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Hunting & Fishing Safety

Hunter Safety Tip
I know this is basic common sense but because someone didn't follow this tip my three year old son is now dead. While hunting on our family farm my husband and our son were walking back to the camp ground. A man who knew that they were in the area fired his high power rifle at my son thinking he was an animal. Not only did he not know his target he also shot way after dark. It was so dark you couldn't see outside. Because he did not follow basic hunter's safety my son is now dead. Make sure you know exactly what you are shooting at before pulling the trigger. Stop hunting when it is time to stop hunting. Imagine holding your son's hand and someone shoots him from 17 yards. This is what happened to my beautiful son.

Bringing Home Unwelcome Guests

During the early part of deer season, especially in the west, rattle snakes will still be active. Any items left on the ground during your camping should be checked for these hitch hikers before loading up to return home. They can easily be carried in your car, or worse, to your home. Recently a hunters wife spotted a small (12 inch) diamond back rattler on the floor of her den. It was quickly caught and taken out of the home, but needless to say, she now looks everywhere for any kind of her visitor. The only good thing about the story is that his mother-in-law is deathly afraid of snakes. He figures this will cut her Christmas visit short. Submitted by [email protected]

Ten Commandments of Shooting Safety (Revised October 8, 2003)

1. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction. Do not point a firearm or bow at anything you do not intend to shoot. Control the direction of the muzzle at all times. Never rest a muzzle on your toe or foot. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until the instant you are ready to fire. Always keep the safety on until ready to fire; however, the safety should never be a substitute for safe firearm handling.

2. Trust every firearm or bow with the same respect you would show a loaded gun or nocked arrow. Every time you pick up a firearm, the first thing you do is check to see if it is loaded. Be sure the chamber and magazine are empty and that the action is open until ready to be fired. If you do not understand how to determine if it is loaded, do not accept the firearm until someone has safely shown you that it is unloaded. Read your instruction manual carefully before you handle new firearms or bows.

3. Be sure of your target and what is in front of and beyond your target. Before you pull the trigger you must properly identify game animals. Until your target is fully visible and in good light, do not even raise your scope to see it. Use binoculars! Know what is in front of and behind your target. Determine that you have a safe backstop or background. Since you do not know what is on the other side, never take a shot at any animals on top of ridges or hillsides. Know how far bullets, arrows and pellets can travel. Never shoot at flat, hard surfaces, such as water, rocks or steel because of ricochets.

4. Unload firearms and unstring conventional bows when not in use. Leave actions open, and store sporting arms in cases when traveling toand from shooting areas. Take bolts out or break down shotguns if necessary. Know how your equipment operates. Store and transport firearms and ammunition separately and under lock and key. Store firearms and bows in cool, dry places. Use gun or trigger locks and guards when not in use.

5. Handle the firearms, arrows and ammunition carefully. Avoid horseplay with firearms. Never climb a fence, a tree or a ladder with a loaded firearm or bow and arrows. Never jump a ditch or cross difficult terrain with a loaded firearm or nocked arrow. Never face or look down the barrel from the muzzle end. Be sure the only ammunition you carry correctly matches the gauge or caliber you are shooting. Always carry arrows in a protected cover or quiver. Learn the proper carries. Try to use the two-hand carry whenever possible because it affords you the best muzzle control. Always carry handguns with hammers over an empty chamber or cylinder. If you fall, be sure to disassemble the gun and check the barrel from the breech end for obstructions. Carry a field cleaning kit.

6. Know your safe zone-of-fire and stick to it. Your safe zone-of-fire is that area or direction in which you can safely fire a shot. It is "down range" at a shooting facility. In the field it is that mental image you draw in your mind with every step you take. Be sure you know where your companions are at all times. Never swing your gun or bow out of your safe zone-of-fire. Know the safe carries when there are persons to your sides, in front of, or behind you. If in doubt, never take a shot. When hunting, wear daylight fluorescent orange so you can be seen from a distance or in heavy cover.

7. Control your emotions when it comes to safety. If you lose control of your emotions you may do something carelessly. If you have just shot a target or animal you probably will be excited. At that moment you may turn with a loaded firearm back towards your friends or you might run with a loaded firearm towards a downed animal with the gun safety off. You or someone else may be in danger once you lose control of your emotions. Show discipline. Rehearse in your mind what the safe actions will be. Do not allow your daydreams to prelace good judment. Show restraint and pass up shots which have the slightest chance of being unsafe.

8. Wear hearing and eye protection. While shooting at the range, you must wear hearing and eye protection at all times. Firearms are loud and can create noises which are damaging to a person's hearing. It can be a gradual loss of hearing due to outbursts of noise over many years. The damage could also be immediate, especially if your ears are next to a muzzle blast. Vibrations from the blast are enough to create loss of hearing. Wear glasses to protect your eyes from escaping gases, burnt powder (especially in blackpowder shooting), and other debris.

9. Don't drink alcohol or take drugs before or while handling firearms or bow and arrows. Alcohol and drugs impair normal physical and mental body functions and mustn't be used before or while handling firearms or archery equipment. These substances affect emotions, making it easier to lose control.

