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Frye: Keeping safe in the woods, water

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

There's no such thing as a bad time to be an outdoorsman.

That moment when you feel a tug on the end of your line and know you've got a fish, maybe a big one, maybe your best ever, is special every time it happens. Moments spent relaxing around a campfire under a starry sky after a day outside that has left you weary but happy are awesome, too. So are the times when a pheasant rooster bursts out of the stubble of a field's edge or you hear a white-tailed deer crunching toward you across a carpet of fallen October leaves.

Those adventures, big and small, are wonderful.

Provided you live to tell about them.

Fortunately, your chances of going to the woods or water and coming back out alive are better today than when granddad was totting his paddle or shotgun.

Recently released statistics show that last year was the safest for hunters statewide since 1915, when the Pennsylvania Game Commission started keeping records. There were just 27 hunting accidents across the state in 2013, six fewer than the previous low of 33 in 2012.

Two of the accidents were fatal. That's sadly typical. Aside from 2012, the state has seen at least one fatal accident every year for a century.

But all told, hunting is much safer today than before the launch of hunter-education training in the 1950s, when the number of accidents routinely climbed into the hundreds annually.

It's becoming safer than ever on the water, too.

The U.S. Coast Guard released its Recreational Boating Statistics report last week, and it showed there were 560 boating fatalities nationwide in 2013. That's the lowest number on record.

Things would have been better if not for a worse-than-usual year in Pennsylvania.

There were 62 reportable boating accidents last year, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Seventeen people died.

That was up from 12 deaths from the year before and higher than the 10-year average of 12.8.

Following a couple of simple safety rules might have saved more boaters.

According to an accident analysis report from the commission, just two of the victims who died last year were wearing life jackets. Seven of those who perished had life jackets on board but weren't wearing them. The rest either had no life jackets on board or had ones that were “insufficient,” according to the commission.

Nationally, the Coast Guard reported that alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Seventeen percent of fatalities involved alcohol.

Most of the people drowned, and most — more than four of five — weren't wearing a life jacket, the Coast Guard report added.

Following simple safety rules will help you avoid such tragedies. Then you can enjoy the little moments that lead to big memories.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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