Ah, hunting season: finally a reason to get up early that doesn’t involve going to work! There’s nothing like a battle of wits against some wily prey, and bagging a big buck can fill you with pride (and tasty venison) like nothing else. But the season also brings more than its fair share of hunting-related accidents and injuries as well.
Here are the best hunting season safety tips for staying out of harm’s way while you’re in that tree stand waiting for your shot.
Know Your State’s Laws
Before you plan a weekend of hunting, make sure you know the laws. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has a page devoted to hunting and to hunters which provides links to every state. In particular, it’s important to understand whether you need a license, whether you’re required to wear “hunter orange”, where you can hunt, what you’re allowed to hunt and what weapon you’re allowed to use to hunt. Many states have free apps that can be downloaded that provide information at your fingertips.
Safety Is Key
Whether you’re using a type of bow or a firearm, safety is key.
Archery & Bowhunting Safety
- Only point the bow and arrow in a safe direction.
- Only nock an arrow when it’s safe to shoot.
- Be sure of your target and what is in front of it, immediately behind it, and beyond it.
- Never shoot over a ridge.
- Only shoot when you have a safe range or shooting area, and a safe backstop or background.
- Avoid dry-firing a bow (releasing the bowstring without a nocked arrow). It may cause serious damage to the bow and can injure the archer.
- Do not shoot an arrow straight up in the air.
- Wear an armguard and finger protection while shooting bows and arrows.
- Handle arrows carefully. Protect yourself and the arrow points with a covered arrow quiver.
- Use a bow-stringer for stringing longbows and recurve bows.
- Immediately repair defects in equipment.
- Prior to each use, check your bow for cracks, dents, breaks, separating laminates, peeling glass, and defects in mechanical parts.
- Check the bowstring regularly, and replace it if it becomes worn or frayed. Frequent use of bowstring wax greatly extends the life of a bowstring.
- Check arrows for cracks, dents, or bends; discard any that have permanent flaws.
- Store your bows in bow cases—preferably hard cases—and store recurves and longbows unstrung.
- Keep your emotions under control, and think about safety first.
Knowing the four primary rules of firearm safety while hunting will help ensure you have a safe hunt. According to Hunter-Ed.com, the four primary rules are:
- Rule #1: Always treat every firearm as though it is loaded.
The phrase “it’s unloaded” should never pass your lips and should never be trusted from someone else’s. Unless you are preparing to shoot, your first action with any firearm in all situations should be to point the muzzle in a safe direction, check the chamber, and clear the firearm.
- Rule #2: Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
It might help to think of the muzzle as a laser pointer—and everything it points toward is in danger. Never let the muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to destroy. Regarding the “safe direction”: don’t forget the possibility of a ricochet!
- Rule #3: Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
The best way to prevent accidental discharge is to keep your trigger finger indexed along the frame of the firearm until your sights are on the target. Do not place your finger inside the trigger guard until you’re ready to pull the trigger.
- Rule #4: Always be sure of your target and what is in front of it and behind it.
Know the identifying features of the game you hunt. If you pull the trigger, you cannot take back the bullet! Everything and everyone in front of, near, and beyond your target is your responsibility. Make sure you have an adequate backstop and never shoot at a flat, hard surface or water.
Stay Visible to Other Hunters at All Times
High visibility clothing in either hunter or blaze orange or pink exist for a reason. Neither color occurs in nature, and wearing it is the best way to signal to other hunters that no, you aren’t a prize buck rooting around in the bushes. Wearing high visibility pink or orange is also the law in many states.
Keeping yourself from being mistaken for quarry goes further than that, however; in addition to wearing orange or pink you need to take extra precautions when passing other hunter camps during dusk or at night. Keep your flashlight out and lit to show your location. Also, don’t wear any white clothing, like a tee-shirt, which can all too easily be confused for a deer at a distance.
Miscellaneous Hunting Safety Tips
While hunting safety often revolves around avoiding getting shot, there are other issues to think about such as getting into and out of your treestand safely. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, here are the four basic rules of treestand safety.
- Always wear a full-body harness also known as a fall-arrest system. Connect to your tether line and keep your tether line short. The tether is designed to keep you in the seat, not to catch you after you fall.
- Always have three points of contact while climbing into and out of the treestand: This means two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times.
- Always use a haul line to raise and lower your unloaded firearm or bow into and out of the stand. You can also use the haul for other things like a heavy backpack.
- Use a lifeline when climbing up and down, this keeps you connected from the time you leave the ground to the time you get back down.
Another thing to consider is making sure someone knows where you’re going to be and how long you expect to be gone. That way, if you don’t make it home on time, someone will know to look for you.
The Final Word on Hunting Season Safety
Don’t take chances with accident or injury this hunting season, not when you can avoid them with just a bit of effort on your part. Even the most skilled and experienced hunters can run into trouble when they’re out in the great outdoors. That’s why following the most basic of hunting season safety tips, which include the proper handling of firearms and other weaponry, ensuring you have high-visibility gear, and taking steps to ensure the word gets put out if you don’t come back in time are all crucial in keeping you — and everyone else — safe.