Three Hunting Accidents
Wyoming has been vexed by three hunter firearm accidents, including one fatality, through early October, and hunters are being urged to view gun safety as their foremost goal afield.

"I can't emphasize enough the responsibility hunters inherently accept when they buy a license and go afield," said Helen McCracken, hunter education coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "It's
impossible to have a fun hunting trip without it being safe, so firearm responsibility should be the first goal of any outing."

Southwest of Rawlins on October 1, a deer hunter was shot when a .243 rifle discharged as his hunting partner moved it across the pickup seat. The bullet blasted through the truck door, striking the man in the arm and continuing into his chest.

Within a half-mile of that location on October 4, a Utah hunter sitting on his ATV was shot by a Californian with a .300 magnum rifle. The victim was airlifted to Salt Lake City. The incident is still under investigation by the Carbon County Sheriff's Office.

On October 1, a Ft. Collins, Colorado hunter was found dead in northeastern Converse County. It appeared the rifle slung over his shoulder discharged as he slipped while climbing a hill.

Although three hunter accidents were tallied in just October 2000, Wyoming only suffered three accidents in both 1998 and 1999.

McCracken said hunter accidents are not only devastating to the victim and family, the incidents reflect negatively on all hunters and are often used in gun control arguments. To go along with the epidemic of hunter accidents this season, the G&F is also noticing an increase in loaded firearms in vehicles.

Green River Wildlife management coordinator Bill Rudd has witnessed several unsettling incidents of gun handling at check stations. "I had one hunter point her rifle at me, her husband and her 3-year-old daughter as she emptied her rifle inside the truck cab," the 20-year veteran biologist said. "Then her husband proceeded to do the same thing."

Rudd and McCracken both believe Wyoming's lack of laws governing firearms in vehicles prompt some hunters to be irresponsible. "Just because it is not against the law to have a loaded firearm in a vehicle in Wyoming, does not mean it is a good idea to do so," McCracken said. "Over the years the most common place accidents occur is at the vehicle. If firearms were unloaded in the vehicle, many of these wouldn't have occurred." She also reminds all hunters of the first precept of shooting: Always be positive of your target before shooting.

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