A man died in a hunting accident last September in Wright County, but the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says it was the only deadly mishap of 2008. Joe Wilkinson with the D.N.R. says overall it’s been a fairly safe decade for hunting in Iowa.
"Of course, any fatality is one too many, but we’re really about as low as we can get at one or two a year," Wilkinson said. "Especially when you look at the 1960s and 70s, when it was not uncommon to have 10 or 12 a year." In 1965, 20 hunters died in accidents in Iowa. Wilkinson says hunter education courses have reduced the number of incidents.
The 10-hour course became mandatory for Iowans to receive a hunting license in 1983. "Basically, we have hunters that know a little more before they even step out in the field now. That’s the primary reason, we’re instructing about 11,000 people a year," Wilkinson said. Aside from the one fatality, hunting accidents also accounted for 11 injuries last year and five reports of property damage.
Wilkinson says most accidents occur when hunters swing their weapon to hit the moving bird or deer and they don’t identify what’s beyond the target. Hunting numbers have also dipped noticeably in the last 40 years in Iowa, but Wilkinson says it’s not enough to account for the drastic drop in fatals and injuries.
Today, around 300,000 Iowans hold hunting licenses or landowner tag.