Some hunters are anal about safety, while others are complacent or even tolerant of rules being bent and/or broken. This reminds me of a visit to the local firing range prior to Wisconsin's 2011 firearms deer season.
A father was watching over his son's shoulder as he shot several rounds. Suddenly, the boy looked back at his father and pointed the muzzle right down the bench toward other shooters, including me. The father corrected his son but passed off the mistake with laughter. If that were my kid, I wouldn't have allowed him to hunt that season after a mistake like that. Being careless with the muzzle is no joke. It goes back to the most basic principle we all learn during hunter education: always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
Safety precautions don't end there. Let's review five important steps you and your loved ones can take to make the woods safer this fall and those to come. After all, there isn't a buck in the world worth risking a human life over. Period.
Wear your safety harness
Ever hear horror stories of hunters plummeting from their treestands? I've heard my share. It rarely ends well.
About 10 years ago, an acquaintance of mine fell from a tree while hanging a treestand the year before he graduated high school. He laid there unable to move for hours, and by chance, his father heard him calling for help. He was airlifted to a hospital and later was told he'd never walk again.
Fortunately, he beat the odds and is walking today — with complications, of course. But, he went through months of arduous rehab and endured immense pain. A simple safety harness could've prevented this. Let this be a lesson.
Never climb trees without a safety harness. I don't care if you're running late and forgot it at home. No excuse is good enough for not wearing it.
Tell someone where you'll be hunting and carry a cellphone
Hunting is inherently dangerous. Lots of variables can lead to misfortune, even when putting safety first and hunting easy-to-reach places. It only takes a minute to share your location with a family member or loved one, and if you should get in a bind, it will be far easier for someone to locate you in a timely manner.
Further, always carry your cellphone. It could save your life or that of another hunter. Even if you're unable to make a call, odds are the authorities will be able to track your location if you're missing.
Know where your hunting partners are located
When hunting with firearms, it's unwise to shoot at deer when you're unsure of the whereabouts of your hunting party. One wayward bullet is all it takes to incite a life-or-death scenario.
Consider equipping your weapons and non-shooters in your party with SafeShoot. It's a device that uses local RF signals to immediately alert you if a member or members of your hunting party is/are in your line of fire. No line of sight is required, as the system's positioning is provided by receiving information from GPS satellites. MEMS sensors measure and determine the muzzle direction of each device. SafeShoot always keeps you informed so you don't take a shot you'll regret later.
Check your magazine and chamber three times
Many firearms accidents occur when the handler believes the gun is unloaded. I always double- and triple-check the magazine and chamber for cartridges. And, be mindful of your muzzle direction while unloading. It always amazes me — not in a good way — how people become careless when unloading their firearms.
Obey fluorescent-clothing requirements
It's safe to assume that some people won't consider safety while hunting. It's no different than driving. Some drivers are unfortunately preoccupied, so you must look out for yourself and be prepared to react. Likewise, you must pay close attention to your surroundings while hunting so you can identify and avoid dangerous situations before they unfold.
Above that, always wear the required amount of blaze/fluorescent clothing. Each state has its own requirements, so be sure to study the regulations prior to hunting. Sadly, there are people who get so worked up when shooting at deer that they'll shoot at movement. Blaze or fluorescent clothing sends an instant flag that you're a hunter and not a deer.
But, orange clothing doesn't save everyone. If you spot a hunter approaching you, don't make any sudden movements. Instead, shout "Hunter over here!" Audibly make your presence known.
Be Safe, Hunt Longer
If you break or bend safety rules, it will most likely catch up to you in the form of an emergency. The same goes for tolerating mistakes made by other hunters. When another hunter risks safety, call them out on it. Of course, do it out of care and concern and not out of anger. You don't want to worsen a bad situation.
The whitetail woods are a great place to be during hunting season, and we can all enjoy them for years to come if we take safety more seriously. As I stated at the beginning of this article, no buck in the world is worth risking safety over.