By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
More than 200,000 hunters will pursue the abundant game in Alabama this season, which means hunter safety should be at the forefront of any outdoors adventure. Captain Marisa Futral, Hunter Education Coordinator with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, would love to see a repeat of the 2021-2022 season, when zero fatalities were reported for hunting accidents.
“Last year was a good year,” Futral said. “Everybody needs to keep up the good work. There were no fatalities in firearms or treestand accidents. We had fewer treestand accidents than firearms incidents, which is unusual.”
WFF Director Chuck Sykes hailed the milestone and recently emphasized the progress made in reducing accidents in the field.
“Hunter safety is a priority for us at WFF,” Sykes said. “So, at the February 2020 Conservation Advisory Board meeting, I made a special PowerPoint slide out of our yearly hunting accidents showing that we had been slowly decreasing the numbers for the past several years.
“Zero fatalities during last season was a monumental occurrence. That’s the first time since WFF began keeping records in 1973 that we have had zero hunting-related fatalities. I certainly hope we can carry this over to this upcoming season.”
Futral said five treestand accidents and 10 firearms accidents were reported. Of the firearms accidents, four were self-inflicted.
“Those self-inflicted accidents include stumbling and falling, or the trigger got caught on an object,” she said. “The key is that the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction. Be aware of where the muzzle is pointed just in case of an accidental discharge.
“Also, no dove hunting accidents were reported, which was good. We had two waterfowl hunting incidents. One was self-inflicted, and one happened when the victim was covered by a shooter swinging on game.”
Two turkey hunting incidents were reported with the victims located behind the turkeys. One quail hunting incident and one hog hunting accident were reported, while four accidents occurred during deer hunts.
“The deer hunting incidents were basically careless handling of firearms,” Futral said. “The hog hunter stumbled and fell.”
Though not fatal last season, these accidents underscore there’s never a time to get complacent.
“Complacency will get you in trouble,” Futral said. “The number of treestand accidents are trending in the right direction. This is the lowest number of treestand accidents that we have had. We just need everyone to remain diligent about treestand safety. Most treestand accidents happen when you’re going up or coming down the tree. Make sure you have a quality safety harness, and the rule to follow is to remain attached to the tree when your feet leave the ground until your feet are back on the ground. We also had one accident happen when a hunter was moving a treestand, so be diligent when putting stands up and taking them down.
“I do think word is getting out about our safety outreach, on both treestands and firearms. Hunter education definitely helps, and our PSAs (public service announcements) are helping. I do think hunters are more aware of being safe when they’re hunting.”