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Got your gun safety (mindset) clicked on?

You may have helped set a new record for hunter gun safety in Pennsylvania. Youth safety training has been the key.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

May 8, 2016

2 Min Read

Hunter safety in Pennsylvania is at an all-time high. In 2015, there were only 23 hunting-related shooting incidents statewide. That’s the lowest number on record, reports Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Executive Director R. Matthew Hough

Only two of the 23 incidents resulted in fatalities. One was self-inflicted, and one resulted from a shot where the victim was in the line of fire according to the data compiled on hunting-related shooting incidents. The leading causes of HRSIs were a victim being in the line of fire or unintentional discharge; each accounted for 35% of the total.


Five of the 23 incidents involved individuals with 10 or fewer years of hunting experience. No incidents involved a youth participating in PGC’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program.

Why the drop

HRSIs in Pennsylvania declined nearly 80% since hunter-education training began in 1959. The previous record-low was 27 incidents in 2013. Before that, there never had been fewer than 33 incidents reported in a year.

“If you look back at the hundreds of incidents that occurred year after year in Pennsylvania decades ago, it really is remarkable how far hunter safety has come,” says Hough. “It’s been accomplished largely through a team of hard-working volunteers dedicated to making hunting continually safer.” But he adds, “There still is work to do. Even one incident is too many.”

Required “hunter orange” has much to do with the safety trend, he says. But the hunter and trapper education and certification programs have been just as essential.

The Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which enables hunters under the age of 12 to harvest certain wildlife species if they’re accompanied by a licensed adult, continues to provide safety training. About 32,680 Mentored Youth Permits were issued in 2015. And, 38,671 students received Basic Hunter-Trapper Education certification.

“Pennsylvania has reached many safety milestones, particularly in recent years, but also over the 50-plus years since hunter-education training first began,” notes Jim Daley, a PGC commissioner and longtime hunter-education instructor. “Every student we teach becomes an ambassador for safe, responsible and ethical hunting.”

Some 2,326 volunteer instructors have played a key role. “Over time, this model has created a cultural shift among hunters – making hunting in Pennsylvania even safer.”

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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