As temperatures cool down and the leaves begin to change, there’s always one thing to look forward to – hunting season. At only a few weeks out from our favorite season of the year, there’s a lot of information to review and remember, as a seasoned pro or a beginner, about hunting safety. Unfortunately, even though most of us take the right precautions, there are still about 1,000 hunting accidents a year between the U.S. and Canada. As a responsible hunter, take the time to learn or review proper hunting safety before grabbing your gear and heading out this season.
Many fatal hunting accidents are the result of improper firearm usage, whether in groups or alone, making it important to remember the following firearm safety practices.
- Keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction at all times.
- Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.
- Be 100% sure of your target and its backdrop before shooting. Make sure that your target isn’t in front of a flat, hard surface.
- Prevent an accidental discharge by keeping your finger outside the trigger guard until you’re ready to shoot.
- Unload the firearm when it’s not in use.
- Point the firearm only at something you intend to shoot – joking around can be fatal.
- Never use alcohol or drugs while handling a firearm.
Remember to stick to your Zone-of-Fire before shooting at any targets. Your Zone-of-Fire is the 45° area directly in front of you that you should stay in when shooting. Shooting beyond that area is considered outside your field of view and can’t be seen reliably. Remember that your Zone-of-Fire will change with every step you take.
Following these rules is the easiest way to make sure you and your group don’t accidentally hurt each other or yourselves while out in the bush.
It’s no surprise that rough weather can put a damper on an otherwise great hunting trip. However, heavy rain, cold temperatures, and the two combined can be a serious threat to your safety.
Hypothermia, especially, is common among hunters and can lead to everything from unconsciousness to heart failure. It’s not only prevalent in the winter, but possible in the more mild months as well, even at only 50°. You or someone you’re with may have hypothermia if you or they show the following symptoms: uncontrolled shivering, slow or slurred speech, memory loss, lack of body movement, sleeplessness, or unconsciousness.
Hypothermia prevention is all about staying warm and dry. Research your hunting area’s weather beforehand and pack appropriately with warm layers (avoid cotton), and a change of dry clothes. Bring water-repelling clothing, emergency blankets, and thick outer layers to cover your bases. To avoid hypothermia and stay comfortable during waterfowl hunting (or in wet conditions), bring a pair of waders along to set decoys and easily walk through marshy conditions or small bodies of water.
If you do get wet, dry off as quickly as possible and change into dry clothes. Eating high-calorie foods like meat, chocolate, or nuts will boost your body’s energy and generate heat too.
Seasoned hunters all agree that the geographical area, season type, and time of day all affect your clothing choices. You may only need midweight clothing items while in the field but need heavy layers while deep in the woods. But when it comes to apparel, there are a few items and rules that you’ll always need to consider, no matter where or when you’re out.
You’ll want to check your state’s blaze orange regulations to determine how much orange clothing you need to wear. Some states require a certain number of square footage, while others only strongly recommend wearing the color. The bright color communicates to other hunters that you’re in the area, so they can safely acknowledge and shoot away from your location. Even if your state doesn’t require wearing the color, we recommend it for both your safety and in consideration for other hunters. If you’re bringing a dog along on the trip, make sure they’re wearing an orange vest as well. SWFA Outdoors has shirts and accessories sporting the color to help you meet your state’s regulation. And don’t worry, it’s been proven that deer can’t see the color, so it won’t affect your success.
Avoid wearing white and tan during deer hunting season, so nobody can mistake you as their next big game. Also, make sure to always bring ear and eye protection along to protect yourself from ricocheting cartridges and long-term hearing damage.
If you’re new to hunting or want a refresh on the basics, your local State Fish and Game department has resources for hunting training. These hunting safety courses and resources are offered by the state to prevent hunting accidents and teach every new generation of hunters how to hunt responsibly, ethically, and safely. In many states, getting certified in a hunter education course is required for a hunting license.
Overall, practicing common sense while out hunting is the best way to stay safe. As a good rule of thumb, always make sure to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return before you leave. When it comes to hunting, safe is always better than sorry. For more hunting advice and safety tips, trust SWFA for expert support in all things outdoors.