State hunting officials hope to continue a trend in which there have been no hunting-related fatalities during Wisconsin’s past two gun-deer hunting seasons.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 2010 was the first season without a fatality during the annual fall hunt since 1972.
State DNR Conservation Warden Todd Schaller said the organization is working to educate hunters and help keep people safe in an effort to continue that trend.
“The biggest thing for hunters is to not get caught up in the excitement of the hunt, but to stay focused on the safety of the hunt,” Schaller said.
This year’s nine-day gun-deer hunt takes place Nov. 17-25.
Schaller, who also is a hunter, said the safety record also can be contributed to greater participation in hunter education courses, including those who take the course as a refresher.
Hunter education courses became mandatory in 1985 for hunters born after 1972.
“It’s really about getting the word out about education and keeping it out there so hunters keep it in mind during their hunts,” Schaller said.
The DNR only keeps statistics for gun-related incidents and does not have data related to injuries, but Schaller said one of the greatest threats to deer hunters is a fall from a deer stand.
St. Clare Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Michael Lutes said tree stand injuries are common during the deer hunt.
“Sometimes it’s a moment of carelessness,” Lutes said. “It only takes that one second where you’re not paying attention and you fall.”
Lutes said back and leg injuries are common as a result of falls, and sometimes hunters can end up with a rib fracture.
However, during his 12 years in the emergency room, he’s never had a patient who was shot by another person.
“It’s usually someone who accidentally shoots themselves,” Lutes said. “It’s falling from the tree stands that really hurts the hunters out there.”
Schaller said falls could be curtailed if hunters used a full safety harness while sitting in their stands and by using a manufactured tree stand rather than nailing boards to a tree.
Lutes also urged hunters to bring their cell phones with them on the hunt.
“Some of these injuries associated with falls can be pretty scary,” he said. “I’ve seen some people who have injured themselves so bad they can’t rescue themselves and have to wait for their hunting party to find them. It would be pretty frightening to lay out in the cold woods without anyone knowing you are hurt.”
Schaller also recommended hunters let others know where they will be and for how long.
“It just makes sense,” he said.
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