4.5 - Example: Hunting-Related Shooting Incidents

Example 4-5: Hunting-Related Shooting Incidents in Pennsylvania, 1987-1999 Section

Joseph L. Smith, MD, MS1, G. Craig Wood, MS1, and Eugene J. Lengerich, VMD, MS2 (2005) Hunting-Related Shooting Incidents in Pennsylvania, 1987-1999. 58: 582-590

Dr. Smith, an intensive care physician, noticed that the number of injuries associated with hunting seemed to vary depending on the species being hunted. He thought turkey season was likely to be the most dangerous time for a hunter in the woods of Pennsylvania. However, data on hunting injuries had not been collected systematically and the rates of injury were unknown. Dr. Smith initiated a study to characterize and provide rates for hunting injuries associated with various game species. In the end, perhaps he would discover whether hunting for the Thanksgiving turkey or for venison for Christmas was associated with a greater risk of injury. Moreover, had the rates of injury changed over time?

Methods: For the 1,345 hunting-related shooting incidents in Pennsylvania from 1987-1999, age-adjusted hunter injury rates and case-fatality ratios were calculated for each of seven species hunted. Differences in the incident and injury rates were examined using 95% confidence intervals.

Let’s consider the information presented in Table 1 from this paper. The first column is the number of hunters over the 13-year period. The second and third columns do not always match in number because there can be multiple injuries for one incident. The injury rate is not just the number of injuries divided by the number of hunters. Recall that younger hunters are more likely to have an injury. Thus, the rates were age-adjusted so that the comparison between species hunted would not be confounded with differing ages of hunters during different seasons. The case fatality rate is not age-adjusted; it is simply the ratio of fatalities to injuries. Multiple party describes whether or not the hunter shot himself. For example, 99% of the spring turkey injuries were instances where someone was shot by someone else. About 45% of white tailed deer injuries were instances where people shot themselves (for example, while crossing fences or falling out of trees,) The cause, such as lack of skill or lack of judgment is recorded. Turkey hunters appear to make many poor decisions.

table of data

Here is a graph of age-specific rates for each of the species hunted.


Results: The intensive care physician was correct in terms of the rate of injury. Fall turkey hunters had the highest rate of hunting- related shooting incidents (7.5 per 100,000 hunters); grouse hunters the lowest (1.9) injury rate. However, even if a hunter is less likely to have a hunting-related injury during deer season than turkey season, it is worse to be shot by a deer hunter than a turkey hunter. The case-fatality ratio was highest for deer hunters (10.3%) and lowest for pheasant hunters (1.3%). Poor skill was the leading cause of deer hunting injuries and poor judgment the leading cause for injuries while hunting other species. Coinciding with changes in regulation of hunter-orange clothing, shooting injury rates for fall turkey hunters initially decreased (rate ratio = 4.1) when the percentage of hunter orange was increased, and then increased (rate ratio = 0.5) when this percentage of required hunter orange was decreased. (see Table 2 in the paper)

Thus, rates calculated from surveillance data support requiring hunter-orange apparel to decrease the shooting injuries among turkey hunters. We also affirmed that hunters < 20 years of age tend to have the highest injury rates.

Conclusions: Rates and characteristics of hunting-related shooting injuries varied by hunted species. Regulations concerning hunter orange clothing appeared to affect fall turkey hunting rates favorably.

Think about it! Section

Come up with an answer to this question by yourself and then click on the icon to the left to reveal the solution.

Where would you target behavioral interventions?

You might offer educational programs or target practice to young hunters; require them to be accompanied by an experienced adult in the field.

Continue to require hunter-orange apparel.