10. Be aware of additional circumstances which require added caution or safety awareness. Just because something isn't listed under these "ten commandments of shooting safety" doesn't mean you can ignore it if it is dangerous. There may be rules such as in muzzleloading or archery or posted at a shooting range which should also be followed. Also, practice reloading safety by following and reading all specific instructions. Practice all commandments of shooting safety. Ensure a safe future for you, others and the shooting sports!

Boating Safety
for Hunters
When boating, each person on board should wear a life jacket or other personal floatation device. Don't overload the boat. Check the capacity plate, and never exceed the weight limit or number of people you safely can have aboard. Consider the weight of your passengers and equipment. Hunters and their dogs should always remain seated. If you must move, stay in the center of the boat and keep a low center of gravity. Always check the weather, and stay on shore if bad weather occurs or is expected. Tell a responsible person where you are going and when you will return. You should also observe the rules of safe firearms handling and transport.

All firearms being transported in a boat during hours of darkness should be unloaded and cased. Hypothermia is an added danger when hunting around water. This loss of inner body heat most commonly occurs when the air temperature is between 30 and 50 degrees. Carry extra clothes in a waterproof bag. Keep a survival kit with you, including matches in a waterproof container. This allows you to build a fire for warmth and to dry your clothes if wet.

If your boat capsizes, stay with it. If the boat is still afloat, climb on top. You're more likely to survive if you're not in the water. Wear your life jacket. This keeps you warmer and your head above water. Use common sense when boating to your favorite hunting spot. Allow extra time so you don't forget important safety precautions. Don't let your next waterfowling trip turn into a tragedy.

Hunting Safety Tips

Don't rely on your gun's safety. Treat all weapons as if they're loaded and ready to fire. Never cross a fence, climb a tree or stand or jump in a ditch with a loaded gun. Never hoist a loaded weapon into a stand. Never load or carry a loaded weapon until you are ready to use it. Always unload weapons before reding in any vehicle, including ATVs.

Watch your muzzle so the other fellow doesn't have to. Wear hunter orange so you can be seen. A blaze orange hat and at least 400 square inches of hunter orange above the waist-line should be worn during all gun deer seasons. It should be worn at all times, not taken off once in the stand.

Keep guns and ammunition seperately and in locked storage. Don't shoot unless absolutely sure of your target and what is beyond it. Know the range of your weapon. Remember, even a .22 rimfire can travel over 2-1/2 miles. Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting firearms.

Always be sure your gun barrel and action are clear of obstructions, and only carry ammunition specifically intended for the weapon you're using. Always carry handguns with the hammer down on an empty chamber. Avoid alcholic beverages before and during shooting. Tell someone where you're going and when you plan to return. If you move from one area to another advise someone.

Dress for the weather, take a compass and maps to prevent from getting lost, and be alert for other sources of danger such as poisonous snakes. Carry a flashlight while walking through the hunting area before or after daylight.

Hunting Ethics
As the hunter learns the basics of hunting safety, he must also develop certain responsibilities to the sport. An understanding of game laws, sporting codes and wildlife management are as important as handling a weapon safely. All hunters must develop a code that make them good hunters. This code is called "hunter ethics."

Obey all the rules of safety and insist that those around you do the same. Obey all game laws and insist that those hunting with you do likewise. Do your best to acquire marksmanship and hunting skills that assure clean, sportsmanlike skills. Support conservation efforts that assure good hunting for future generations.

Don't be a slob. Keep your campsite neat, and don't offend others by openly displaying your kill in camp or on your vehicle. Pass along to other hunters, especially youngsters, the attitudes and skills essential to being a true outdoor sportsman.

Tree-Stand Safety

When using a tree stand, always adhere to the follwing safety rules, and the chance of an accident can be minimized.

Wear a safety belt. If your stand collapses, a safety belt will prevent you from falling. Don't leave much slack in the belt. One or two feet of slack will allow you to turn 360 degrees, and if a fall occurs, you'll only fall one or two feet.

Use a cord or rope to raise and lower all equipment from the stand, keeping your hands free for climbing. Keep equipment on the opposite side of the tree from which you are climbing, so if you do fall, you won't fall on your equipment. Inspect your stand. Check for loose or rotten boards, loose nuts and bolts, and replace worn chains or straps.

Practice setting up your stand. Be familiar with the workings of the stand before you go to the woods. Before using manufactured stands, always read the instructions and warnings. Tell a dependable person where you're hunting and when you'll return. If you're injured and can't get out of the wood, someone will know where to look for you.

Pick a mature tree on which to secure your stand. Do not use a tree that is rotten or has dead limbs that may fall on the stand. Clear the tree of any limbs that could cause a fall, but get permission before you start clearing. If you're not allowed to cut limbs, use cords to tie them back.

If the weather turns bad, return to the ground. High winds make stands unstable. Rain, snow or sleet can cause you to slip. Extra precautions are needed in these situations. Don't fall asleep. This is a common cause of accidents. If you get drowsy, leave the stand and walk around to wake yourself up.

