For many of us, the transition from summer recreation to fall isn’t as gradual as we’d like.
Many of my hunting friends are involved in other activities like softball and golf, and the only valid comparison between those and hunting is about the same as the comparison between fishing and hunting: they all take place outdoors.
So for those of you who already have been out chasing Canada geese in the early season without breaking plenty of clay pigeons first in order to get your shotgun swing back, I won’t begrudge a few misses.
In a best case scenario, we’d all like to spend a few August and early September evenings shooting clay targets and working out the kinks prior to hitting the fields.
The best laid plans, however, are simply plans and not necessarily action points. Pulling out the shotgun instead of a fishing rod or boat on an open late-summer evening is easier said than done.
Whether you’re heading to the practice range or the field, one area we can’t afford to compromise is safety. No matter the month or open season, safe gun handling and hunter safety is the most important factor on every outing.
Whether you’re experience is decades in the field, or you’re excited about a first hunting trip, it’s a good time to review a checklist of basic safety tips we all learn as beginners.
Ten Commandments of Hunter Safety
Alcohol — avoid the use of alcohol of other mood altering drugs before or while shooting.
Climb — never climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch or log with a loaded firearm.
Hard — never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water.
Unload — unload firearms when not in use. Leave actions open.
Muzzle — control he direction of your firearms muzzle.
Store — store firearms and ammunition separately.
Point — never point a firearm at anything you do not want to shoot.
Obstruction — be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and that you have only the ammunition of proper size for the firearm you are carrying.
Respect — treat every firearm with the same respect due a loaded firearm.
Target — identify your target and what is beyond it.
If you have young hunters at home, or even if you don’t, it’s not a bad idea to cut out these 10 hunter’s commandments and post them in a place where they will be not only read once, but serve as a continuing reminder to put them into practice.
In addition, another “commandment” not specifically on the list is being aware of the locations of your hunting partners.
Over the past few years “shooter swinging on game” is the most prevalent cause of hunting incidents and all of these can be avoided if hunters take care to keep track of others in the party, and let others know where you’re at if you are not readily visible.
While deer gun hunters are required to wear blaze orange clothing, it’s also a good idea for upland game hunters in a group. You can see others more readily, and others can see you.
We all should know that hunter safety is more important than any goose, grouse or deer. Missing a bird because of a rusty shooting technique is excusable.
Putting yourself or others in danger by not stressing hunter safety is not.
(The author of this article, Doug Leier, a former game warden, is a North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologist. His blog is on http://www.bismarcktribune.com.)