Ten hunters have been killed in Virginia since June -- five since the deer-hunting season opened about two weeks ago -- compared to nine hunters killed in the state during the last year-long hunting accident reporting period.
With seven months left in the state's reporting period, figures released by the Virginia State Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries also showed that 17 hunters have been wounded. Fifty-seven hunters were wounded during the 1981-82 reporting period.
Virginia has about 500,000 licensed hunters, 3.2 percent of the nation's 15.5 million licensed hunters. According to the latest figures compiled by the North American Association of Hunter Safety Coordinators, 151 hunters were killed in this country in 1980, the last year association figures are available.
"The deaths have mainly been caused by carelessness," said Emmett Raney, an assistant safety officer for the Virginia game commission. "A hunter mistakes a person for game; a gun goes off unexpectedly while being loaded into a vehicle; people aren't wearing bright-colored clothing. In the majority of cases, the accidents involve people who haven't been educated."
Virginia, unlike 30 other states, does not require hunter-safety courses for licensing, Raney said.
Jim Norine, hunter-safety coordinator for the National Rifle Association, said there has been a "down trend in the number of accidents nationally" since hunter-safety programs were made mandatory in many states. Hunting accident fatalities declined nationwide from 171 in 1977 to 151 in 1980, according to NAAHSC statistics,.
Last year in Maryland, where hunter-safety education is required, there were no hunting accident fatalities with more than 164,000 licensed hunters. In West Virginia, where safety courses are not required, hunting deaths this year have jumped from seven last year to 13 this year, with two months left in the state's reporting year.
In Pennsylvania, where 1.3 million hunters are licensed -- the most of any state in the nation -- and state law requires first-time hunters to take safety courses, two men were killed last year.
A lack of hunter-safety education may be one cause for an increased number of hunter deaths, Norine said. "Anytime you have a concentrated number of hunters in an area, many of whom are not wearing bright clothing, and not taking careful safety precautions, such as unloading their rifles when not in the field, you're going to have problems."
Virginia safety officer Raney said four hunters were killed in what is called the Thomas Jefferson hunting district of the state, in the Blue Ridge Mountains between Charlottesville and Front Royal. Three deaths were recorded in the Patrick Henry district, below Richmond. And in the Daniel Boone district, west of the Blue Ridge to the West Virginia and Kentucky state lines, three were killed.
"I wish people would be more careful out there," Raney said.