Safety First: Learning from the Top Three Hunting Accidents
On this National Hunting and Fishing Day, we’d like to take a moment to share some safety tips.
Hunting is safe and getting safer. With the advent of the hunter education course, fewer than three people per 100,000 hunters in Texas are injured in hunting accidents annually — a fraction of the rate of injury in football, biking or swimming.
But, with over a million licensed h unters every year, that’s still 20 or 30 people too many. All accidents are preventable. Experienced hunters who don’t take hunter education and get complacent about safety cause most of the problems. Every year there is a tragic instance or two of unsupervised youth mishandling a loaded firearm. No one should be killed by carelessness, so let’s learn from our mistakes and make this season the safest one yet.
Here are the three most common causes of injury or death while hunting.
- Careless handling of the firearm.People drop, prop, shove or pull on a loaded firearm, not paying attention to where the muzzle is pointed. Sometimes the firearm falls or is knocked over by the hunting dog. Or, while reaching for the firearm, the hunter accidentally grabs the trigger or the trigger gets caught on something. A hunter stumbles and falls with a loaded firearm. The end result of all of these: The firearm discharges, hitting the hunter or companion, sometimes fatally.
- Swinging on game.This most often happens while hunting waterfowl, especially in September. Hunters are side-by-side, shotguns up and following game birds flying overhead. In the excitement of the moment, someone follows the bird beyond his safe zone of fire (the area or direction in which you can safely fire a shot) or steps forward into someone else’s zone of fire. A shot is fired and the victim gets hit, sometimes fatally.
- Shooting from or around a vehicle.Shooting from inside a vehicle or propping a gun over the roof or the hood of a vehicle can be dangerous. Grabbing a loaded firearm in the cramped quarters of a vehicle can easily lead to an unintended discharge. Looking through a scope, the hunter is deceived because the aim is far away; nearby, the barrel is lower than the scope. The hunter ends up shooting into the cab of vehicle, or into someone standing near the vehicle.
Each of these accidents resulted from not following the rules. Review them and practice them to save lives — yours, your friends’ and your family’s. And finally, even if you were born before Sept. 2, 1971, take hunter education. You will learn something new, and you’ll join the ranks of more than a million Texas hunter education graduates who are safe, legal and ethical hunters.
- Point the muzzle in a safe direction at all times.Never point at anything you don’t intend to shoot, even when you think the firearm is unloaded. Control the muzzle at all times. Never rest the muzzle on your foot.
- Treat every firearm as if it were loaded. “I didn’t realize it was loaded” are hollow words you never want to have to say when someone was shot or killed because of your actions. Every time you pick up a firearm, control the muzzle and check to see if the firearm is loaded. Be sure the chamber and magazine are empty and that the action is open until ready to be fired. Then still treat the firearm as if it were loaded.
- Be sure of your target, what is in front of it and beyond it.Make sure your target is fully visible and in good light. Look at what is in front of the target, and where your shot will go if it travels beyond your target. Determine that you have a safe backstop or background. Since you don’t know what is on the other side, never take a shot at any animals on top of ridges or hillsides. Know how far bullets, arrows and pellets can travel. Never shoot at flat, hard surfaces such as water, rocks or steel because of ricochets.
- Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until the instant you are ready to fire. Keep the safety on but don’t let that substitute for safe firearm handling.
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