State officials say last year was the safest year in Iowa hunting history. There were no hunting-related deaths, which ties another recent year, while last year’s number of injuries set a new record low. Rod Slings is the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ safety education coordinator.
Slings says Iowa had a total of 14 injuries in 2006, compared to 18 injuries in 2004, also with no fatalities. There was one hunting-related death in 2005. He says the hunter education courses became mandatory in 1983, though the program had been around since 1960. During the ’60s, he says it was common for hunting-related deaths to be in the double-digits, topping off with 20 in 1965.
Slings says some 12-thousand Iowans now take the hunter education courses every year. Slings says 18-hundred volunteer instructors across Iowa are part of the program’s success. He says they give their most valuable commodity, their time, to teach the hunter education courses and help make hunting safe. The 14 injuries and no fatalities is significant, considering more than 385-thousand deer tags were sold to hunters last year. Another 255-thousand people bought small game, fur harvester, hunting preserve or lifetime licenses in Iowa last year.
Slings points to another element, besides the hunting courses, as helping to reduce injuries. In 2003, the Iowa legislature made it mandatory to wear blaze orange during upland bird hunting, which he says has also helped. Slings says an entire generation of hunters is now growing up with hunter education. The free classes cover proper handling of firearms, basic wildlife behavior and identification, outdoor ethics, first aid and other topics.