Here is what you need to know to stay safe with firearms. Live these rules and teach them to your kids. Thanks to Brock Ray of the Interstate Sportsman radio show and interstatesportsman.com for this article. – Mike Piccione
• Treat every gun as if it were loaded. Watch the muzzle! Prepare to control the direction of the muzzle even if you stumble.
• Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and that you have only ammunition of the proper size for the gun you are carrying.
• Be sure of your target and what is beyond it before you pull the trigger; know identifying features of the game you hunt.
• Unload guns when not in use. Take down or have actions open. Guns should be carried in cases to the shooting area.
• Never point a gun at anything you don’t want to shoot or kill. Do not play with a firearm.
• Never climb a tree or jump a ditch with a loaded gun. Never pull the gun toward you by the muzzle.
• Never shoot a bullet at flat, hard surfaces or water.
• Store guns and ammunition separately, beyond the reach of children and careless adults. Consider using trigger locks.
• Avoid alcoholic beverages and medications that cause drowsiness before or during use of a firearm.
Tree stand safety is another important are of concern when calculating the dangers of hunting. The tree stand is one of the most popular pieces of equipment used by deer hunters. Tree stands can be dangerous if they are used incorrectly or carelessly. Nationally, one in three hunting injuries involves a tree stand.
Falls from tree stands can be caused by a variety of factors, including a weakness in the stand’s structure and incorrect installation. Hunters also may fall asleep while on their stands. Tree stands can also be a factor in other hunting accidents, including injury from accidental firing of a loaded firearm while the hunter is climbing to the stand. To help prevent these accidents, follow these safety precautions:
Never carry equipment with you while climbing. Use a haul line to raise or lower your gear. Make sure guns are unloaded and broadheads are covered prior to raising or lowering firearms or bows with a haul line.
Since most accidents occur when hunters are climbing up or down a tree, always use a climbing belt. Always use a safety belt or harness when hunting from elevated tree stands. Study manufacturer’s recommendations before using any equipment. Never use a rope to replace a safety belt.
Check permanent tree stands every year before hunting from them, and replace any worn or weak lumber.
Read, understand and follow the factory recommended practices and procedures when installing commercial stands. Inspect portable stands for loose nuts and bolts each time they are used.
Choose only healthy, living trees when using climbing devices. Rough-barked trees such as oak are best. Do not use a tree that is rotten or has dead limbs.
Never put all your weight on a single branch. Keep at least one hand and one foot on a secure place when reaching for the next hold.
Climb higher than the stand and step down onto it. Climbing up onto it can dislodge it.
• Wear boots with non-skid soles, because steps or platforms can be slippery in rain, sleet or snow.
• Tell a dependable person where you’re hunting and when you plan on returning. Map your whereabouts and leave a note at camp, at home or in your car so that you can be found.
• Don’t fall asleep. This is a common cause of accidents. If you get drowsy, move your arms rapidly until you feel alert.
• Never wear a ring in any climbing situation. Rings can catch on tree limbs and equipment.
• As a precautionary measure, remove all logs, upturned and cutoff saplings, rocks and other obstructions on the ground below the tree stand.
• Use updated equipment. When used properly, newer tree stand equipment is solid, safe and secure. Older models of safety belts offer some protection, but newer safety harnesses offer more protection.
• Carry a whistle to call for help and carry a first aid kit, flashlight and cellular telephone in a fanny pack.