Hunting Safety Tips: How to Stay Safe Before, During and After Your Hunt

Generally speaking, hunting is a surprisingly safe sport, with some data even suggesting that it’s safer than golf, volleyball, snowboarding and tackle football. With that being said, the statistics are no accident, so to speak—hunting is relatively low-risk because most of its participants take the notion of safety very seriously. Wielding a firearm of any sort comes with enormous responsibility. If you intend to load a gun, aim it and pull the trigger, you must be well-versed on firearm safety, no exceptions.

Before: What to Pack, Prepare and Wear

Like anything, hunting safety relies on a little bit of preparation. Make sure you go into the hunt ready for whatever the day may throw your way. 

  • Wear Your Orange—Hunter orange, otherwise known as “blaze orange,” is a high-visibility color that lets other hunters know you’re in the vicinity. Some data shows that blaze orange is the biggest factor in hunter safety, so it’s not something you want to skip. Wear a high-visibility orange vest, jacket or hat.
  • Wear Eye and Ear Protection—Don’t forget to pack safety glasses and ear protection in your hunting pack. Protecting your eyes and ears can safeguard you from lifelong damage caused by the noise and ricocheting debris of the weapon.
  • Keep a Clear Head—Remember to never go hunting with anything but a clear, calm demeanor. Don’t consume any drugs—including prescription or over-the-counter drugs which may alter your ability to think clearly or operate a firearm safely—or drink alcohol. Never go hunting when you’re angry or emotional.
  • Leave Info with a Friend—At its core, a day spent hunting is simply a day in the wilderness, and the wilderness is no picnic. Make sure to leave information about your whereabouts and the day’s plans with a friend or family member. Use a GPS that doesn’t rely on cell service in case you lose your way.
  • Dress for the Weather—Blistering hot sun, downpours that affect visibility, temps below zero—the most diehard hunters experience them all and are rarely fazed. But all of these weather issues can compromise the safety of an outing, so make sure you’re dressed and prepared for any and all extreme weather.
  • Know Your Firearm—Before you head out on a hunting adventure of any sort, make sure you’re completely comfortable with your firearm and know it inside and out. Try to get a feel for the area where you’re hunting before beginning, too, so that you don’t get disoriented. 

During: Essential Tips to Avoid Accidents

Naturally, the biggest risks occur while you’re out on the hunt. Make sure that you follow a few basic firearm handling tips every step of the way, from the moment you remove the weapon from its case to the final shot of the day.

  • Treat Your Firearm as if It’s Loaded—Whether you’re stalking white-tailed deer or are hunting marsh hen, this is the most important rule of hunting: always treat your firearm as if it’s loaded.
  • Know How to Handle It—Here are some tips on how to handle your firearm as if it’s loaded and to prevent serious accidents:
    • Always keep your firearm’s barrel pointed in a safe direction
    • Make sure the barrel is free of any obstructions before you shoot
    • Only point at what you intend to shoot, whether it’s alive or not
    • Keep your finger off the trigger until the gun is ready to fire
    • Keep the action of your gun open and empty when not firing
    • Load one shell into your gun at a time, never more
    • Make sure you’re using the proper ammo
    • Keep your firearm’s safety on until you plan to shoot
  • Keep Yourself and Your Companions Safe—Be aware of those around you at all times to avoid hunting accidents, including your four-legged friends. Never let your dog off leash in any hunting environment unless he or she is a trained hunting dog. Make sure to outfit your pup in an orange vest, too. Walk side-by-side—never in front or behind—your human partner.

After: Safe Storage and Transport Is Vital

Safety should be at the forefront of your mind the entire day, up until your gun is finally unloaded and locked away in its storage unit.

  • Pack Up Properly—When the hunt is over, it’s easy to let safety best practices slip away. Make sure that you don’t lose focus of crucial safety rules amidst the excitement of the day. If you’re using a treestand or any shelter, be sure to take the time to tear it down properly and never rush through packing up.
  • Store Your Weapons Safely—Once you get home, make sure that you follow the best practices for safely storing your weapon. 
    • Store all firearms unloaded and triple-check that they are unloaded
    • Lock firearms in a securely locked safe, vault or cabinet inaccessible to children or anyone whom you wouldn’t want to allow access
    • Store your ammo separately from your firearms, in its own locked unit
  • Use Safe Transport Guidelines—Make sure to transport guns and ammo safely—unloaded, locked and out of reach.

Use Common Sense and Take Your Time

As a hunter, you already know that safety is of utmost importance, a crucial component of a fun and fruitful hunt. Knowing your way around your weapon and understanding some of the main reasons why hunters get into trouble is the first step to safe shooting. Beyond that, make sure to use common sense and take your time. As long as you do all of this at once, you’ll be able to enjoy the fresh air, the wilderness and the pure joy of the hunt.

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