The Wisconsin DNR is calling the 2006 gun-deer season one of the safest on record. One hunter was killed and 10 others injured statewide during the 9-day hunt. While there's always room for improvement, DNR leaders say more hunters are putting safety first.
From the start Wisconsin deer hunters have been in harm's way.
In 1900, 12 hunters died; 1914, the death total hit 24.
It wasn't until 1973 when the state saw its first fatal-free hunting season, and there hasn't been one since.
"Somewhere between 50 and 80% of our accidents occur when someone is shooting at a running deer," says Warden Jeremy Plautz.
Last year, there were 14 hunting accidents with three deaths.
Compare that with this year's total and Plautz says progress is being made.
"If you compare it throughout history we are definitely on a declining trend," he says.
Plautz says the state's mandated hunting safety course, established in 1967, is saving lives.
"Anybody born on/or after January 1, 1973, which would make people coming up on age 34, are going to have to go through the hunting education program, prior to purchasing a hunting license," says Plautz.
The class covers four basic rules.
"Treat every firearm as if they were loaded; always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction; know your target and what is beyond; and keep the safety on and finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot," he clarifies.
600-thousand men and women searched for that trophy buck this year. With that many people roaming the woods, Plautz says statistically speaking hunting is a safe sport.
"Your odds of being involved in a hunting accident are like your odds of being hit by lightning," he says.
With hunters being more safety conscious, the DNR is hopeful an accident-free season is just around the corner.
"I think we can get there, that's our goal and that's what we want to do," concludes Plautz.
While the regular season is over, hunting in CWD eradication zones goes through December 10th.
On a sidenote, hunters are required to wear blaze orange-colored clothes--so they're easily spotted by other hunters. That's been a state law since 1980.