The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the 2004 hunting season was the safest in the 40 years the state has tracked hunting-related accidents and deaths. D-N-R conservation officer Alan Crouse says there were 17 hunting accidents reported with no deaths. He says the next best year was two years ago when there were 24 hunting accidents. “We were really, really, happy with that, and to drop it down it 17 is pretty impressive I think.” The year without hunting-related deaths is a stark contest to a period from 1965 to 1967 where 58 people died in hunting accidents — almost 20 each year. Crouse believes the continued drop in the number of accidents and deaths is due to education. He says the biggest contributor to the decline in accidents and deaths has to be the hunter education courses that are required for anyone born after January first of 1967. He says he also thinks the new law that requires upland game hunters to wear blaze orange has also contributed to hunter safety. Crouse says the education courses give people important training in an activity where mistakes cause serious problems. He says they work almost exclusively on safe firearms handling. Each student has to demonstrate the ability to load and unload a firearm, how to carry a firearm in a safe manner, and demonstrate the ability to do things like cross a fence with a firearm. Crouse says the majority of the people that hunt in Iowa have taken a required safety course. He says there’s still a considerable amount of people who have not had the course, but he estimates about two-thirds of the hunters have taken the course. Two people died in hunting accidents in 2003, one in 2002, three in 2001 and one in 2000.