North Dakota Outdoors
What are the most important reminders as fall hunting seasons are in full gear?
Knowing the limits? Having the right license? Taking a kid hunting? These are all good, but the list below should occupy the top spot.
1. Treat every firearm with the same respect due a loaded firearm.
2. Control the direction of your firearm’s muzzle.
3. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
4. Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
5. Unload firearms when not in use.
6. Never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot.
7. Never climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch or log, with a loaded firearm.
8. Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water.
9. Store firearms and ammunition separately.
10. Avoid alcoholic beverages or other mood-altering drugs before or while shooting.
In some way, shape or form, those are the “10 commandments” of hunter safety.
Common sense isn’t listed, nor is understanding that once the trigger is pulled, you can’t undo what happens next. I could include these in just about every column all year-round and we’d still unfortunately end up with firearms accidents that occur when people are hunting.
In similar fashion, no matter how many deer are or are not on the landscape, any single deer-vehicle collision is significant for the person and individual involved. The same could be said if there’s only one hunting injury or accident. In the big picture that may be a statistical success, but to the person involved and their family, it is significant.
Optional hunter education began in North Dakota in the 1970s. In 1979 the state legislature made hunter education mandatory and required that all people born after 1961 complete a certified course in order to purchase a hunting license. Since then nearly 200,000 North Dakotans have been certified. The number of hunting accidents has fallen dramatically, but still, one is too many.
Firearms safety is not the only component of hunter safety. Waterfowl hunters especially need to pay attention to weather and wind if they are heading out in a boat, and make sure they don’t overload their craft, and always wear life jackets, not just have them on board as is the minimum legal requirement.
Eight people have drowned in state waters since 1998 while hunting from a boat, and none were wearing life jackets. “Capsizing and falling overboard from small boats are the most common types of fatal boating accidents for hunters,” said Nancy Boldt, recently retired boat and water safety coordinator for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “With all the gear in the boat, including dogs, it can quickly become unbalanced.”
In addition, wearing a life jacket will not only keep an overboard hunter afloat, but also slow the loss of critical body heat caused by exposure to cold water
One last point. It’s mid-October and whether your next outing is your first or 15th, as I mentioned first of all, think safety. Sure, we all want to get away from it all, but we need to be reasonable as well. So before you leave your mobile phones or communication devices back at the truck or hunting camp, think of what they can do for you in an emergency, and just put them on vibrate or silent. In the event you need one to call for help, you’ll be glad you have it along.