Wildlife agency reports increase in serious and fatal firearm-related hunting incidents

Published 11:25 am Friday, December 8, 2023

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) Law Enforcement Division is experiencing an increase in firearm-related hunting incidents this year involving serious injury and fatalities. NCWRC reminds hunters to practice firearm safety when hunting or using firearms.

Wildlife Law Enforcement reports there have been five fatalities involving hunting with a firearm this hunting season, more than the past three seasons combined, which had one fatality between 2020-2022. Fourteen hunting-related incidents have occurred thus far in 2023, with 11 of them involving a firearm.

“The current data for this season indicates that 50% of hunting incidents involving a firearm resulted in a fatality,” said Capt. Branden Jones of NCWRC’s Law Enforcement Division.

North Carolina ranks seventh in the nation for licensed hunters at 603,995, according to the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA). Many firearm injuries occur when hunters fail to properly identify their target and mistake another hunter for game, or carelessly handle a firearm resulting in self-inflicted injuries.

Hunting incidents can be reduced through safe firearm handling. NCWRC offers the following important rules of firearm safety:

  1. Positively identify target before pulling the trigger.
  2. Always point a firearm in a safe direction.
  3. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded and never assume it’s unloaded.
  4. Use binoculars, rather than a rifle scope, to identify the target.
  5. Keep finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  6. Be sure of the target­ and that there are no houses, vehicles, powerlines, livestock or people in front of or behind it.
  7. Avoid the use of alcohol and drugs as they may affect judgement when hunting.
  8. Comply with blaze orange laws as required.

“Let someone know your whereabouts and approximate return time,” says Capt. Jones. “We want everyone participating in hunting activities to keep safety as their number one priority and continue to make memories for many years to come.”

In efforts to reduce hunting-related incidents, NCWRC offers basic hunter education certification courses, both in-person and online.

“Through increased education, access to shooting ranges, and advanced educational opportunities, students and hunters become more skilled and proficient in the use of hunting equipment,” said NCWRC Engagement and Education Manager Carissa Daniels. “They also help hunters become more knowledgeable and aware of measures they can incorporate for a safer hunting experience.”

For more hunting information visit these NCWRC’s webpages for the  2023-24 Inland Fishing, Hunting & Trapping Regulations Digest, hunter educationhunting webinars for new hunters, and Chronic Wasting Disease.