Officials: record number of deaths and incidents during the 2021 hunting season

Hunting accidents in Texas hit a record high last year, with just one fatality, down 92% from 1988, and just 11 non-fatal accidents recorded, a drop of 84%.

What made the difference? State experts say the Hunter Education certificate, which became mandatory for young hunters in 1988, is almost certainly responsible.

The decrease since 1988 is significant, when TPWD reported 12 fatalities and 70 accidents statewide.

As more Texans get into the field and earn their Hunter Education certification, the numbers have improved dramatically, according to Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife officials.

Even before hunter education became mandatory in 1988, TPWD has been offering hunter education courses since 1972, certifying nearly 1.5 million hunters.

Today, Hunter Education is mandatory for all Texas hunters (including out-of-state hunters) born on or after September 2, 1971.

The minimum age for certification is nine years old and the certification is valid for life.

“Three-quarters of incidents in 2021 were what we call ‘swinging on game outside of a safe fire zone,'” said Steve Hall, hunter education coordinator for TPWD. “This is the most common accident in Texas, in addition to careless handling in and around vehicles. The cardinal rule of hunting and shooting safety is to keep the barrel of a gun clean. fire always pointed in a safe direction.

Calvin Atkinson is a Texas game warden assigned to Cameron County. He believes mandatory hunter training certification has made a big difference, but he also points out that game wardens have become much more proactive with their own hunter safety programs.

“Operation Outdoors events are events that we run and encourage safe hunting and teach young people how to fish, how to hunt properly,” he said. “We also organize education courses ourselves as game wardens for young audiences.”

Even after nearly 40 years, Texas Game Wardens still have to cite young hunters who don’t have the required certificate, he says.

“The Dove season is where we see a lot of non-compliance action happening,” Atkinson said. “It’s usually a citation, and it depends on the circumstances, but if that citation is issued to an individual, that’s what we call a ‘repairable ticket’.”

“So if they take the course and get their hunter’s certificate and present it to the judge, the judge should reject the ticket,” he added.

Atkinson said hunters sometimes complain about the mandatory program, and although he’s only been a game warden for about five years, he hasn’t heard of much of the program’s initial rollback in the 1980s.

“I imagine the transition was pretty slow to get to where it was all right,” Atkinson said. “We still have some resistance today with people. You get a lot of people during dove season who are new to the hunting world and they go to Walmart or wherever and buy their hunting license and they don’t get asked at that time, “Do you have your safety course for hunters ?

“So let’s say they get their license and they go out in the field and we check them and they haven’t taken the hunter safety course,” he added. “Well, a lot of people try to blame it on the sellers, saying, like, ‘Hey, they didn’t ask us,’ when in fact it’s their responsibility to know the laws and regulations.”

In 2021, none of the accidents cited by TPWD occurred in the Rio Grande Valley.

The only fatality occurred in Harrison County, when a hunter went to unload his rifle and accidentally shot and killed a member of his hunting party. The 33-year-old thought he had fully unloaded his .30-.30 lever action rifle but only ejected four rounds, not five. He aimed the rifle and dropped the hammer, killing a bystander with the final blow.