard the same news report. As head of both the hunter education and bowhunter education programs in Montana, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing, either.
“No. Hunting accidents certainly are not common,” Baumeister said. “This is one of the safest activities in terms of getting injured doing it.
“During an average hunting season in Montana, we have 229,000 people out there at one time or another with firearms,” he said. “It’s far more dangerous to ski or play tennis.”
And a person playing football, he said, is certainly more likely to be injured than someone hunting.
Baumeister keeps track of fatal and nonfatal hunting accidents from a variety of sources, including FWP personnel and newspaper reports. Hunting, he said, is a sport that’s getting safer each year, thanks in part to mandatory hunter education programs.
“We have record-low numbers of accidents throughout North America,” he said. “It’s a declining trend, both in fatal and nonfatal accidents. In the 1970s, on average, we had 21.7 hunting accidents per year. In the ’80s, we had 12.3. In the ’90s, it was 7.1. For the last five years, we’re down to 5.6.
“In the recently completed 2005 season, we had no fatal accidents, and I only heard about three nonfatal accidents,” Baumeister said. “People might get a pellet lodged in their skin and you wouldn’t hear about it. And I’m not saying we didn’t have any. But I am willing to say it was in that 5 to 8 range, which is where we have been over the past few years.”
Baumeister isn’t saying that there’s no potential for injuries. It’s just that they happen very, very rarely — especially when you consider the number of hunters involved and the amount of time they spend in the field each year.
Montana has the highest level of hunting participation in the nation, according to federal surveys, with 24 percent of its residents hunting each year. That includes 39 percent of all adult males in the state and 13 percent of adult females.
In deer hunting alone, the most recent statistics from the 2003 season indicate that 153,255 deer hunters spent 1.04 million days in the field. A total of 40,574 bird hunters — those shotgun shooters, like Cheney — spent 436,000 days in the field.
That’s a lot of people spending a lot of time out hunting with very few accidents to report
Gun accidents in general are down:
About .5 people per 100,000 population (1400 total, all ages) die from accidental gunshot wounds and about 33 per 100,000 (100,000 total) are injured accidentally with gunshots (per US Centers for Disease Control/prevention) per year recently. The rate has been dropping steadily for years.
Facts versus emotions, I choose facts. Hunting is safe, gun deaths are in decline, hunting accidents are in decline. The focus on gun safety has done wonders, and Americans have shown themselves to be responsible with their right to bear arms. American’s have become more responsible every year.