Hunting Safety

By Randy Wakeman

Hunting safety is a broad topic and admittedly a tiresome one to some. Yet, merely telling someone to “be safe” may make the teller feel better, but isn't helpful. Mothers tell their kids to “be safe” all the time. It hardly works. In the United States, in 2010, unintentional falls killed 26,009 people and unintentional poisoning killed 33,041 folks. Traffic deaths were 33,687 in 2010.

Now you know why whenever I hear a politician give a speech about “if it saves even one life” as an excuse to pass a law or shred the Constitution, I tend to roll my eyes at the spectacular stupidity of the speech. In 2010, 2,468,435 deaths were registered in the United States. It isn't easy to ban gravity, water, or electricity.

Would you rather be hit by a drunken driver, texting driver, driver eating a ham sandwich, driver fighting with his kids, or a driver applying make-up? The root cause of the situation hardly matters when it happens to you. You cannot legislate awareness, yet awareness or lack thereof is what causes accidents.

1. Cheney / Perazzi 2008 “Let's Give Them Another Shot” - Intelligent, well-educated people do dumb things when distracted. If you are aware of what can potentially distract you, you can reduce those factors or eliminate them. If you have hunting buddies that are distraction-prone, don't hunt with them.

2. Dog Shoots Owner with A-5 - Nature called, so the hunter put his A-5 on the ground and tended to his biological needs in front of the muzzle. His dog managed to pull the trigger inadvertently with his nails, blowing off a goodly portion of the man's foot. The need to relieve himself was sufficient to remove basic muzzle awareness. Striving to be aware is a best practice.

3. Visibility - Last year, intense thick fog was a component in the Iowa deer season. Knowing your backstop was not plausible, or possible. Shooting into the fog, several hunters shot other hunters. You cannot control the weather, but you can refrain from hunting in an unsafe environment.

4. Sacrificing Safety for Convenience - Consider hunting ads, hunting shows. Where are the eye and ear protection? While not convenient, eye injuries and permanent hearing damage can be mitigated or eliminated. It is your choice.

5. Falling and the Loaded Gun - Based on terrain and the hunt, you may wish to err on the side of caution and safety by having an empty chamber. Climb up mountains, step in holes, cross streams and fences, you may want an empty chamber. Climb on your belly like a reptile, you may want an empty chamber. On several arctic hunts with a BAR, I carried empty chamber. You will fall or stumble and your gun won't be controlled, pointed in a safe direction and safeties can be knocked off. Not having a loaded chamber until needed is a good practice. When you fall, stumble, you may also pick up mud or earth in your barrel. You won't have a bore obstruction if you monitor and check your weapon regularly.

6. Relying on a Mechanical Safety - You've probably heard “never rely on a mechanical safety” before. It is a nonsensical statement, for we do rely on mechanical safeties. If we didn't, there would be no reason for safeties to exist on firearms. We rely on mechanical safeties, just as we rely on brakes on automobiles, although they can malfunction. We can properly maintain our firearms, making sure that corroded parts, broken springs, filthy parts are cleaned and replaced if needed. If you borrow a gun, you likely have no idea as to its internal condition. Borrowing a gun, just like shooting someone else's reloads, is unnecessary risk. Alhough rare, guns and gun mechanisms can fail. I've had my share. When they fail, as in an unintentional discharge, we try to make sure they fail in a safe way, a safe direction.

7. Aborting the Hunt - The only good hunt is a safe hunt and hunting today is a sport, not a mandatory or subsistence level duty. Just like my years scuba diving, motorcycle racing and skydiving: if you feel sick, dizzy, woozy, lethargic, out of sorts, distracted and so forth, abort the hunt. Although not always convenient, this is the wisest practice.

8. Hunting Accidents are Not always Hunting Accidents - While problems that occur during hunting are sometimes mis-categorized as hunting accidents, often they are not. For example, one widely reported hunting accident (Deer Hunter Killed) was not a hunting accident at all. The individual flipped his ATV, crushing his chest and pinning himself beneath, where he quickly expired. He wasn't hunting at the time, it was an off-road vehicle accident, not a hunting accident. A heart attack or stroke isn't a rare event, it can happen at home watching a movie or while hunting. To mitigate the risk, it is seeing your doctor when indicated and take care of your physical condition.

9. In General - Most people's instincts are good. Loaded guns aren't much of an issue, they don't work any other way. However, hunting with loaded people isn't a good idea. We know we cannot control the actions of others, but we can stay away from reckless people and environments.

Hunting safety is just safety. In general, it is awareness and a constant assumption that as accidents happen every day, we avoid unnecessary risk environments. We all know what they are, if we stop and assess them. Enjoyment of hunting is no excuse to ignore traffic safety, off-road vehicle safety, making sure we can see and be seen, avoiding bad combinations of prescription drugs and avoiding people that do not share those views. Hunting is an extremely safe activity, safer than hiking, climbing a ladder, or mowing the lawn.

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Copyright 2013, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.