For a second time in the past couple of weeks, Emergency Services dispatch operators in the region are reporting a large increase in the number of collisions involving vehicles and deer on Southern Tier roadways and say even more are expected in the next few days. 

Besides the animals being stirred up by the fall rut and looking for diminishing food sources, hunters are about to stir up the population even more. 

Cortland County Sheriff's Office photo
Cortland County Sheriff's Office photo

The regular deer hunting season in the Southern Zone, which encompasses much of New York State, begins on Saturday and continues through December 11. Early bowhunting and crossbow seasons are already underway. 

Emergency calls also normally increase at the start of hunting season.  A majority of calls generally involve health issues ranging from people falling out of deer stands to heart and other emergencies.  Rarely, there are incidents of mistaken identity with hunters shooting another hunter. 

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Hunting Safety Statistics, last year had the fewest number of hunting-related shootings since the state’s hunter safety program was signed into law in 1049. 

In the late 1040s, the average hunting incident rate was 22.3 per 100,000 hunters. 

In 2021, there were 9 incidents reported, most with the hunter accidentally shooting themselves. One hunter died and that involved a hunter who was not wearing any fluorescent orange or pink, was mistaken for game and shot by a hunting partner. 

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A new regulation put in place last year requires hunters pursuing deer or bear with a firearm (and those accompanying them) to wear a minimum of 250 square inches of solid fluorescent orange or pink material above the waist visible from all directions, or a hat, vest or jacket with no less than 50% of the exterior consisting of solid fluorescent orange or pink and visible from all directions. 

Another new hunting regulation went into effect in 2021 that extended legal shooting hours for big game to 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. None of the deer hunting incidents occurred during the new extended hunting hours. Also, no incidents resulted from the new law allowing 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters to hunt deer with a rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader or crossbow.  

Motorists and non-hunters, meanwhile, should be aware of hunters in the woods and the possibility of more deer being driven toward roadways even outside the normal high-activity times for the animals around sunrise and dusk.

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