The state Department of Environmental Conservation requires every hunter to take a hunter education course before receiving a license to hunt. Since New York’s hunter education program was introduced in 1949, the number of hunting-related accidents has declined by 80%. Thanks to the efforts of 1,700 DEC staff and volunteer hunter education program instructors who teach tens of thousands of students each year, hunting in New York continues to get safer. In fact, last year had the fewest hunting-related shooting incidents and was the safest hunting season on record.

DEC-certified, trained volunteer instructors teach safe, responsible, and ethical hunting and trapping practices and the important role of hunters and trappers in wildlife conservation. In 2019, 12 hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSI) were reported in New York, one of which was fatal. In 1966, there were 166 incidents, 13 of which were fatal.

The four rules of firearm safety are: Treat every firearm as if it is loaded; Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction; Hunters should keep their fingers off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot; and Always be sure of the target and what is beyond.

The DEC encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or pink. Wearing orange or pink makes hunters highly visible in the field and prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal or shooting in their direction. Hunters who wear hunter orange are seven times less likely to be shot. New York state law requires hunters age 14 and 15 and their mentors hunting deer or bear with a gun to wear fluorescent hunter orange or pink that is visible from all directions –– a shirt, jacket or vest with at least 250 square inches of solid or patterned fluorescent orange or pink (the pattern must be at least 50% orange or pink) or a hat at least 50 percent fluorescent orange or pink.

Every year, hunters are seriously injured, paralyzed or killed by falling out of tree stands. Falls from tree stands have become a major cause of hunting-related injuries and fatalities in New York. These accidents primarily involve a hunter who was not wearing a harness or using a harness that was not attached to the stand or tree at the time of their fall. The proper use of tree stands and full-body harnesses helps to prevent these injuries and fatalities.

Hunters are encouraged to use a full-body safety harness and a climbing belt and stay connected from the time they leave the ground to the time they get back down. Most tree stand accidents occur when hunters are climbing in and out of the stand. In addition, follow these safety tips: Never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm; Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings before using the tree stand and check stands (including straps and chains) every season; Replace any worn or missing parts; and Hunters should tell friends and relatives where they will be hunting and when they will return. A map showing the tree stand location makes it easier for others to find a hunter if they do not return on time.

The DEC also reminds hunters that legal hours for big game hunting across the state are from official sunrise to sunset. It is the hunter’s responsibility to know when these times are in his or her location. Consult the DEC Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide, use the DEC HuntFishNY app, or search weather data on the internet to find the official sunrise and sunset times for a hunting area. It is illegal to hunt deer and bear before sunrise or after sunset.

Hunting is an exciting sport, but it can also be physically demanding. Every year, some hunters suffer heart attacks and strokes. Walking in heavy clothing, carrying gear, and dragging a deer through the woods can require vigorous exertion and may be more stress than the heart can handle. It is a good idea to exercise and build up endurance before hunting season. In addition, hunters should be prepared for winter conditions when venturing in the woods, inform a friend or relative of their whereabouts, and pack emergency supplies like flashlights, water and high energy foods.

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