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For Release: Monday, March 6, 2017

DEC Announces 2016 is Safest Year for New York Hunters

Despite Four Fatalities, DEC Records Lowest Number of Hunting-Related Shooting Incidents on Record

The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today that the 2016 hunting season in New York had only 13 hunting-related shooting incidents, the lowest number on record since DEC began compiling hunting-related shooting statistics in 1958.

"Hunting is a proud tradition in New York State that continues to be safely enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors each year," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "The trend of declining hunting accidents is proof that our Sportsman Education Program is working thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the 3,000 volunteer instructors that teach our hunter safety courses every year."

Of the 13 hunting-related shooting incidents in 2016, seven incidents were self-inflicted and six incidents involved more than one person. In 2015, there were 23 incidents. In 1966, there were 166 incidents, 13 of which were fatal.

Despite these low numbers, there were four fatalities in 2016 - two two-party incidents and two self-inflicted incidents.

"While hunting is safer than ever, accidents can still happen," Seggos said. "It is important to remember that every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. We urge every hunter going afield this year to wear hunter orange. It's the smart thing to do."

This year's report indicated that eight of the people involved in multi-party incidents were not wearing hunter orange.

With approximately 500,000 licensed hunters spending an estimated 10 to 15 million days afield each year, New York continues its trend of declining hunting-related shooting incidents, with the incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) declining almost 80 percent since the 1960s. The past five-year average is down to 3.5 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 in the 1960s.

DEC encourages hunters to follow the primary rules of hunter safety:

  • assume every firearm is loaded;
  • control the firearm muzzle in a safe direction;
  • keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire;
  • identify your target and what is beyond; and
  • wear hunter orange.

DEC's Sportsman Education Program is mandatory for all hunters. The program was introduced in 1949 and has significantly reduced the number of hunting incidents. Beginning in 2016, DEC instituted new course homework requirements for all hunter and trapper education courses. Students are now required to review course materials and complete homework prior to attending classroom and field sessions.

The new homework portion of the course provides an introduction to the subject and enhances students' understanding of the course material. DEC offers all courses free of charge. The Sportsman Education Program is always looking for interested individuals to volunteer their time to help students take the first step in developing the skills and knowledge to be better hunters and trappers.

Only incidents involving firearms, bows, and crossbows are included in the annual report. Incidents involving falls from tree stands or hunter health-related issues are not included. Investigations of all hunting-related shooting incidents are undertaken by DEC's Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs).

For more information on taking a course, becoming an instructor, and on the 2016 Hunting Safety Statistics, visit the Sportsman Education Program web page on DEC's website.

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