One fatality and two other hunting-related shooting accidents over two days during the first week of firearm season for deer raised questions about Maine’s hunter safety record.

On Nov. 4, Peter Kolofsky, 46, of Sebago was shot to death while hunting there, allegedly by William Briggs, 61, of Windham. A day earlier, a Portsmouth, N.H., man target-shooting in Casco was shot in the stomach by a hunter. Also that day, a Hebron man was shot in the leg by a hunting companion.

But a comparison with several other states where hunting for deer and other big game is popular suggests hunting in Maine is probably no more dangerous than it is elsewhere.

Of nine states that issue large numbers of deer and other big game hunting licenses and had data available last week, Maine had among the fewest fatalities from 2001 to 2010, with four. Arkansas recorded 36 hunting fatalities during the period, Texas had 35, Pennsylvania, 29; Idaho and Vermont, 8 each; New Hampshire, 4; Wyoming, 2; Nevada 0.

Maine’s rate of hunting-related firearms accidents per 100,000 licensed hunters as compared with six of the above states fell about in the middle of the pack, at about 42 incidents per 100,000, or a little over four per 100,000 per year during that period.

Arkansas ranked highest, at 71 incidents per 100,000 licensed hunters, and Wyoming ranked lowest at seven incidents. Pennsylvania recorded 50 incidents per 100,000, and Texas recorded 36 over the 10-year period.

Among other popular hunting states in New England, Maine had fewer incidents per 100,000 licenses over that 10-year period than either New Hampshire, at 56 incidents, or Vermont, at 55 incidents.

State officials cited several factors that help keep hunting accidents down in Maine. Hunters licensed here must complete a hunter education course, and must wear at least two articles of hunter-orange clothing while hunting. There is also the state’s “ID law,” which requires hunters to positively identify their target before pulling the trigger.

“Some states don’t require two articles like we do. And our target ID law may be a benefit,” said Mike Sawyer, recreational safety coordinator for Maine’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department.

While many states instituted a mandatory hunter safety course in the 1970s and Maine didn’t do so until 1986, the benefits here were immediate, Sawyer said.

“We’re later than some. But since 1986 the number of incidents has dropped,” he said. The number of incidents hit a high of 52 in 1970, but dropped to seven last year, he said.

Some states have reported significantly fewer accidents than Maine, but and fish and game officials say other factors, including more open hunting terrain, can make a difference.

Wyoming’s mountainous terrain, for example, allows for better visibility than does Maine’s dense forestland. Fish and game officials said Wyoming has no positive ID law because it isn’t necessary. Hunters there also have more room to spread out.

“We push hunter education, and we have close to 100,000 square miles and a little less than half a million people. So our population density is much lighter than other states,” said Jeff Obrecht, information officer at Wyoming Fish and Game Department.

Nevada hasn’t had a hunting fatality in 10 years.

“You just don’t have a lot of cover. You have the opportunity to know what you’re looking at. There is a reason it’s called ‘the Great American Desert,’ ” said Chris Healy, public information officer at the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: [email protected]

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