Hooray for hunting season! Yes, that time of year is once again upon us. Bring on the beer, guns, and climbing birds-eye-view tree stands all before the crack of dawn! Nothing could possibly go wrong with that recipe for disaster, right?

According to URMC, usually not; to be specific, only about 10% of the time do hunters find themselves injured in a given year. Well, that’s not so bad, right? Actually, it’s downright terrible, considering the solution to preventing these injuries is an extremely simple one: wear a safety harness. Sounds easy enough, but how long did it take people to get in the habit of wearing seat belts in the car? For some reason, we humans just don’t like being inhibited by contraptions meant to protect us from life altering – or ending – accidents.

According to Jason Huang, M.D., URMC neurosurgeon specializing in head and spine injuries,

“We are still seeing hunters who have taken unnecessary risks by not wearing the safety belt or harness and endure significant injuries from a fall. Compared to a decade ago, we have made no progress in preventing these neurological injuries, despite safety advances – which is unacceptable.”

In a review of 54 hunting accidents or falls between the years of 2003 and 2011, neurosurgeons saw injuries ranging from cervical spine fractures, traumatic brain injuries, collapsed lungs, internal damage to the spleen, liver, and kidneys, and even paraplegia and quadriplegia. According to Huang, most of these accidents would have been prevented if the hunters had worn a safety harness.

Let’s be honest:  hunting season is a great time! Where I grew up in Pennsylvania, they even close schools and businesses during the first day of each game season because they know everyone wants to participate – but let’s make sure we can all make the most of the day without falling 30+ feet to the hard ground. Remember: if you fall, the deer wins!

If you think Dick Cheney “hunting” birds that were tied down till moments before he arrived was bad, wait till you see what Sarah Palin encouraged in Alaska: hunting wolves in the winter from airplanes.

A warning: the following advertisement is not something you want to watch if you’re sensitive to animal cruelty. I’m not carrying it in my VodPod video gallery because I cannot make such a warning in that case.

Let me say that I can think of reasons people might want to justify such hunting methods.  For example, over-population of wolves.  We’ve had similar controversies in Rochester over the deer over-population problem at Durand Eastman Park, and deer don’t kill our livestock or our family dog.

However, there doesn’t seem to be any real indication that the wolf population of Alaska is really a problem.  Rather, there is a history of over-management of the wolf population that extends well into the past, and the policy is really more vestigal than a genuinely modern wildlife program.  Alaska meanwhile has the largest remaining population of grey wolves in the United States which it threatens to destroy with this backward program.

Personally, while I respect and often agree with animal rights advocates, I’m not shy about the need for hunting in some situations.  Neither do I have an objection to hunting as a recreational sport.  But where we’re from here in Upstate New York, there is a sense of basic fairness to the way we go about hunting.  For all the technology we have to employ in the task of hunting, ultimately, the expectation is that it comes down to one man (or woman), one gun and one animal.  You aren’t allowed to hunt before dawn; you aren’t allowed to shine lights at deer to stun them into immobility.  You certainly are not allowed to circle them in a plane and keep taking shots till you hit them.