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The Roving Sportsman… Teaching Proper Hunting and Firearm Safety, Part II

First and foremost, always stress the four universal rules of firearm safety:
– Treat any firearm as if it is loaded.
– Practice muzzle control.
– Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
– Always be sure of your target and the area around and beyond it.

These are the critical rules that every hunter or gun owner should live by and cannot be stressed enough, especially during the early stages of someone new to hunting or gun ownership. Now, let’s take a look at some of the life lessons regarding hunting safety that most experienced hunters and gun owners have learned that are important to pass on to new advocates of our sport.

Take a Hunter Education course. It is a requirement within the various states across the United States as well as many foreign countries that one must take a hunter education course before obtaining a hunting license. This is a beneficial step regardless of the age of the student. There is an emphasis on gun safety, with additional information on hunting safety and ethical hunting, as well as numerous applicable game laws. A hunter education course provides an excellent building block in the learning process.

Once the course is completed, take time to put into practice what was taught in the course by spending time at a local shooting facility and also spending time in the field reviewing and enforcing lessons learned. It takes days of practice before someone becomes truly comfortable when handling a firearm for the first time and routinely incorporating those four universal gun laws. Time afield simulating hunting scenarios will also provide the opportunity to greatly enforce the four universal rules of firearm safety.

Teach orienteering and navigating in the woods and wilderness areas. Orienteering with a map and compass engrains basic techniques of navigating to and back from a destination, whether in a small neighboring woodlot or a vast wilderness area. Learning to identify and mark trails or old logging roads to allow for a safe return will prevent getting lost or spending unplanned time overnight in the backcountry. Sure, today’s cell phones, GPS, and the advent of OnX and similar navigational aids are amazing and highly effective, but if a malfunction or loss of signal occurs, having learned the basics of navigating in the outdoors will allow a safe return home.

Teach how to move and maneuver safely in various hunting situations. This is where your lifetime of spending time hunting will allow you to share a great deal of stories that will impart safe hunting methods to a newcomer.

A good example of teaching a new hunter how to maneuver safely is getting into a blind or a boat when duck hunting. It is not smart to carry a loaded shotgun when trying to slog through a couple of feet of water and muck – there’s a good chance of slipping, getting stuck, or falling into the water! Instead, the gun should be in the case and unloaded. Once safely in the blind or sitting in the boat, the shotgun can be taken out of the case and safely loaded.

A pop-up ground blind is often employed when hunting deer or turkeys and is a good tool to use when hunting with a new young hunter. Teaching proper muzzle control while entering, exiting, or setting up for the hunt is critical to prevent accidents. The firearm should be unloaded when entering or exiting the blind. Safety precautions are also true of archery equipment, particularly arrows tipped with razor-sharp broadheads when operating in the small confined space of a pop-up blind.

Act responsibly. Each and every person who handles a gun, be they young or old, has an obligation to act responsibly and point it out if someone else does not. If you observe someone violating one or more of those four universal rules of gun safety, don’t hesitate to say something! That is how we all can best help prevent accidents.

Safe handling of wild game. There are a number of things to consider in handling wild game safely. Once you have determined that the game is dead, open the chamber of your firearm and safely lay it to the side. Various diseases can sometimes be found in the blood of animals and birds. Thus, new hunters should always be taught to use nitrile gloves for protection from any disease during the field dressing process. Keep knives sharp. The sharper the knife, the easier it cuts, and you will need less pressure on the knife and spend less time cutting. A sharper knife is a safer knife!

If you are a long-time hunter, you no doubt have a lifetime of experiences that you can relate to a new hunter that will help him jump-start his own lifetime of safe and enjoyable hunting experiences. There is a great feeling of satisfaction in doing so.