Many hunters know that as enjoyable as hunting may be, a promising outing can be ruined in an instant.

Count my husband, Ed, among those who can share stories of days that went horribly wrong.

One of Ed's friends fell from a tree stand while out deer hunting alone, impaled himself with an arrow and crawled with two broken ankles to find help. In another frightening incident, a friend fired a shot that accidentally wounded a fellow squirrel hunter in both arms.

Considering the ever present danger, it was good to hear positive news recently from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP), which reported the state's 2009 hunting season was the safest on record.

While some 271,000 hunters took to the fields for the various seasons, just 12 hunting accidents were reported (down from 16 in 2008) and no fatalities.

The reported accidents in 2009 were attributed to careless handling of firearms, or hunters swinging their firearms to shoot at game.

According to the KDWP, two other reported accidents occurred when a tree stand collapsed and when a hunter fell while setting up a tree stand. Neither hunter was wearing fall restraint gear.

The state, however, doesn't require hunters to report tree stand-related accidents. Mishaps with firearms understandably are a bigger concern.

Hunters involved in shooting incidents somehow violate the basic rules of hunter safety: "Know your target and what is beyond," and "Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction."

It's also safe to say a good number of accidents were prevented because many hunters participated in a state hunter education course that features important safety instruction. Many hunters take advantage of the course, but not all, unfortunately.

In Kansas, anyone born on or after July 1, 1957, must be certified by an approved course in hunter education before they can hunt in the state. (Those 15 and younger may hunt without hunter education certification when under the supervision of someone 18 or older who is certified.)

Hunters born before July 1, 1957, don't have to complete the course. But there's nothing keeping them from taking it to brush up on rules and regulations.

Courses usually take place during the summer and before fall hunting seasons, and before spring turkey season. Hundreds of volunteer hunter education instructors devote more than 20,000 hours each year to hunter education.

Most hunters learn the rules in a traditional classroom setting. The KDWP also has an option for prospective hunters who may not be able to attend classes in person: an "Internet-assisted" online course designed to provide the same information. Both options are free.

Allowing Kansans to go online to take the course doesn't mean they get to skip other requirements. The online course also requires active participation in a Hunter Education Field Day and Testing Session.

Hunting may be a valued part of Kansas' heritage and an age-old tradition, but that shouldn't keep participants from staying current on rules and safety.

Give the KDWP credit for offering flexibility in ways to educate both prospective hunters and the older, more experienced hunters who weren't required to take a course but always would benefit from one in the future.

You never can have too much information or be too safe. With hunting, that couldn't be more true.

E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at denas@gctelegram.com.