Hunting Accidents Rare In Wash.

Since 1993, when safety courses became mandatory for all Washington hunters born after 1972, hunting accidents appear to have sharply declined, according to statistics from the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

However, that will be no solace today for the wife and 3-year-old daughter of Carlos Pablo Carrillo, 25, who was shot Wednesday while working in a Mason County forest.

Or for the relatives of Benny White, 50, of Kelso who died earlier this month when his liver was punctured by the arrow of his hunter partner walking behind him.

Or the husband of Pamela Almli, 54, gunned down on Sauk Mountain trail in 2008 by a 14-year-old boy who mistook her for a bear.

Or the beargrass gatherer killed in Skamania County in 2008, and evergreen pickers wounded by deer or bear hunters in 2001 and 2000.

“You pull the trigger of a high-powered firearm and you don’t know what’s between you and your target or what the target is, you’re playing Russian roulette with a life,” says WDFW Enforcement Division Deputy Chief Mike Cenci early this afternoon. “You’re being reckless.”

Carrillo was killed while picking salal in heavy timber 100 to 150 feet off an open, ungated road near California Road 9 miles northwest of Shelton.

A press release from the Mason County Sheriff’s Office says two bear hunters were walking along the road and saw what one thought was a bear. One man fired, thought he had missed, and then the pair continued along the road then left the area.

Later they heard news reports and turned themselves in, say police.

“At this point in the investigation detectives are calling the incident a tragic hunting accident,” says the sheriff’s press release.

It also states that Carillo, a Shelton resident, was wearing black clothing.

“Given what we know about the trajectory of the bullet, it was likely he was hunted over picking brush when struck,” Cenci says.

That’s no excuse, and regardless of whether the Mason County prosecutor’s office charges the hunters with anything, they face losing their state hunting privileges.

“State law requires that the department revoke hunting privileges for 10 years if it can be determined if recklessness or negligence was the reason for the fatality,” says Cenci. “If we can’t prove recklessness or negligence, the suspension is for three years.”

He says a bill will be introduced in this next legislative session that will remove the requirement to prove negligence or recklessness before revoking a hunting license.

“So, if you shoot or injure someone while hunting, it’s a 10-year revocation,” he says.

While the incident has Puget Sound’s attention — it has sparked hundreds of comments on KOMOSeattle Times, The Olympian and Hunting Washington — hunting is much safer for sportsmen and the general public than it once was.

Citing department statistics, Cenci says that between 1967 and 1976 there were 56 fatal and 351 nonfatal hunting accidents in Washington.

Between 1997 and 2006, there were eight fatalities and 102 nonfatalities.

In 2009, there were nine accidents, all nonfatal.

“We think that’s largely due to our Hunter Education program,” Cenci says.

Deer and elk hunters have also been required to wear 400 inches of bright orange clothing since 1992.

A bill introduced in 2009’s legislative session would have extended that requirement to other outdoor users at certain times of the year.

Requires all individuals recreating on public lands where hunting is allowed to wear
specific orange clothing during any time that big game hunting is allowed on the
land.

Requires all public lands where multiple recreational uses are allowed to be posted
with trailhead signage notifying users of the orange clothing requirements

It was reintroduced in 2010 but didn’t go anywhere.

To me, it’s ridiculous that hikers, bikers, berry pickers, campers, nature photographers or anyone else using the state’s great outdoors would have to dud themselves up like deer and elk hunters to avoid being shot.

Certainly, they could if it makes them feel safer, but the onus of responsibility boils down to the sportsman.

“You’re handling a deadly weapon. You’ve got to make sure of your target and the backstop. These are taught in Hunter Ed, but you’ve got to practice it every day,” says Cenci.

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One Response to “Hunting Accidents Rare In Wash.”

  1. Food For Thought On Hunter Orange « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] woods are some sort of free fire zone in fall — or winter, or spring, or summer. Statistics from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife back me up that it’s […]

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