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Surprising Facts About Hunting Accidents in Texas

In February of 2006, 78-year-old attorney Harry Whittington was hunting quail with some friends in Texas when he went to look for a downed bird. While returning to his group, one person from his party shot at a bird, which was in the same general direction as Whittington, accidentally hitting him in the face, neck and torso.

Whittington was taken to the intensive care unit of Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital, where he was eventually deemed to be in stable condition. Three days later, he suffered a heart attack stemming from the injuries suffered in the incident. Despite the heart attack and a collapsed lung, Whittington survived and, in a bizarre turn of events, publicly apologized to the man who shot him, who was, by the way, the Vice President of the United States – Dick Cheney.

This is perhaps the most famous hunting accident of all time. It has become the punchline for many jokes and the subject of satire in many comedy sketches. The incident was remarkable because it involved one of the most high-profile politicians in the United States, but it was not necessarily a rare occurrence.

Characteristics of Hunting Accidents in Texas

Every year in Texas, there are at least 20 hunting accidents, 10 percent of which are fatal. There are some common, and occasionally surprising, characteristics of hunting accidents that serve as a helpful lesson to all hunters. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department:

  • Most of the shooters were not intoxicated at the time of the shooting.
  • Most of the shooters had plenty of experience, at least 10 years.
  • However, most of the hunters involved had no hunting safety training, and most of the shootings involved a lack in the hunter’s judgment.
  • Most of the victims were not wearing hunter orange clothing.
  • Most of the incidents involved hunters over the age of 40.
  • Incidents were also more likely to occur at dusk, when light was lower and hunters were more likely to be fatigued.

Safer – but Not Safe

The number of new hunting licenses has increased greatly over the last 50 years, from 644,653 in 1966 to 1,180,638 in 2015. Yet, the number of hunting accidents has decreased from 81 in 1966 to 20 in 2015. Safety training and awareness has made hunting significantly safer over the past few decades, but that doesn’t mean it is risk free. In addition to shooting accidents, hunters are at risk in many other ways, including deer or tree-stand falls, mishandling of bows and even heart attacks due to strenuous activity on a hunt. Some causes of hunting-related injuries are more easily anticipated than others, but many can be avoided by safety training and communication with those around you.

Safe Hunting Tips

  • Always assume that your weapon is loaded and keep it pointed in a safe direction.
  • Be sure of your target before pulling the trigger.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger unless you intend to fire your weapon.
  • Practice shooting and handling your gun in the off-season.
  • If you plan to go hunting alone, always tell someone your plans.
  • Wear the appropriate attire – namely hunting orange gear.
  • Make sure all tree stands are as secure and safe as possible.

For many Texans, hunting is a tradition that goes back generations. As we head into some of the most popular hunting seasons in our state, make sure that safety is always a top priority.