Motivations for why some people don’t hunt and others don’t even want hunters on their property vary, but among the top reasons is safety. “Many people have the misconception that hunting is unsafe,” said Jim Curcuruto, director of industry research and analysis for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). “But the data tells a different story.” Curcuruto compiled data from the National Sporting Goods Association and the Consumer Products Safety Commission and his findings are enlightening, to say the least.

According to the NSSF, a person is more than 100 times more likely to be injured playing tackle football. I tried to impress upon my 16-year-old the inherent dangers of such a violent contact sport but he insisted on abandoning years of experience playing soccer to strap on the pads and carry the pigskin. Even if he had stuck with what the rest of the world calls football, he still would have been 34 times more likely to be injured than while hunting with a firearm.

I can’t say for sure why he changed from soccer to football. Perhaps it was the cheerleaders. They don’t have them for soccer. But I wonder how eagerly those young lasses would jump and tumble about on the sidelines knowing they are 25 times more likely to be injured than if they had gone duck hunting.

Much of the credit for how safe hunting has become should go to the International Hunter Education Association for developing a curriculum for hunter safety courses, and to the thousands of volunteers who teach those courses. They’ve helped make hunting one of the safest activities you can pursue out of doors – safer than golf, tennis, jogging and even fishing. You’re four times more likely to be injured with a fishing pole in your hands than while carrying a gun, but there’s no mandatory fishing safety education.

The injury rate for hunters is about 50 per 100,000 participants. Those are good odds, but you can hedge your bets even further by staying on the ground. The vast majority of hunting accidents (80 percent) are related to tree stands. Firearms accidents do occur but are extremely rare and most often self-inflicted. In fact, most unintentional fatalities due to firearms have nothing whatsoever to do with hunting (most occur in the home), and constitute just half of 1 percent of all unintentional fatalities in the U.S.

I’ll just have to hold my breath until football season is over and it’s time for skiing and snowboarding. Then my son will only be 19 times more likely to be injured. Meanwhile I’ll pursue less rigorous means of offseason fitness. A friend has been trying to get me to play volleyball. That leaves me only 11 times more likely to be injured than if I had gone rabbit hunting. Maybe I should opt for just plain old exercise, ride a stationary bike or lift a few weights. That lowers my odds to eight times more likely to sustain an injury. OK, what about bowling? That’s got to be safer than hunting. Nope. Twice the risk.

Ugh. I guess I’ll just have to go hunting if I want to be safe this fall. But even that could place me at tremendous risk. I’ll be 60 times more likely to be killed driving to or from my favorite hunting spot than while I’m there sharing the woods with other hunters.

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

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