Hunting Accidents in Texas

It’s no secret that we Texans are proud of our heritage and traditions. Barbeque, high school football, and recreation in the great outdoors – these are some of our most cherished Texas traditions. Because of its size, diverse geography, coastal location, and abundant wildlife, the Lone Star State is overflowing with a wide variety of outdoor opportunities. And every year, millions of Texans head out in search of ways to take advantage of these opportunities.

In 2014, the State of Texas sold 1,284,933 individual hunting licenses. This was the highest number in over 20 years since the state sold 1,325,474 individual hunting licenses back in 1983.[i] The number of licenses sold stays fairly consistent from year to year (1,235,590 licenses were sold in 2018) which leads to the obvious conclusion – hunting season is a busy time with lots of hunters in the field. And although Texas is big, 1.2 million is a LOT of hunters. With that many sportsmen and women occupying the field during the same general time frame, accidents are bound to happen.

Chaffin & Homan Hunting Lawyers

For its part, the State of Texas has managed to significantly reduce the incidence of hunting accidents since implementing the mandatory hunter education and safety program. Historically, records of “hunting incidents” started being kept by the National Rifle Association in the late 1940s.[ii] The data showed that hunters in the field were plagued by a disturbingly high rate of accidental shootings. Texas responded to the growing problem by instituting a voluntary safety class in 1972 which became mandatory for hunters in 1988. In the 6 years prior to the voluntary hunter safety program, an average of 26 hunters per year were killed and 62 per year were injured as a result of shooting accidents. Texas’s mandatory hunter education program promotes the following “10 Commandments of Firearm Safety” which are actually printed on the card that a hunter receives after completing the course:

  1. Watch that muzzle! Keep it pointed in a safe direction at all times.
  2. Treat every firearm with the respect due a loaded gun. It might be loaded, even if you think it isn’t.
  3. Be sure of the target and what is in front of it and beyond it. Know the identifying features of the game you hunt. Make sure you have an adequate backstop—don’t shoot at a flat, hard surface or water.
  4. Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

This is the best way to prevent an accidental discharge.

  1. Check your barrel and ammunition. Make sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions, and carry only the proper ammunition for your firearm.
  2. Unload firearms when not in use. Leave actions open, and carry firearms in cases and unloaded to and from the shooting area.
  3. Point a firearm only at something you intend to shoot. Avoid all horseplay with a gun.
  4. Don’t run, jump, or climb with a loaded firearm. Unload a firearm before you climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch. Pull a firearm toward you by the butt, not the muzzle.
  5. Store firearms and ammunition separately and safely. Store each in secured locations beyond the reach of children and careless adults.
  6. Avoid alcoholic beverages before and during shooting. Also avoid mind- or behavior-altering medicines or drugs.

These are important rules for hunters and recreational shooters of all ages. And Texas’s mandatory hunter education program is having a positive impact. The annual rate of accidents per 100,000 licenses sold went from 6.8 in 1987 (the year before hunter’s ed became mandatory) down to 1.4 per 100,000 licenses last year in 2018. That is a significant improvement in hunter safety, but it is not perfect. 2018 still saw 17 reported hunting accidents, 3 of which were fatal. Some of the most common accidents are accidental shootings where individuals shoot themselves or someone else, mistaking humans for game animals, falling from deer blinds or tree stands, firearm malfunctions, and accidents involving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). It is also worth noting that a contributing factor to many (or most) hunting accidents is unfortunately a frequent guest at the deer lease or duck camp – ALCOHOL.

Chaffin & Homan have represented the victims and families of many tragic, and completely avoidable hunting accidents. We have represented shooting accident victims that have lost limbs, been severely maimed, and have even lost their lives. Firearms can do severe damage to the human body, especially those firearms and ammunition intended for hunting game animals such as deer or hogs. They should always be handled with great care and respect. Robert Chaffin and Nick Homan are both native Texans and avid outdoorsmen who have hunted and fished their entire lives. Chaffin & Homan have the utmost appreciation and respect for Texas’s outdoor traditions and everyone who buys a license and heads out into the field each year. We pray for a year that sees zero hunting accidents and deaths, but that has not happened yet and may never happen. If and when unfortunate events occur, we will be here to help put things back together as best we can.

[i] https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education/2018-hunting-accident-report.pdf

[ii] https://www.valleymorningstar.com/2019/08/24/33712/

For more information regarding this or any similar case, please contact us. Chaffin & Homan can offer a free consultation to you or a loved one and take the case on a contingency basis. Our experienced attorneys on staff persevere to maximize your return and results in a timely manner.