Hunting Safety Tips: Ensure Your Safety

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Terry Texada, M.D.

The weather has cooled off and many Louisiana citizens are getting ready for the hunting season.  Hunting requires you to be focused, skilled and patient; you also need to be careful.  Every year, hundreds of hunters suffer injuries.  Hunters do have gun accidents, but not all injuries come as the result of a firearms mishap.  Unstable terrain or dangerous animals are hazards that also put hunters at risk.  It’s important for you to know about the potential dangers before heading out on a hunt.  Here are five tips every sportsman should keep in mind to stay safe while hunting.

Tip 1: Tree Stand Safety

A tree stand is a useful hunting tool.  It allows hunters to gain an elevated view of the surrounding terrain and avoid leaving a strong ground scent that game might detect.  But tree stands can also be very dangerous.  Getting on and off a tree stand safely can be challenging, and then there’s the trip up or down the tree to take into account.  Once on the stand, you must stay aware of where you are in relation to the edge of the platform.  The platform provides a very small surface upon which the hunter kneels, sits or stands.

You should always use fall restraints and harnesses when you’re using a tree stand.  In general, a fall restraint tethers a hunter to the tree, not the tree stand.  It’s important to wear the restraints from when you begin your climb to the moment when you’re safely back on the ground again.

Tip 2: Don’t Hunt Alone

Whenever possible, you should go hunting with at least one partner.  Together, you and your partner can watch out for one another.  If either of you should have an accident, the other can assist the injured party or go get help.  If you are hunting alone, you should tell other people when you’re going out to hunt.   Let someone else know when and where you’ll be hunting.  You should also establish a time when you’ll touch base with that person to let him or her know you’re fine after your hunting trip.

Tip 3: Wear Hunter Orange

One thing you should always keep in mind when you go hunting is that you may not be the only hunter out there.  You want to make sure you’re visible and identifiable as a human being.  To that end, you should always wear blaze orange—also known as hunter orange.  Ideally, you should wear an orange vest or jacket as well as a hat.  This will help prevent other hunters from mistaking you for game.

Tip 4: Be Sure of Your Target

It’s the moment of truth.  You’ve just spotted your game after waiting patiently for several hours.  You quickly move your gun into position, line your target up in your sights and fire.  What’s wrong with that?  First, that’s not the right way to ensure an effective and humane kill.  Every time you fire at game, you want to make the best shot possible.  Second, you need to verify that your target is actually game and not another hunter or a non-game animal.  Third, you need to be aware of what’s between you and your target, as well as what’s beyond your target.  If you are hunting near a farm or road, you have to consider what might happen if you miss your shot—or if it goes clean through your target and keeps on going.  You should never take a shot unless you are certain that there are no safety risks involved.  That might mean you’ll miss the opportunity to hit your target once in a while, but it will also help prevent accidents and injuries.

Tip 5: Practice Gun Safety

The last tip seems the most obvious, but it cannot be overstated: Follow gun safety practices.  Treat every gun as if it were loaded at all times, even if you are absolutely certain it’s unloaded.  You should keep the gun’s action open and only load the gun when you are ready to use it.  Never point a gun at yourself or another person.  Practice muzzle control by keeping the gun’s muzzle pointed in a safe direction.  The safest direction is usually toward the ground. Also, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to take a shot.  While guns are designed so that your finger fits over the trigger in a natural way, avoid carrying a gun this way.  Always keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you’re prepared to actually shoot. You should also keep your gun’s safety on until you are ready to fire.

If you plan to use a tree stand, you should tie a strong rope or cord to your unloaded rifle. Wait until you are on the stand and secure before pulling your rifle up after you. When you’re ready to come down, lower your unloaded rifle to the ground first. Never try to climb up to or down from a tree stand with a loaded weapon.

Hunting is a fantastic and fun outdoor activity. Not only is it a great form of getting exercise, but it allows you to spend time outdoors with your friends and family.

By following the hunting safety tips outline above not only do you ensure your own safety but that of your fellow hunters.  Hunt safe and have fun!