AUGUSTA — Maine continues to get a great return on its hunter safety education, which is taught to more than 9,000 people annually.

For the second consecutive year, there were no hunting-related fatalities in 2010. Additionally, despite having more than 200,000 licensed hunters in Maine, there were only seven incidents.

“The fact that we haven’t experienced any fatalities in two years and a minute number of incidents is reflective upon hunters taking responsibility for their actions,” Maj. Gregory Sanborn, deputy chief game warden, said on Friday in Augusta.

“Maine hunters have responded to the scrutiny placed upon their sport from nonhunters by demonstrating a commitment to safety. They should be proud of this statistic. It’s quite an accomplishment.”

The majority of last year’s seven incidents were minor in nature, with the exception of a spring turkey incident in Chester being the most serious, Michael Sawyer, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Regional Safety and Vehicle coordinator, stated Thursday by e-mail.

In that hunting-related shooting incident on May 11, 2010, Joel L. Susen, 29, of Chester, shot Adam P. Jewell, 29, of LaGrange while the two were hunting turkeys together, according to a Maine Warden Service report last month.

“Susen shot Mr. Jewell in the face from approximately 40 yards with turkey load from a 12-gauge shotgun when he failed to properly identify his target,” the report stated.

Jewell lost one of his eyes due to the incident and still has pellets lodged behind his other eye.

On Jan. 20 in Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor, Susen pleaded no contest to assault while hunting and was sentenced to 60 days in jail with all but 30 days suspended.

He was also ordered to complete 40 hours of community service, including speaking to sporting groups about the importance of properly identifying one’s target when hunting. Susen also lost hunting privileges here for a decade.

Of the seven incidents last year, five were related to upland bird hunting and two involved turkey hunting; one was self-inflicted, Sawyer said.

“This record compares to eight incidents occurring in 2009 where two were self-inflicted,” he said.

Five of the incidents involved upland bird hunting, one rabbit hunting, one turkey hunting and one deer hunting.

“The records for the last two years continue a trend we have seen in the last few that show that hunting is a very safe sport,” Sawyer said.

It wasn’t always so.

According to department records, hunting incidents declined from a high of 70 in 1952, which included 19 fatalities, to a low of three incidents and no fatalities in 1998.

Enacted laws like the use of hunter orange and banning some hunting practices like driving game toward other hunters helped reduce incidents, as did the enactment in 1986 of Maine’s mandatory hunter education program.

In a 2009 Maine Fish and Wildlife Magazine article, Sawyer said firearm, bow hunter, trapper and crossbow education programs cost approximately $300,000 a year to facilitate, including administrative and regional staff expenses, course materials and equipment.

It is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under provisions of the Pittman-Roberts Act.

The act lets states use the value of time donated by volunteers as the state’s match to get the federal money needed to conduct the training program.

The department has 13 regional safety coordinators throughout the state who coordinate hunter safety and other classes, DIFW Spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte said.

They work with about 600 volunteers teaching hunting and other safety courses to more than 9,000 people each year, she said.

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