Hunters need to be more aware of the importance of properly identifying their targets to prevent tragedies, a local deerstalkers' association president says.

Hastings hunter Gary McCurrach last week admitted carelessly using a rifle, causing the death of 23-year-old soldier Danny Jordan on March 31.

He shot Mr Jordan in the neck, mistaking him for a deer, while he was hunting in the Ruahine Range.

Hastings Deerstalkers' Association president Malcolm Ingpen said more education on hunting safety was needed to prevent such tragedies.


"We've just got to make sure that they identify their target, above everything else.

"A lot of volunteers used to help out with that sort of safety education. Now everyone has to be qualified to do so, ruling out a lot of experienced hunters and bush people," Mr Ingpen said.

"So they're actually losing a lot of that sort of knowledge, you know, especially for these young guys coming on. They need to be shown the right way of doing things."

Mr Ingpen said he had been hunting for 40 years. Hunting was increasing in popularity as a sport, and the increase in hunters in the bush was adding to the dangers of the sport.

Some hunters only went out once or twice a year.

"They get real keen and they sort of feel that they have to bring some meat home or shoot something."

Mr Ingpen said he didn't think there needed to be changes to gun laws - education was the answer.

Karl Bridges, managing director of HFEx Limited which specialises in investigating and preventing human error, wrote about misidentification of targets in the white paper Mistaken-for-Game Hunting Accidents.


Mr Bridges told Hawke's Bay Today that cognitive biases could lead to the misidentification of targets. They included optimism bias, when someone thought they were immune to having an accident or making a mistake, and expectation bias, related to the expectation of seeing an animal.

Hunters might also use mental shortcuts called heuristics to infer the presence of a stag from moving bushes, then discover they were targeting a human.

Mr Bridges said there was a wealth of information about cognitive bias but little research had been done in a hunting context. He was gathering empirical evidence around the unconscious processes through a PhD at the University of Auckland.

Mr Bridges said he had set up a confidential reporting system to encourage hunters to report near-misses, where they'd almost pulled the trigger, at the website

"We're keen to find out the circumstances and also their level of experience and where they were based."