Fall is a nice time of year in the Midwest. Fall sports are back, trees change colors, and after a hot summer, the cooler temperatures feel nice. It’s also the time of year when hunters begin venturing into the woods.
According to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, more than 87 million Americans hunt, fish, and enjoy wildlife-related recreation annually. Combined, these activities generate more than $120 billion for the U.S. economy and support almost three million jobs.
Whether you’re a gun collector, sport-shooting enthusiast, or hunter, here are some safety tips to keep yourself and others safe.
1. Communication is key.
Whether or not you own a gun, talking to your kids about gun safety is an important discussion. You never know what they may find at a friend’s house.
If you’re hunting with family or friends, discuss the layout of the land and have a thorough understanding of where each person will be.
If you’re venturing into the woods, tell family or friends where you’re going and when you’ll be home.
If visiting your local gun range, understand their rules and abide by them.
2. Store guns and ammunition in separate locked cabinets. Too often, we hear about accidental shootings. What you think is a good hiding spot probably isn’t. Kids are inquisitive and can find things you’d least expect them to find. Store the keys for your gun cabinets in a safe place. Labeling keys for a gun cabinet and leaving them in a common area of your home defeats the purpose of locked cabinets. Consider trigger locks.
3. Wear the appropriate clothing or gear. No matter what hobby you enjoy, wearing the appropriate clothing or gear is important. When shooting, wear eye and ear protection. If you enjoy walking in the woods, make sure you wear bright clothing to make yourself more visible. If you’re hunting from a tree stand, consider a safety harness.
Maintain your gear/hunting equipment properly by inspecting it after each use. If it needs repair, contact a professional.
4. Pack a first aid kit. Create a small kit specifically for you. My dad is allergic to bee stings, so he carried an EpiPen® when he hunted. If you suffer from an occasional migraine and have prescription medicine, pack that, as well.
5. Be aware of your surroundings. Identify where other hunters are and know what your target is before shooting. Find out where local medical services are located.
6. Ask permission. Just because you live near the woods doesn’t mean you can hunt in the woods. Always ask permission from landowners before hunting on their land since it can create many liability exposures for them. If you talk to the landowner beforehand, he/she can keep track of who’s hunting on the land and share any safety tips specific to the property. The last thing you want is a heated confrontation in the woods.
7. Contact your local DNR. Many states require hunter safety courses.