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Hunting — a safe activity for sportsmen

October 11, 2008
Joe Hackett, Enterprise Outdoors Columnist

Autumn in the Adirondacks provides nearly unlimited options for the sportsman. As one sporting season comes to a close, another one begins.

Before trout season comes to a conclusion on Oct. 15, the muzzleloading season begins for whitetail deer on Oct. 11.

Add to the equation the ongoing season for ruffed grouse and the weekend provides a brief overlap for the pursuit of fin, fur and feather.

This year, the overlap of seasons will permit enthusiasts to pursue whitetails, brook trout and grouse for five full days. In Scotland, such a sporting accomplishment is known as a McNab. It entails stalking and shooting a red stag, harvesting a brace of grouse on the wing and landing an Atlantic salmon on a fly, taken all in one day!

The feat, considered by many to be the absolute pinnacle of a sportman's career, is generally accomplished by fewer than a dozen individuals annually.

Every year, I take a stab at it, Adirondack style. So far, my efforts have been to no avail. But the process always offers the promise of a game within a game. The time frame also signals the conclusion of my angling season and the start of the hunt, which begins in earnest with the opening of the Regular Big Game season on October 16.

While angling opportunities will continue for bass, pike, walleye and salmon, weather patterns will likely set the limit for most anglers.

Soon, ski poles will take the place of fishing poles and another season will be upon us. Snow already caps the High Peaks; enjoy the autumn while you can.

The hunting report

Woodland trails have now developed that old familiar crunch. Our annual carpet of freshly fallen leaves is finally beginning to accumulate. Archery season has already begun, and smokepole season begins Oct. 11, followed a week later by the regular gig game season.

With the advent of the youth hunting license, I expect to see an influx of new hunters this season. The addition of 14-year-olds to the hunt will likely help to diminish the average age of New York hunters, which has been creeping upwards of the half-century mark in recent years.

Although New York hunters have been growing older, their many years of experience reveal that success comes with age.

New York has an astounding hunter success rate of nearly 44 percent, which places the state well about the national average of slightly less than 33 percent.

While anti-hunting groups may continue to argue the point, the fact remains that hunting is safe and getting safer.

Nationally, the hunting injury rate (injuries per 100,000 hunters) has been cut more than 67 percent over the past 35 years. There are nearly 700,000 hunters in New Yor; only one in 14,000 causes an accident, so 99.99 percent of New York hunters don't cause firearms injuries.

However, while you may be the safest hunter in the woods, you can't prevent somebody else's mistake! But, you can hedge your bet by wearing hunter orange and a personal floatation device.

It is a well-established fact: orange saves lives! From 1994 through 2003 four out of five deer hunters wore hunter orange. Not even one who wore hunter orange was mistaken for game and killed. But 15 hunters who did not wear orange were killed when mistaken for game.

Drowning remains the single most significant cause of hunter deaths nationwide and it is the most easily prevented. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that the majority of hunter drowning occurred when someone stood up in a boat to pee at sea. These hunters died with their pants unzipped.

One third of hunting injuries are self-inflicted and most others are caused by a friend or relative. Many hunting injuries are caused by accidental firing, when people are not shooting.

But, most occur while shooting, and for over half of these, target visibility or people in the line of fire is involved.

People are much safer in the woods than on the roads. The most dangerous part of a hunt is the drive to the hunting area. Nationwide, more people are killed by deer (about 100-150 per year, in collisions with motor vehicles) than are killed in hunting-related shooting incidents.

Non-hunters, such as hikers and paddlers, that express concern with the dangers of being in the woods during the hunting season should also take note: a person who is not hunting is 45 times more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than by a hunter's bullet! This is according to the National Safety Council, which reveals that average U.S. lightning deaths are about 90 per year, while the average non-hunter deaths in hunting incidents is less than two per year.

Survival without style

Despite all the variables, wilderness survival depends more on an individual's wit and wisdom than any gear they may carry in their pack.

Regardless of this fact, having the right gear can make things a whole lot easier, which is why it is so important to have a light kit with the right gear with you at all times.

Things don't always go as planned, even if you have taken the proper steps. If you are lost or injured, the proper gear can mean the difference between a comfortable night in the woods or a cold one.

What's in your pack may save a life; a cell phone won't!

A survival kit is something most hikers, hunters and other outdoor travelers may never have to open. It is an outdoor insurance policy in a can. which may remain in the bottom of your backpack for years, in a lightweight, waterproof case.

The leanest survival kit should include just the bare backwoods essentials: matches, firestarters, fishing line, a tiny compass, water purification tablets, a whistle, a small rescue mirror, plus a few snack bars and bouillon cubes tightly packed in. It should fit in a shirt pocket.

Optional items should also include a duct tape, string, wire, safety pins, aluminum foil, a magnifying lens, nylon thread, a razor blade, a sewing needle, a pencil and tiny sheets of paper, plus a spare map of the area in which you intend to travel.

For extended outings, the list should be expanded to include a first aid kit, rain gear, repair kit, spare flashlight, spare clothes, socks, hat, gloves, emergency food and lightweight stove. Such kits are not intended to ensure survival with style, just survival.



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