I was at a postseason get-together for one of my kids’ soccer teams recently when a parent approached me and asked, “When is hunting season over?” They were most concerned with when it would be safe to go outside without wearing orange.

I advised them that the regular firearms season was over, which seemed to put them at ease. The conversation then moved on to other subjects, like the upcoming ski season.

It wasn’t until later that the irony of the situation struck me. Our children — including my kid, who is a hunter — were at much greater risk before and after hunting season.

According to data compiled by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the International Hunter Education Association’s Hunter Incident Clearinghouse, hunting ranks third in safety when compared to 28 other recreational pursuits.

With an injury rate of 0.05 percent — about one injury per 2,000 participants — firearms hunting is bettered only by camping (.01 percent) and billiards (.02 percent).

Looking for a little indoor recreation to stay in shape this winter? You’re 11 times more likely to be injured playing volleyball than hunting. Outdoors, you’re 19 times more likely to be injured snowboarding.

We all worry about our kids. Statistically, they face far greater risk in extracurricular activities, being 105 more times likely to be injured playing tackle football, 34 times more likely to be injured playing soccer, and 25 times more likely to be injured cheerleading. Yup, cheerleading.

“Many people have the misconception that hunting is unsafe, but the data tells a different story,” said Jim Curcuruto, director of industry research and analysis for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“Comprehensive hunter education classes that emphasize the basic rules of firearm safety and a culture of hunters helping fellow hunters practice safe firearms handling in the field are responsible for this good record.”

Hunter safety education and mandated blaze orange apparel during certain seasons have largely been responsible for a significant decline in hunting-related accidents. Much of that is related to safe firearms handling, which could explain why firearms represent only a fraction of hunting-related injuries.

Of an estimated 16.3 million hunters who went afield last year, about 8,122 sustained injuries — the vast majority (more than 6,600) related to treestands. And most of those are the hunter’s fault.

The Tree Stand Manufacturers Association has been extremely proactive when it comes to safety. All members’ products — treestands and harnesses — must meet minimum safety standards and are certified by designated independent testing firms.

The association also requires its members to include a full-body harness fall arrest system with every stand they sell. This, in turn, has spawned a category of arrest-harness devices that are increasingly safer and more comfortable.

Ultimately, it comes down to common sense and education, the latter of which is the primary mission of the NSSF and nationwide hunter safety programs. Hunting has become so safe that most hunters face their greatest risk driving to and from hunting locations. And nonhunters are in far greater peril driving to and from soccer games.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]