January 20, 2009
Jefferson City, MO – Missouri recorded 15 firearms-related
hunting accidents in 2008, the fewest since the Missouri Department
of Conservation began keeping records in 1963.
Conservation Department records show that the incidence of firearms
hunting accidents peaked in 1986, when 98 people were hurt in such
incidents. That was not the most lethal year, however. While only
seven hunters died in firearms hunting accidents in 1986, 22 lost
their lives in both 1966 and 1970. Twenty perished in firearms
hunting accidents in 1963 and 1967.
The number of total firearms hunting accidents hovered in the 70 to
90 range from 1976 through 1985, and Missouri averaged 11.8 fatal
firearms hunting accidents during that period.
“In hindsight, those were dark days,” said Hunter Education
Coordinator Tony Legg. “The annual toll was an embarrassment to
hunters, and Missouri took a leading role in ending that era.”
In 1988, the Conservation Department began requiring anyone born
after Dec. 31, 1966, to complete an approved hunter education course
before they would buy any hunting permit. The results, documented in
hunting-accident statistics, were remarkable. The number of
accidents dropped by more than 50 percent in the first 10 years of
mandatory hunter education. In 2008, the 20th anniversary of
mandatory hunter education in Missouri, the number of hunting
accidents was one-quarter what it once was. None of the accidents
recorded last year was fatal.
Requiring hunters to wear hunter-orange clothing during firearms
deer seasons also has played a significant role in reducing hunting
accidents. However, Legg noted the frequency of accidents has
decreased in all types of hunting, not just deer hunting.
Although pleased at the progress, Legg said he and the Conservation
Department are far from content with the current safety record.
“Fifteen nonfatal accidents represents tremendous progress, but it
still is 15 more than we would like to see,” said Legg. We think we
can do better.”
One strategy the agency uses to reduce hunting accidents is
aggressively publicizing the causes of hunting accidents to raise
awareness of what causes them.
Legg said three-quarters of Missouri’s firearms hunting accidents
consistently result from three things: victims in the line of fire
but not visible to the shooters, hunters swinging on game and
covering the victim and mistaking another hunter for game. One-third
of last year’s firearms-related hunting injuries were
self-inflicted. These most often involve victims resting the muzzle
of a firearm on a foot or putting a hand over the muzzle.
“The number of hunting accidents that no one could have prevented is
practically nonexistent,” said Legg. “That means hunters are almost
entirely in control of the number of injuries that occur each year.
A hunter who takes to heart the lessons learned in hunter education
and keeps safety foremost in his or her mind in the field is almost
guaranteed never to hurt another person.”
The Conservation Department offers hunter education in a classroom
format or as a self-directed online course. The classroom version
lasts about 10 hours. The Internet option includes an online test
and a field exercise where participants demonstrate their mastery of
For more information, call the nearest Conservation Department
office or visit www.mdc.mo.gov/8821 .