Playing It Safe on the Hunt

Playing it safe on the hunt

With shortening daylight and cooler temperatures, fall is taking hold all across the Lake Texoma region.

And with that change in seasons, hunters are chomping at the bit to get into the field to chase deer, ducks, and small game.

As exciting as it can be to climb into a deer stand, a duck blind, or to shoulder a shotgun or a .22 rifle to chase rabbits and squirrels, don’t overlook a few basic hunting safety rules designed to keep you safe.

While hardly a comprehensive list, here are a few rules to consider, courtesy of information put out by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Ducks Unlimited, and a few others:

  • Always point the muzzle of your rifle, shotgun, handgun or muzzleloader in a safe direction.
  • Always treat a firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Handle every firearm or bow with the same respect that you would show a loaded gun or a bow nocked with an arrow.
  • Be sure of your target, including what is in front of it and what is behind it.
  • When you aren’t 100-percent sure of what’s behind your target, pass up any shot opportunity.
  • Never shoot a gun at a hard, flat surface or the water’s surface where a ricochet might happen.
  • Know your safe zone-of-fire and never violate it at any cost.
  • Wear hearing and eye protection while shooting rifles, shotguns, handguns and muzzleloaders.
  • Handle all firearms, ammunition, bows and arrows carefully.
  • Avoid any and all horseplay with firearms.
  • Never climb a fence, a tree or a ladder with a loaded firearm or with your bow and arrows.
  • Never climb up a tree to a deerstand without some sort of fall-arrest safety system attached properly to your body.
  • Never occupy a treestand without wearing a safety harness that properly tethers you to the tree.
  • Never jump a ditch or cross difficult terrain with a loaded firearm or a nocked arrow
  • Unload firearms when not in use, store them in cool and dry places, use gun and/or trigger locks, and store ammunition separately.
  • When required by state or local laws and regulations, wear daylight fluorescent orange (hunter safety orange) so that you can be seen from a distance or in heavy cover.
  • When using a boat in your hunting activities, never run an overloaded boat while also making sure that it’s big enough and safe enough to handle big, rough water.
  • Carry a cell phone in a waterproof plastic bag when hunting to call for help if necessary or to alert family members that you’ll be late.
  • If duck hunting or traveling on water, always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD (personal flotation device).
  • Always let someone know what your hunting plans are, where you are going, and when you will return. If plans change or problems arise, make a phone call and alert loved ones.
  • Have a small bag or pack with you that contains basic fire-starting materials and survival gear (high energy food, some water, a compass, a headlamp and/or flashlight, paracord and/or rope, a knife, flares or a signal mirror, a whistle, dry clothes, a space blanket, etc.).
  • Finally, don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before or while handling firearms and/or bow and arrows.

By Lynn Burkhead