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CONTACT:
Pete Davison: 603-271-3214
CO James Kneeland: 603-271-3127
Jane Vachon: 603-271-3211
October 4, 2010             

Hunters -- Play It Safe: Wear Blaze Orange; Know Your Target and Beyond
Pheasant-hunting Shooting Incident Underscores Importance of Safety Precautions

CONCORD, N.H. – Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts -- make blaze orange your fashion statement when you head afield this fall. Wearing a fluorescent orange hat, vest or jacket makes you highly visible in the woods, one of several key safety precautions for hunters to keep in mind.

"Wearing hunter orange has definitely been shown to decrease hunting incidents across the country," said Tom Flynn, Manager of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Owl Brook Hunter Education Center in Holderness.  "It is important for hunters, because the overwhelming majority of hunting-related incidents involve members of hunting parties. Along with wearing blaze orange, the top safety rules for hunters are controlling the muzzle of your gun at all times and positively identifying your target and what's beyond 100 percent of the time."

A hunting-related shooting incident that happened the morning of October 2, 2010, the first weekend of pheasant season, underscores the importance of carefully following hunter safety precautions.  Two pairs of hunters, all wearing blaze orange, were pursuing pheasants in Old Hill Village, a wooded flood control area in Franklin, N.H.  One group flushed a bird. The other party's dog pointed the bird, and a member of that party fired, even though they could hear the voices of the first pair of hunters.  Mark Vachon of Hill, a member of the first group, was hit with shotgun pellets.  He was able to walk out of the area; an ambulance then took him to Franklin Regional Hospital, where he was treated and released the same day. 

"Wearing blaze orange is very important, but hunters also must know the location of their hunting party and of other hunters around them, at all times, especially at these pheasant-release sites," said Fish and Game Conservation Officer Jim Kneeland, who responded to the incident.  The incident remains under investigation; no additional information is available at this time.

Overall, New Hampshire has a good record for hunting safety.  The average yearly number of hunting incidents in the state has gone steadily down since the 1960s.  Progress in reducing hunting-related incidents can be attributed to both the widespread use of blaze orange clothing and mandatory hunter education.  The first hunter education law was passed in New Hampshire in 1963, and hunter education became a requirement for all first-time hunters in the state in 1977. The 1960s saw an average of 21.4 hunting-related shooting incidents per year in New Hampshire. Fewer incidents have occurred each decade since, with an average of 3.1 incidents per year since 2000.  Serious incidents are even rarer – a total of four hunting-related fatalities have occurred in the state in the last 15 years.

All pheasant hunters are urged to follow these basic safety guidelines:

Wear hunter orange on your head, back and chest.
Control your firearm muzzle at all times.
Always wear safety glasses.
Know where your hunting partners are at all times.
Shoot only within your zone of fire.
Be sure of your target and what is beyond.
Always keep your hunting dog under control.

While most hunting-related incidents do not involve nonhunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts getting out to enjoy the fall woods should think safety as well, by sticking to established trails and wearing blaze orange during hunting seasons.

For more information on dates and details of N.H. hunting seasons, online license sales, or to download the N.H. Hunting Digest, visit www.huntnh.com/Hunting/hunting.htm.

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