Outdoors notebook: Pennsylvania hunters set safety record

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Back in the bad old days, Pennsylvania hunters were involved in hundreds of hunting accidents every year.

Not anymore. In 2013, 27 incidents were reported representing a decrease from 2012 and a record low. According to a new report from the state Game Commission, which has been tracking hunting accidents since 1915, there had never been fewer than 33 hunting-related shooting incidents in a single year.

Game Commission executive director Matt Hough attributed the upward trend in hunting safety to requirements that hunters wear blaze orange during most hunting seasons, and the state's hunter-trapper education program, which last year included 40,971 students. Since hunter education began in 1959, hunting-related shooting incidents have declined by nearly 80 percent.

"There's still work to do," Hough said, in a written statement. "Even one incident is too many and, as the record shows, we do not take hunter safety lightly. That said, we continue to be encouraged by record-low numbers of incidents and the continuing trend of safer hunting in Pennsylvania."

An incident rate is established by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. The agency reported the 2.85 incident rate for 2013 was 20 percent lower than the 2012 rate of 3.52. Two of the 2013 incidents were fatal. There has been at least one hunting fatality in Pennsylvania every year except 2012, when there were none. The leading causes of 2013's hunting-related shooting incidents were unintentional discharge and a victim being in the line of fire.

Mentored Youth Fishing Day

Nearly 2,000 kids registered to get a free permit to participate in a new program that encourages experienced adults to take a kid fishing. Started as a limited pilot program last year, Mentored Youth Fishing Day will be held May 10 on 41 designated lakes (the original dates, March 22 and April 5, were rescheduled due to unseasonable cold weather and ice).

The following Southwest Pennsylvania waters are included in the program: Allegheny County, North Park Lake; Butler, Harbar Acres Lake; Fayette, Dunlap Creek Lake; Somerset, Laurel Hill Lake; Washington, Canonsburg Lake; Westmoreland, Mammoth Lake and lower Twin Lakes.

To increase the kids' chances of catching trout, those lakes will be stocked May 9 and the lakes will be closed to all fishing noon May 9 to 8 a.m. May 10. Program waters will be open only to participating youths and their mentors 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. May 10, and they may keep two trout.

Stocking schedule changes

Despite published stocking schedules, several waters in Westmoreland County didn't get trout.

Fish and Boat reported that Mission Road Bridge on Loyalhanna Creek was not stocked due to construction. Fourmile Run will no longer be stocked due to landowner issues and a lack of parking for anglers. New parts of Loyalhanna Creek were stocked and opened to fishing from Zimmerman Run down to Ligonier Beach.

Outdoor recreation survey

State agencies are collaborating on an update of the five-year Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, designed to help in the development of Pennsylvania recreation investments, policies and facilities through 2018.

Questions about hunting, conservation programs, wildlife habitat and land acquisitions are included, and Pennsylvania's hunters, trappers, sport shooters and wildlife enthusiasts are encouraged to participate. A scientific survey was conducted earlier this year, and a survey of recreation providers is being developed. Citizen feedback is sought at www.surveymonkey.com/s/paoutdoorrec. The survey remains open through May 16.

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