As a teenage girl, an avid hunter and a Mainer, it has come to my attention that there have recently been many unfair generalizations regarding hunters and their ability to hunt safely. Most of these generalizations are posted as comments on social media and news websites. Unfortunately, hunting is usually covered only when something has gone horribly wrong, stereotyping hunters as reckless and irresponsible.

From firsthand experience, I can express to you that hunters in general are not the problem; only select individuals make poor decisions. As in any human activity, such as driving and boating, accidents are inevitable. For example, in 2016 there were 160 car-related deaths and nine boating-related deaths in Maine, yet since 2011, there have only been three hunting-related deaths in Maine.

On Oct. 28, what I believe was a reckless decision resulted in the tragic death of a young woman when a deer hunter in Hebron shot at what he told authorities was “this brown thing,” though he never saw the outline of a deer before he fired. This horrific accident, however, does not reflect the conduct of most hunters in Maine, who are taught that it is imperative to know exactly what they’re shooting at before they pull the trigger.

Responsibility is a central ideal of hunting, which is why candidates for a hunting license must complete safety courses and pass a test, including multiple questions regarding the process of identifying your target before shooting. In fact, it is a Maine law that in order to acquire a hunting license after the age of 16, one must have taken and passed a hunter safety course, unless one can prove possession of a hunting license before 1976.

Unfortunately, the occasional hunter has failed to adhere to these core ideals, resulting in unfair backlash against hunters in Maine. For example, after WGME’s coverage of an Oxford accident wherein a man was shot while hunting with his friends, someone who said they were from southern Maine commented online, “Hunters are idiots.”

And this isn’t the only case of people generalizing that hunters are negligent and dumb. Referring to the Hebron incident, a commenter whose online name is Firenze said on Britain’s Daily Mail website: “Hunters want us to respect them, but they continue to act irresponsibly.”

How are hunters any more irresponsible than drivers in Maine? With an average of 148 car-related deaths a year in Maine since 2011, and only three hunting-related deaths in that same time period, couldn’t one argue that drivers are more irresponsible than hunters?

Although everyone has their opinions, not everyone is aware of why we hunt in the first place. For many, venison is a food source that fills a freezer at a much cheaper price than buying meat from a grocery store. Many Maine families depend on the game they shoot each hunting season to feed them through winter.

Not only is hunting for your own food cheaper, but it is also healthier and more humane. What deer in the woods eat is all natural and contains no preservatives, making venison better for one’s health. Hunters are commonly asked whether it is inhumane to shoot such a beautiful creature, but what many don’t realize is that hunting is more humane than what some factory farms do to the cows that end up in our supermarkets.

Hunting also benefits all Mainers by controlling Maine’s deer population. If we didn’t hunt, deer populations would become too great, drastically increasing the risk of deer-related car crashes. Hunting also contributes greatly to Maine’s economy, generating $8.1 million from the 168,890 licenses sold in 2016. Hunting is important to Maine and its history, though it is often misunderstood by many.

In the past five years, the number of hunting licenses has risen 10 percent, yet the number of hunting-related accidents is at a record low. Only three hunting-related deaths have occurred since 2011, yet because of the careless actions of a select few individuals, people still make disparaging generalizations about all hunters. Hunting plays a very important role in our state, even for those who don’t hunt, and many know nothing about it, yet they call us all reckless and irresponsible.

Hunting unites Mainers and is a way of meeting new people and making memories. I have never been more proud to say that I am a Maine hunter.

Taylor Laflamme of North Yarmouth is a student at Greely High School.