Vice President Cheney's hunting accident led me to wonder — how dangerous (to humans) is hunting, compared to other recreational activities? Here are some statistics from the 1999 edition of National Safety Council's Injury Facts:
|Skiing and snowboarding||26 (22 skiing and 4 snowboarding)||not specified|
Note that all the numbers (especially the injuries) probably involve some underreporting, so these are just rough cuts. The numbers also aren't normalized by the number of participants; for instance, hunting, swimming, and boating, for instance, are much more popular than parachuting, so parachuting may well have a higher fatality-per-participant (or fatality-per-episode) rate than those other activities.
I used the 1999 edition because that's the one on my shelf; I'll see if I can get some more recent numbers, and perhaps ones that cover more kinds of sports.
Here's 1996-98 data for Colorado alone; again, I point to it just because I could find it easily online — I suspect it's at least roughly representative of the country more generally, though of course it would have a higher skiing fatality count than most other areas would.
UPDATE: As I noted above, the numbers I gave aren't normalized by the number of participants; I was hoping people might fill that gap in some measure. (I also hope that it's obvious to our readers that without this denominator data, the numerators I give are useful only as a start to answering the question, or at best as a very rough estimate given your rough sense of the order of magnitude of popularity of each activity.)
In the meantime, I did a bit of searching to try to get this information myself; so far, all I've discovered is that in the late 1990s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that about 15 million hunting licenses were sold each year. I'd love to hear what people who know more about hunting licenses can say about how overinclusive (do you often need to buy more than one hunting license to hunt more than one kind of game, or more than once?) or underinclusive (is there lots of hunting that doesn't require such a license?) these numbers might be.
FURTHER UPDATE: A reader who identifies himself as Talon Karrde pointed me (thanking Alphecca) to a Texas Parks & Wildlife Report that reports about 30 accidents per million hunting licenses per year in Texas over 2003-05, including under 3 fatal accidents per million hunting licenses. If this information is complete, and each hunter gets one hunting license per year, then we have a rate of 3 deaths per million per year. If every single American swam (obviously an overestimate), then the 1500 swimming fatalities per year would translate into 5 deaths per million per year; if every American boated (obviously even more of an overestimate), then the 800 swimming fatalities per year would translate into under 3 fatal accidents per million swimmers.
So, if my assumptions about completeness of the Texas records and the hunter-hunting license correspondents are correct, and if the Texas data is generalizable to the country as a whole, then hunting would be less dangerous on a per-participant basis than swimming and boating. We still don't know the relationship, though, on a per-hour-spent basis. If people have statistics on number of participants in swimming and boating, or more accurate information on housing, I'd love to hear them.