The tragedy that struck a Lenawee County family last week is a reminder of the frailty of human existence and a warning to hunters young and old to exercise caution when they engage in the sport they love.
For many, hunting is a calming, almost spiritual experience. It encourages a closeness to nature and an appreciation for the animals hunted. Hunting can promote maturity and teach responsibility. It's also a $23 billion industry in the United States.
In 2006, the year of the most recent federal survey, some 12.5 million Americans 16 years of age and older hunted everything from rabbits and squirrels to elk and bear. Thousands of young people under the age of 16 took advantage of youth hunting opportunities as well.
Half a million people hunted Ohio's fields and forests in 2006. They added nearly $1 billion dollars to the state economy.
Despite the huge numbers of hunters, fatal accidents are rare. Nationally, according to the International Hunter Education Association, only about 1,000 hunting accidents resulting in about 100 deaths are reported each year. The accident that claimed the life of Collin Fletcher was only the sixth hunting-related fatality locally in the past 15 years.
In northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan we are nearing the start of the white-tail deer season, the busiest hunting season of the year. Specialty seasons, such as for bow hunters and muzzleloaders in Ohio, already are under way.
While officials have not determined how the Fairfield Township teenager was shot, we are certain that even one accident is too many. Hunting's commendable safety record offers little solace to families touched by tragedy.
Handling firearms is inherently dangerous. Accidents can befall even the most careful hunters. A moment's inattention or one bad decision can lead to disaster. Practicing proper gun safety is essential, therefore, as is following all hunting regulations.
Don't become a statistic this hunting season.