Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting

ND: Hunting accidents mar the beginning of pheasant season

October 14, 2010

Hunting accidents mar the beginning of pheasant season

Pheasant numbers are up this year, thanks in part to good habitat in the form of dense cover and more favorable weather during June, when pheasants are in the nest.

North Dakota's pheasant season opened Saturday and not without incident.

Six hunters were shot accidentally during the opening weekend, five hit by shotgun blasts and the sixth hit by a .22 caliber bullet when a hunter was unloading a pistol and it discharged, hitting his partner.

Two non-residents were shot about 10 a.m. Saturday morning within about 15 miles of each other in separate incidents.

For the most part, North Dakota is among the safest states when it comes to hunting accidents, averaging about a dozen each year.

Most of the accidents that happen while pheasant hunting have the same cause: shooters swinging on birds and firing while someone in their party is downrange.

Game warden Jerad Bleum of Belfield said the accidents that happened last weekend, except for the one with the .22 pistol, all had that cause in common.

While state hunting laws do not require pheasant hunters to wear blaze orange, it's a good idea nonetheless. But as last weekend's incidents prove, wearing blaze orange will not stop accidents in the field.

In all cases, Bluem said the hunters were wearing at least one article of orange clothing.

In the case of the pheasant hunting accidents, Bluem said the hunters were working areas of light grass cover with good visibility. None of the injuries was serious, he said.

With between 60,000 to 70,000 resident and non-resident hunters taking to the field last weekend, the opportunity for accidents while hunting is more than just a passing concern.

Jon Hanson, hunting safety coordinator for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said while wearing orange is encouraged, it would not be a law easily enforced if it were put on the books.

And while North Dakota is among the safest states in terms of hunting safety, there have been fatalities. In 2008, a young hunter was killed while pheasant hunting in the western part of the state.

Before that, there was a muzzleloader fatality in 2005.

Last year in South Dakota for example, there were 37 hunting-related accidents, mostly during pheasant hunting.

The 20-year average in South Dakota is 32 accidents during the hunting season. .

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