Safe hunting is no accident
The first hunter safety education course was offered at a 4-H camp in 1944. But states were slow to require any kind of hunter safety program until the 1960s and '70s when the idea really caught on. Now, nearly every state requires hunters to take an approved safety course in order to buy a hunting license.
Even if you've already taken such a course, or if you were exempt because of age or military service, it's still a good idea to give hunting safety another look.
Protect yourself and the people you love.
In Wisconsin, for example, there were 17 hunting-related injuries in 2018. 41% of those injuries were accidentally self-inflicted, meaning the muzzle was not pointed in a safe direction and towards the hunter's body.
Primary rules of hunter education.
The International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) provides resources for instructors and students nationwide. Though its programs teach many lessons for the safe and ethical use of our resources, there are four key rules that, if followed, will virtually eliminate the possibility of shooting accidents in the woods or on the range.
1. Treat every firearm as if it's loaded.
Even if you think it's not, your firearm may be loaded, so get in the habit of checking the chamber each time you pick up your firearm.
2. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
Only point your firearm at a target you intend to shoot. If you're not actively shooting, point the weapon to the ground or straight into the air to reduce the risk of accidental injury.
3. Be certain of your target and what's beyond it.
Since bullets from a high-power rifle can travel more than a mile, shooters need to be especially thoughtful of where a round will go if it doesn't hit its intended target. Additionally, having a safe zone of fire and safe backstop is equally important.
4. Keep your finger away from the trigger until you're ready to shoot.
Even if the firearm has a safety, it's a mechanical device that can fail. Make sure your fingers are away from the trigger until you intentionally want to shoot something.
Other tips for a safe hunt:
- Store and transport our firearms unloaded and locked.
- Wear blaze orange to be visible to other hunters.
- Dress warmly and have extra dry clothes to change into.
- Tell others where you will be and when you plan to return.
- Hunt with a partner.
- Know your state and local regulations.
For a hunter education course in your area, check with your state DNR, local sportsman's clubs, or Hunter-Ed.com for an online course.