LINN COUNTY -- The Department of Natural Resources calls shotgun deer season the busiest hunting time of the year, but it's also the most dangerous.
About 50,000 hunters are expected to participate in Iowa's current shotgun deer season. It has become the biggest hunting season, bringing out the largest number of hunters. With so many people participating, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says it's the season that produces the most shooting injuries.
Take a look at these Iowa DNR firearm-related injuries from the past decade:
Year Fatalities Injuries
2002 1 25
2003 2 41
2004 0 17
2005 1 23
2006 0 14
2007 0 13
2008 1 11
2009 0 18
2010 2 14
2011 0 20
2012 0 7 (season is still underway)
So far, Iowa hunters have reported fewer injuries this year than in the past decade, but the DNR warns the season isn't over yet.
Hunting experts know it's likely that number will increase with a weekend yet to go in the current shotgun deer season. DNR's Joe Wilkinson said hunters have to think of basic tips to stay safe. The biggest one is to remember to look past the target.
"If you are shooting at a deer, pheasant, any sort of a game animal, don't just get fixed on the target you are shooting at. Realize what is lying beyond that target - whether that deer is moving, whether it's standing still, you need to look beyond the target as well," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said it's also vital to wear bright or blaze orange. At least your torso must be covered, but the more orange you wear, the better for everyone out hunting. The DNR also reminds people to watch the muzzle of your gun.
"You need to have control of the muzzle of your fire arm. That could be something as simple as setting it on your shoulder so it's pointing straight up into the air, keeping the safety on, keeping your hand away from the trigger but knowing where that muzzle is pointing is important," Wilkinson said.
The DNR started keeping track of injuries back in the 60s. In 1966, hunters reported 121 injuries and in 1965, 20 people died of hunting injuries from a gun. The DNR says mandatory hunter safety classes are to thank for the significant drop in the number of injuries over the years. Despite the education, hunters still get injured each year.
"There's always going to be that excitement in the hunt, that possibility of letting your guard down for just a moment, whether you've had the class yesterday or 20 years ago. There's always that human nature. We can't lock in everyone to do it correctly every time," Wilkinson said.
The second Iowa 2012 deer shotgun season wraps up on Dec. 16.