Gun Deer Season Proving Dangerous to Hunters in Region 8

NOVEMBER 16, 2004 - Posted at 5:16 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR - The 2004-2005 dear season is underway in Arkansas, and thousands of hunters are fanned out across the Natural State in hopes of bagging the elusive white-tailed buck.

It is a recreational opportunity relished in many parts of the country, especially in Region 8.  Unfortunately, reports of accidents in the deer woods mar what many consider to be an almost sacred outing.

Opening weekend of gun deer season saw a 13-year-old Jonesboro boy die in a gun-related accident in the deer woods of Sharp County.  Another accident in which a person was wounded occured in Clay County on Sunday.

Statistics from the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission reveal that fewer people were injured in hunting accidents during the 2002-'03 hunting season, as compared to the previous season, marking the third consecutive year in which deer hunting-related accidents have declined in the state.  However, although the accident count is down, hunting-related fatalities stand at five, one more than the same statistic that died the previous season.

Arkansas Game & Fish Commission officials say it is terribly important that hunters are cautious when they are in the woods.

This past weekend, more 300,000 hunters were in the woods across Arkansas.  So far, only ten accidents have been reported, six involving tree stands, and four involving firearms.  "If it's pointed down at the ground, it ain't going to hurt anyone," said game warden ButchWilkins of deer rifles.  "If it's pointed at you or someone else, you have a real situation on your hands."  Wilkins says most wounds inflicted in the Arkansas deer woods in recent years are self-inflicted.  "Most of the time you are going to shoot yourself, or your hunting companion is going to shoot you.  Very rarely now will someone shoot someone mistaken for game because of hunter orange regulations."

"You never know what could go wrong, if you fall down the gun could go off when it hits the ground," said sporting goods salesman Dennis Noel of Jonesboro.

Hunters should also remember that young hunters, in many cases children, will also be in the woods at the same time.  "Until they get to where they are going, just leave their gun unloaded, and keep them close by.  And make them realize about how important gun safety really is," advises Noel.

"You've got to treat a gun like it could potentially load itself.  You have to treat it like its loaded all of the time," added Wilkins.