DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) &mdash Pheasant hunting season is opening in Iowa amid a 10-year trend of declining accidents.
Hunting accidents have dropped dramatically since their peak in the mid-1960s, when more than 100 were reported each year from 1965 to 1967, according to an analysis by the Des Moines Register.
The review of state data found that 58 deaths were reported in that time period. By contrast, there were 102 accidents reported over the last five years, and three of them were fatal.
State and local officials say the decline is due to mandatory hunter education courses, a requirement to wear orange clothing, and a shrinking number of hunters.
Hunters headed outdoors should remember the following safety tips, experts said: Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, never point at anything you don't want to shoot and keep your finger off the trigger — and the safety on — until ready to fire.
"If people would follow those three rules, you'd eliminate hunting accidents," said David Sedivec, president of the Iowa Hunter Education Instructor Association.
The data suggest that hunters are heeding those warnings, Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials say.
The Register reviewed nearly 200 firearm and bow hunting accidents reported since 2004. The analysis found that deer hunting accounted for 92 of those accidents. Pheasant hunters were second, with 34 accidents reported during that span.
Nearly 60 percent of hunters injured or killed were shot by another hunter. Another 52 hunters suffered self-inflicted wounds, state data show.
About 30 percent of those involved in accidents were not wearing at least one item of blaze orange caps or clothing, according to the data. Experienced hunters accounted for nearly three out of every four accidents. Those who injured themselves or others averaged 23 years of hunting experience.
Most hunting accidents happened on weekends, when there are more hunters out in the field. Nearly 70 percent of accidents happened on Saturdays or Sundays, the review found.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, www.desmoinesregister.com