Foss: Hunting deaths on decline, but still worrisome

New York's hunting incident rate has declined 80 percent since 1960s
The writer says hikers and walkers should take sensible precautions during hunting season.
The writer says hikers and walkers should take sensible precautions during hunting season.

My husband and I recently received a gift of venison from my mother-in-law — steaks and ground meat that, over the course of a week, we happily consumed. 

My mother-in-law doesn’t hunt, but she grants a hunter access to her land in Pennsylvania; in exchange, he gives her venison. 

This struck me as a great arrangement, and I found myself wishing I owned a large plot of land and could strike a similar deal. 

I say all this to make it clear that I appreciate what hunters do — that I respect people who kill and butcher their own food, and that I enjoy being the recipient of their largesse. 

The hunters I know have been hunting responsibly for most of their lives, and care deeply about the natural world. If any of them ever killed a human while out hunting deer, as a western New York hunter is said to have done over the weekend, I would be shocked. 

There aren’t that many fatal hunting shootings — according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, there were just four in 2016. “Hunters experience another safe year” the DEC proclaimed, in its annual report on hunting safety statistics.

Which is true — hunting has gotten much safer. 

But this probably comes as cold comfort to all of the people who want to go for a walk in the woods without having to worry about getting shot by a hunter.  

If you’ve ever heard gunshots while out walking in the woods, as I have, you know how unnerving it can be to realize that there are hunters nearby. It can turn a pleasant fall walk into a spooky experience, even if you don’t get shot. 

This is an obvious consequence of sharing the woods with hunters, and it’s one most people seem to accept as a fact of life. 

Those who spend time outdoors in the fall are likely to take sensible precautions, such as wearing bright colors or avoiding land where hunting is permitted. Whether it’s fair to expect hikers and walkers to do these things is a matter for debate — I personally feel like it’s asking a lot — but the simple reality is that it would be impractical not to. 

What makes the fatal shooting in Western New York so worrisome is that it probably could have been avoided. 

News reports suggest that the incident took place after sundown, when deer hunting is prohibited. The victim, Rosemary Billquist, was walking her dogs near her home when the hunter, Thomas B. Jadlowski, fired at what he believed was a deer, according to reports. 

“Not knowing what you’re shooting at when you think you’re shooting a deer, it boggles the mind,” Billquist’s husband told the New York Times. 

It certainly boggles my mind, and knowing that the state’s hunting incident rate – a category that includes fatal and non-fatal shootings – has declined 80 percent since the 1960s doesn’t make me feel much better. 

I’d rather not worry about getting shot by hunters during the fall. 

But the unfortunate death of Rosemary Billquist is exactly why I’ll continue to do so. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Her blog is at

Categories: News, Opinion, Schenectady County

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