Now is a good time to review a few simple firearm and hunter safety rules so everyone has a safe and successful hunting season.
“It’s Time for Hunter Safety”
SAFE SCHOOLS, SAFE KIDS COLUMN
By School Resource Officer Wes Libner, South High School
It’s hunting season – an age-old tradition that has evolved from the need to put food on the table to a time of sportsmanship and camaraderie among adults, parents, children, and friends. Many North Dakota fall hunting seasons have already begun, with the Pheasant season set to open October 11 and the Deer (Gun) season set to open November 7.
Keep these simple firearm and hunter safety rules in mind, and your next hunt will be a safe and successful one:
Always control the muzzle of your firearm. Point it in a safe direction and keep it under control (especially those who choose to hunt with a handgun).
Treat each firearm like a loaded firearm. Check any firearm that you hold. Is it unloaded? You need to know that! When a firearm changes hands, leave the action open. Be sure the gun barrel and action are clear of obstructions and that you ONLY have ammunition of the proper size (caliber or gauge) for the firearm you are carrying. When hunting, keep the safety lock on and your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you are on target and ready to fire.
Be sure of your target and what is beyond. Never shoot at a flash of a color or a sound; never shoot at a shape in a tree or a bush; never shoot at a skylined animal (dark shape silhouetted against the sky). You don’t want to find out later that the shape was your hunting partner or that a house was behind the tree.
Unload firearms when not in use. Leave actions open. Firearms should be carried empty and in cases to and from your shooting areas. Remember to clean and place firearms in their proper storage location as soon as you return home from a day afield. If possible, lock the firearms so the action cannot function. Responsible hunters make certain the firearms in their home are not easily accessible to anyone who may not be trained in the safe handling of firearms.
Dress appropriately for the weather and the activity. Don’t forget to wear your blaze orange clothing. You want other hunters to see you, not target you. Frostbite doesn’t take long to occur when you are exposed to the elements, especially with the wind chill factor we experience most of the time in North Dakota. You can also get dehydrated with the exertion in the cold weather without even realizing it until it is too late.
Ask permission and obey all posted signage. Remember, hunting without permission is TRESPASSING, whether the property is posted or not. Responsible hunters plan for a hunt by learning the area, knowing the names or the landowners, and asking permission to hunt well in advance of the hunting season(s).
Avoid alcoholic beverages or other mood altering drugs before or while shooting or hunting. A single beer can affect your coordination and reaction time. Save the legal spirits for later when you are sitting around telling the “big one that got away” stories.
Notify others of your hunting plans. Even if you are hunting with someone else, it is good for others to know where your hunting party is going and what time you are expected back, in case something goes very wrong. This safety measure is especially important if you are going out hunting alone.
And, some general firearm safety considerations:
- Never point a firearm at anything you do not want to shoot.
- Avoid all horseplay with a firearm.
- Never climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch, log, or creek with a loaded firearm.
- Never pull a firearm toward you by the muzzle.
- Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water – a ricochet may result.
- During target practice, be sure your backstop is adequate.
- Store (locked) firearms and ammunition separately, beyond the reach of children.
- Bring a general first aid kit along on all hunting excursions.
- Obey and support ALL wildlife laws and report all violations.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is the best resource for North Dakota hunting season dates, resident and non-resident licenses and fees, and hunting regulations. It also has detailed maps of the state’s hunting zones for deer, waterfowl and upland game. Minnesota residents should check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for their state hunting regulations, etc.
Let’s all have a safe and productive hunting season, and carry on with one of the oldest traditions in America.
Officer Libner enjoys hunting of all types: waterfowl, upland game, and large game such as deer, elk and moose. His passion is bow hunting and he prefers that over any other type, but he does also enjoy gun hunting. He hunts in North Dakota and Minnesota, but mostly south of Kindred, ND along the Sheyenne River.