Originally created 12/24/06

Hunting accidents are on the decline thus far



There's been plenty of hunting in Georgia this season, but relatively few accidents, according to the Wildlife Resources Division.

In fact, there have been just 26 reported mishaps so far, continuing a gradual decline since the 1970s, said department spokeswoman Melissa Cummings.

The only fatal accident occurred Nov. 11, when Snellville, Ga., hunter Jeffrey Ray Robertson was found dead at the base of a tree where he had hunted from a modern climber stand.

According to a WRD incident report, Robertson had radioed a hunting companion that he was exiting the woods. When he failed to appear, his friend searched and found him unconscious.

An investigation concluded he fell while exiting the tree. Robertson, a licensed, experienced hunter, was wearing orange and was not under the influence of any substances, the report said.

However, there was no safety strap on the hunter or the stand, which contributed to his death.

Among non-fatal accidents this season, five hunters accidentally shot themselves - and of those, three were shot in the foot:

- An Oconee County man said his finger slipped on the hammer of his .22, causing it to fire into the back of his leg during an Oct. 15 hunting trip.

- A Heard County hunter was injured Nov. 26 when he rested his rifle barrel on his foot. He saw a deer, clicked off the safety and began to raise then rifle, which discharged after the trigger "caught on something on his shirt," an incident report said. The bullet hit his "little toe."

- In Chattooga County, a hunter shot himself in the left forearm Nov. 26 after he fell while walking through the woods.

- A Colquitt County hunter put a bullet through his right foot while hunting on Dec. 11.

- A Quitman County hunter was shot in the thigh Nov. 29 when his handgun discharged as he walked through the woods.

In Georgia, there has been an average of 73 hunting accidents and an average of eight fatalities each year since 1979, according to the Wildlife Resources Division.

Tree-stand accidents and self-inflicted injuries account for 72 percent of the total accidents, but none have involved a person not participating in the hunting activity.

This year's accident totals are well below average, although deer season doesn't end until Jan. 1, or Jan. 15 in some counties, so more accidents could still be reported. Cummings also pointed out that there are an unknown number of accidents involving tree stand injuries that don't get counted by state officials.

According to U.S. National Safety Council statistics, people are 20 times more likely to die in a car accident than while hunting.

Accidents overall have declined gradually during the past decade, in part because of mandatory hunter education programs designed to make hunters safer and more responsible afield.

In Georgia, anyone born after Jan. 1, 1961, must have a valid hunter safety certificate to buy a hunting license. Certificates are issued to those who complete and pass hunter safety courses.

STRIPED BASS FUNDING: There was more than a glimmer of hope this year that Congress would finally ante up $5.5 million needed for a planned oxygen system to improve striped bass fishing at Thurmond Lake.

Congress included, then axed, then reinstated a smaller figure, $4.6 million, in hopes of getting the money through the Energy & Water Appropriations Bill,

Last week, though, it became apparent that, with the adjournment of Congress without passage of the Water Resources Development Act, the money will not be forthcoming next year.

"Until Congress resolves appropriations issues, the Corps of Engineers cannot begin any new construction," said corps spokesman Billy Birdwell.

The project, therefore, is back to Square One for next year.

The proposed oxygen system, which anglers refer to as a "bubble line" that releases pure oxygen along miles of submerged pipes perforated with tiny holes, was designed to offer opportunities for striped bass to congregate in the Modoc area.

Currently, big stripers and the herring and shad they eat often stay upriver toward the Russell Dam tailrace during hot weather. The corps agreed to build the bubble line to offset the loss of baitfish that are killed when Russell Dam's reversible turbines are operated.

Currently, a court order allows the corps to use only two of Russell's four reversible units during spring and summer months until the oxygen system is in place.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

GEORGIA HUNTING ACCIDENTS

Season Accidents Fatalities
2006-07 26 1*
2005-06 28 3
2004-05 17 4
2003-04 45 1
2002-03 49 4
2001-02 38 6

* Through Dec. 20


Source: Georgia Department of Natural Resources