ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) –  The Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating three separate hunting related fatalities that involved two people and one dog within the last five days. Experts warn everyone, hunters and non-hunters alike, to be aware of hunting season safety tips. 

The most popular hunting season in the state kicked off on Saturday in the southern zone. Hundreds of thousands of hunters hit the fields this past weekend.

“This is an exciting time for us at D.E.C. as well as for a number of hunters throughout the state. It’s the start of the regular southern zone big game hunting season,” said Big Game Biologist for the Department of Environmental Conservation (D.E.C.) Brendan Quirion. 

There are approximately 550,000 big game hunters throughout New York State. And the highly anticipated deer and bear hunting season brings out 85 percent of those hunters during the opening weekend. 

“So obviously that can create some safety concerns with that many people out in the woods and so we are encouraging everyone, regardless of if you are a hunter or not, to wear blaze orange,” said Quirion.

He said it’s an important time to stay vigilant and issued a reminder to hunters on how they can be successful and stay safe. For hunters wearing blaze orange is more than just a suggestion.

“Hunters are required to wear blaze orange that’s visible in all directions while they’re out in the field. That can be a vest, or a jacket, or a hat that you’re wearing, and if you are hiking or recreating in the outdoors wear some blaze orange as well. It’ll help hunters see you and it’ll keep everyone safe,” said Quirion. “The past two years have been the safest on record in New York but we want to make sure that trend continues.”

But it’s off to a rocky start with D.E.C. investigating three separate hunting related incidents involving the shooting deaths of a dog in Franklin County on Nov. 16, a man in Wayne County on Nov. 18, and a fatality in Chenango County on Nov. 19.

Quirion urged hunters to follow the primary rules of gun safety, keep firearms pointed in a safe direction, treat every firearm as if it’s loaded, keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot and always be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.

Non-hunters should keep in mind where and when hunting season takes place, stay on designated trails, and, again, if you cannot wear blaze orange wear something bright so you are visible to hunters.