When Skip Leleux’s brother-in-law died in a boating accident six years ago just weeks away from graduating from the training academy with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, it drove home how fast accidents can happen outdoors. 

Leleux, of New Iberia, had grown up hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather, and started thinking about ways he could make enjoying the outdoors safer for everyone.

“It grew on me to bring something to the table, especially for my three sons, to get them some sort of product to signify safety when I’m not around,” he said.

After 14 long months in development, Leleux unveiled the Safety S.H.O.T. app last week, which is currently available for iPhones and iPads and is scheduled to be released for the Droid platform on Aug. 17.

Safety S.H.O.T. (which stands for Safe Hunter on Track) uses real time locations and distances from Google Maps to give hunters an aerial view of where other hunters using the app are located in their immediate area.

“This is not used to identify a target,” he said. “This is to be used to identify other hunters that are in your area so you can have a better grasp if you’re shooting in their line of fire.”

The app features a three-colored ‘radar cone’ at 300-, 500- and 1,000-yards that indicates the presence of other registered users in the area, as well as their hunting status.

“So you might be squirrel hunting, walking around in the woods,” Leleux said. “If I’m about to go rabbit hunting and I see a hunter’s already in there, we have no way to communicate.

“But this gives you a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in your territory.”

It’s especially effective for hunting clubs on big tracts of land, where members can sign in with a group ID and all see each other’s location and hunting status in real time with the 1,000-yard range removed.

“It really eliminates a lot of these pin boards at hunting camps,” he said. “Especially if I’m hunting in a climber and the wind changes, and I wish I’d be hunting in a different area.

“With the app, all you have to do is change the status on your phone, and the other members can watch you move to a different location in real time.”

Safety S.H.O.T. costs $3.99 in the iTunes store, and while it will become more effective as more and more users come on board, it contains another feature that Leleux believes is worth the price of the app by itself.

Users can press an “Alert” button in case of an emergency, and send out a text message to their designated contacts containing the exact coordinates of their last location.

“If you put your friend or your wife as a contact, and if you flip your 4-wheeler, or fall out of your stand or slide down an embankment and break a leg, if you hit that button it sends your coordinates with a photo shot of your exact location on the Google Maps system,” he said.

“You’re not trying to phone somebody to explain to them where you’re at.”

The system requires cell coverage, but Leleux said texts can sometimes go through when phone calls can’t.

“It’s better to have it than not,” he said. “You might be able to move three feet and you can send that message and it might go through the second you’re out from under a tree.

“For $3.99, it makes no sense not to have something like that.”

Leleux, who created AmmoCamo in 2012, said the Safety Shot app is part of an initiative he created called Project Zero, which will strive for no fatal gun-related hunting accidents nationwide.

“We have about 100 to 110 fatalities per year in the U.S. and about 1,100 to 1,200 reported incidents, and there’s no telling how many unreported incdents there are related to using firearms,” he said. “People say there’s no way we’re not going to have any fatalities, but when you take 50 states and you divide that up, it’s about two per state.

“I think that’s an accomplishable number.”

Leleux is using AmmoCamo, which sells hats and several styles of shirts featuring ammunition in a camouflage pattern, to work hand-in-hand with the app to raise safety awareness outdoors. 

Bear Fletcher, a LDWF sargeant in Delhi who was the academy roommate of Leleux’s brother-in-law who died in the boating mishap, serves as  AmmoCammo’s vice president of safety management.

“We have orange tags inside every shirt we sell with a short safety message, like ‘Always point your muzzle in a safe direction’ or ‘Make sure you identify your target and what’s beyond,’” he said. “You might read that message one time, but every time you put that shirt on and see it, you’re going to know what it said.”