While hunting seasons vary for different game, fall is a good time to review hunting and firearms safety, as more hunters take the field during fall firearms deer season than any other time of year.
Firearms Safety and Hunter Education
Firearms safety is an important aspect of hunter safety education. While the actual number of firearms injuries each year has fluctuated, in general such incidents have declined significantly in the past several years. A greater emphasis on firearms safety and hunter safety education has reduced the number of tragic injuries and deaths that have occurred since the late 1980’s. Many states, such as Missouri, require completion of a certified hunter safety education course in order to qualify for obtaining a hunting license. In Missouri, all hunters born after 1966 must complete such a hunter education course.
Although not a comprehensive list of safety rules, four important general rules of firearms hunting safety are:
•1. Always keep the firearm muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Never point a firearm at yourself or others, and be mindful of what’s behind the target including objects and places where others could be located, such as vehicles, roadways, or buildings.
•2. Always identify your target with 100% certainty before shooting. If there is any doubt whatsoever, do not shoot.
•3. Keep the firearm’s safety on until you are ready to shoot. Conversely, do not solely rely on the firearm’s safety to prevent an accidental discharge of the firearm. Any mechanical mechanism can be defective and malfunction. (See rules 1,2, and 4).
•4. Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot. Having a finger on the trigger or inside the trigger guard increases the chance of an accidental discharge of the firearm.
Other important safety rules to consider and follow include:
• Keep the firearm unloaded with the action open until you are in the field actually hunting.
• Always treat a firearm as if it is loaded, even if you are “sure” it’s not.
• Never climb ladders or cross fences or other obstructions with a loaded firearm.
• Make sure your firearm is in proper working order and the barrel is free from obstruction. NEVER try to “shoot out” an obstruction in the barrel.
• Read the manual and know how to safely clean and operate the firearm before taking the field.
• Wear Hunter Orange while in the field. (Check your state’s regulations for the applicable legal requirements.) This increases your visibility to other hunters, while not increasing visibility to certain game animals, such as deer, which are “color blind.”
• Have a hunting plan and share it with others, then stick to it so that others will know where to start looking for you if you are overdue from a hunt.
• Familiarize yourself with, and follow, your state’s hunting laws and regulations. Most states prepare publications that are available where hunting licenses are sold, and also publish this information online.
• If you feel you or a loved one has been the victim of the carelessness of a hunter or adefective firearm, tree stand or other equipment, you have the right to consult an experienced attorney who can review the facts of your case.