A near tragedy emphasizes hunting safety
It would be almost impossible to trace back the origins of the hunting tradition in Sussex County. Thousands of years before European settlers began migrating this way, Native Americans hunted this wildlife-rich land to balance diets with protein. Vast collections of arrowheads, spear points and stone fishing-net weights picked up from freshly turned fields or along river banks testify to the depth of the tradition.
The conservation ethic that goes hand-in-hand with hunting also creates an important sense of stewardship for habitat and open space conservation so much a part of the Sussex fabric. For the next two months, hunting intensity will strengthen with the greatest number of seasons overlapping between now and the end of January. Hunters will be in the marshes, woods, fields and rivers stalking everything from ducks, geese and doves to rabbits, squirrel, quail and deer.
Fluorescent orange hats and vests will mark the deer and small game hunters. Waterfowl hunters in their camo will be less visible. There’s an important common thread, however, that ties them together: the constant attention that must be given to safety.
Whether it’s with shotguns for deer and waterfowl or crossbows and long bows for deer, hunting involves deadly weapons. Sussex is markedly different now than it was 100 years ago, with far more people and houses.
Many years ago, Delaware instituted a hunter safety program. The program requires all hunters born after a certain date to show safety awareness and proficiency with firearms.
No doubt that program has helped avoid many accidents. Even with that, Sussex County recorded a hunting accident during the recent shotgun deer season, near Millsboro, that could easily have been a death.
One 16-year-old hunter took a shot at a deer without knowing precisely where his 16-year-old hunting partner was at the time. The slug, according to enforcement officials, grazed the arm of the other hunter. As it turns out, the shooting hunter had not taken the hunter safety course.
Hunting represents an important Sussex tradition, but as populations grow and the countryside changes, the responsibility and safety concerns that accompany the tradition must also grow in importance.