By KENNETH R. COBB
For The Inter-Mountain
Sport hunting is one of the safest of all outdoor activities. The number of injuries and deaths caused by careless shooting has declined dramatically in the last 25 years.
In many rural states, including West Virginia, hunting remains a strong tradition; and I hope it will remain so for many generations to come. Yet, as we all get older and gradually retire from this sport, there is some space left that is not being filled by the younger generations.
Throughout the nation, cities and suburbs are expanding at an alarming rate. Farms and private land are being posted with “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs. Youth growing up in cities and most suburbs cannot walk down the road to a forest or field for an afternoon of hunting when school is out at the end of the day.
Adults who would like to keep the hunting tradition alive may feel somewhat frustrated when having to cope with this situation just described. In West Virginia, there is really no cause for despair. I have often said, “In this state, some of the best hunting is on public acreage.”
Firearms do play a major role in some hunting accidents, but everyone needs to know there are other hunting hazards. In this state, more deer and squirrel hunters succumb from heart attacks than from gunshot wounds. Overexertion, tree-stand falls, overexposure to cold and frigid temperatures, also take their toll.
Older hunters need to remember that simple injuries and sprains can result in serious consequences. Excess exertion causes fatigue which exposes a person to all sorts of additional hazards. Hunters, who are not used to the rigors involved with this sport, should try to spend some time getting into physical condition before the hunting season starts.
Hunter education courses are mandatory in just about all 50 states. In West Virginia, a youth who is 15 years old must have completed a hunter safety course and show proof before he or she can purchase a hunting license. These hunting educational programs are now an important role of hunting today despite what anti-hunters may claim.
Sport hunting has become an extremely safe sport relative to many other common activities. The probability of being injured or killed in a hunting accident is lower than attending a sporting event or concert, playing pool, or even taking a bath.
Statistics compiled by the unbiased National Safety Council indicate that a person is more likely to be killed by lightning when outdoors than to be killed in a hunting accident. I have often emphasized to several medical doctors, that a person is safer in the woods at any time than they are driving or riding in a car.
A non-hunter is 20 times more likely to die from stinging insects than being shot by a hunter.
The news media has a tendency to sensationalize hunting accidents in comparison to other injuries or deaths from sporting mishaps. A good example of this took place in Randolph County in 1977. In the Bear Heaven Recreation Area, a 15-year-old girl from New Jersey was shot by a person who was part of an organized bear hunt.
This careless hunter, a Charleston area resident and a former Charleston city police officer, mistook the teenager for a turkey. The 30-06 bullet hit the girl on the right side of the lower torso and deflected down into the pubic area. Tissue damage was extensive. When the girl came into the emergency room of the hospital, her clothing was very close to being the same color as a wild turkey.
The girl made it through this traumatic ordeal because she was a common blood type. The lab was able to get enough units of blood drawn, cross-matched and to the operating room as fast as it was needed. She was also under the care of a competent surgeon. A few days later, she was transported under the care of a nurse from the hospital by the Randolph County Emergency Squad to a hospital in Philadelphia.
The girl was visiting her sister who was attending Davis & Elkins College. The two had planned to camp in the Bear Heaven Recreation Area for a day or two.
This hunting accident, however, was big news in this area for more than a year. But it did not keep the thousands of people from going deer hunting when the firearms season opened a few days later.
The following is a list of injuries, compiled by the National Safety Council, which required hospital emergency room treatment per 100,000 participants:
• Football 2,171
• Baseball 2,090
• Soccer 910
• Bicycle riding 904
• Skateboarding 869
• Horseback riding 465
• Ice skating 335
• Fishing 141
• Tennis 121
• Golf 94
• Hunting 8
I think these statistics sum up the safety of sport hunting. I hope all the hunters will practice safe and responsible hunting this season and enjoy themselves.
PRACTICE?MAKES?PERFECT?— A group of youth hunters are schooled in safety as they take to the range for some practice time.