12 Oct 2015

Study looks at how hunters end up shooting mates

11:37 am on 12 October 2015

New research has pinpointed why hunters feel convinced they are seeing a deer - when in fact they have their rifle trained on a mate.

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Photo: 123RF

A hunter is killed on average every nine months, and so far this year five people have been shot. Two of the cases involved target misidentification.

Police are investigating a sixth incident that happened yesterday when a hunter was fatally shot in Kaiangaroa forest park.

Mistaken For Game Hunting Accidents - A Human Factors Review was written by HFex, a company that investigates human error in the workplace.

Author Kyle Wilson told Nine to Noon cognitive bias caused hunters involved in accidents to believe they had correctly identified their target when they pulled the trigger.

"We're expecting to see a deer, we might see movement - that might be a hunter carrying a carcass on his back - and we might see antlers and rationalise away any other information," he said.

The research was commissioned by the Hunter Safety Lab - which is developing technology to help protect hunters from accidental shootings.

Brad Johnson, sales manager at Hunter Safety Lab, said experienced hunters were often involved in accidents.

"We struggled to get people to understand the issue of the unconscious areas where this happens," he said.

"A lot of people believe it won't happen to them because they know the difference between a deer and a person."

Mr Wilson said the golden rule for hunters should be to identify their target beyond all doubt.

"When we're making decisions in uncertain circumstances, our brain fills in bits of information for us and makes assumptions for us," he said.

"99 percent of the time this helps us and helps make for good hunters, but the problem is sometimes the assumptions are incorrect."