Minnesota hunters played it safe in 2012 with only one fatality and 19 injuries reported, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
DNR safety officials credit the state’s long-running hunter education program as the primary reason.
"While one injury or one fatality is too many, having a year with so few incidents is tremendous," said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR enforcement education program coordinator.
Hammer sees the safe hunting year as a culmination of Minnesota’s volunteer-driven hunter education program. Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979, needs a firearms certificate to hunt game with a firearm.
"We had 4,300 dedicated volunteers offer 1,300 classes to 23,000 students last year, which has been the annual average,” said Hammer.
More than a million students have been certified since the program began in 1955. Female’s make-up over 30 percent of the students certified each year.
Along with dedicated volunteers and traditional and online safety courses, Hammer points to the low number of hunting incidents in 2012 as an indication that hunters overall are paying attention.
"We now see hunting incidents become news because there are so few," Hammer said. "We know that hunters are making the proper choices out there, as to when and when not to pull the trigger."
"Hunting is part of our heritage and an important tradition," he said. "It is a safe activity and is getting safer because of our dedicated volunteer instructors around the state."
The DNR is always in need of more volunteer instructors to mentor and train youths, Hammer noted.
“We encourage men, women, Southeast Asians, Hispanics, and others who have experience with hunting and the outdoors to come forward and join our team of instructor mentors,” Hammer said. “Volunteers from all backgrounds are essential to make this program work. Without volunteers this program would not be successful.”
Information on becoming a firearms safety instructor can be found on the DNR web page at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/instructors/firearms/index.html