Remember, the higher you are in your stand, the further you might fall. If you do fall, don't panic. Try to determine the injuries you have. Check for spinal cord injuries by wiggling your feet and legs. If you suspect you have this type of injury, don't move.

Stop excess bleeding. Check for broken bones, and if you think you have any, support them with splints. Carry a survival kit at all times. Include matches, string, candy bars, a whistle and other items that can make an overnight stay more comfortable.

If you told someone where you are and when you're expected to return, help should be on its way. Hunting safely from a stand depends on what you do before you hunt. Being prepared is the best way to prevent tree stand accidents.

Turkey Hunting Safety

Hunting is one of the safest outdoor activities, but only when participants abide by the rules of safe conduct. Below are some keys to safe spring turkey hunting. Study them before your next outing; pass them along to a friend.

Target Identification

Being 99.9 percent sure isn't good enough. Make absolutely sure you see a turkey with a beard before pulling the trigger.


Never use a gobble call on a spring hunt. It increases your odds of gettingshot.

Dress Defensively and Wear Full Camouflage
from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Wearing partial camouflage may leave just enough exposed to look like parts of a turkey. Never wear white, blue, or black, including socks and undergarments, to hunt spring turkeys, as these colors are associated with wild turkeys and can contribute to hunter-mistaken-for-game accidents.

Calling Position

Choose a position from which you can see well without tree limbs or branches obstructing your view. If possible, sit at the base of a tree with a trunk wider than your body to protect your back.

Signaling an Approaching Hunter

Never wave, whistle or make turkey calls to alert another hunter to your presence. In a clear voice, without shouting, call out to the oncoming hunter.

Using a Decoy

When using a decoy, always place it so you are out of the direct line of fire should another hunter mistake it for legal game. When moving through the woods, totally conceal your decoy with camouflage or fluorescent orange, so it won't be mistaken for a live turkey.

Hunting Strategy

Never stalk a wild turkey. The less you move, the more safe and effective you will be.

Bringing Home the Bacon

Once you've killed a bird, wrap a fluorescent orange vest or band around its body with wings folded in before moving. Leave the woods via the most open route possible.

Wading Safety Tips

Assess the Situation

Take time to see what's happening around you before you wade right in.

Read Warning Signs

Study them all, and take them seriously.

Check Conditions of Water Beforehand

Ask Whether the Water is rising, falling or steady. Ask other folks what they've already observed. Such information is critical when you're miles from a dam and can't hear sirens.

Heed Warnings
Assume any unusual noise coming from a dam is a signal to leave the water.

Monitor Water Levels
Use Stationary rocks or logs as water-level guages and check them often, especially when you're far from a dam. Other signs of rising water: the sound of rushing water changes pitch, birds and fish become more active, plant material from inundated shorelines floats downstream, water moves faster or becomes cloudy.

Plan an Escape Route
No matter where you wade, always have an escape route through shallow water in mind.

Carry a Wading Staff

Fast water can sweep you off your feet. A sturdy stick, wading staff or ski pole helps you maintain at least two points of contact with the streambed.

Accept Help
If you're stranded or struggling, you're in danger. If someone offers help, take it. If no one offers, ask for it.

Recognize Your Limits
Don't exceed the limits of your strength, agility and endurance. A tired wader traversing rising water and slick rocks is inviting tragedy.

If Water Overcomes You

If water overcomes you, get rid of equipment. Grandpa's rod or your fishing vest mean nothing if you don't live to use them again. Jettison gear if a free hand or less weight could save your life.

If You're Swept Away
Float on your back, draw your knees up to your chest, and point your feet downstream. This position protects your head from rocks and other obstructions. Use your arms to steer into slow or shallow water, remain calm, and keep your head above water.

Swim with the Current in Deep Water

In deep water, swim with the current and diagonally across it.Avoid using all your strength to fight the current. Conserve energy by working downstream, then stand only in shallow, slow water. Respect your tailwaters. Use common sense when wading, and you'll live to enjoy them again and again.

Responsible ATV Use

If possible, don't use three-wheeled versions of ATV vehicles. In 1988, Congress passed a bill banning sale of these vehicles due to a poor safety record. Many of these vehicles are still being used, and they're just as dangerous as before.

Following some common-sense safety precautions can lessen your chance of being involved in an ATV accident.

Take an ATV approved training course. Many retailers give discounts for successful completion. Ask the dealer for information on the next available course.

Always read and follow the owner's manual you receive upon purchasing your ATV. Make an extra effort to pay attention to all warnings within the manual.

Never Ride With a Passenger on your ATV

Transporting passengers on ATVs is not recommeded by manufacturers. Carrying heavy game animals or passengers can drastically limit control of an ATV, possibly causing a serious accident. If you transport game on an ATV, special care should be taken with handling and speed.

Always wear proper safety equipment while operating your ATV. This equipment includes but is not limited to gloves, boots, long sleeves, long pants, eye protection and an approved helmet.

Control your need for speed. Always operate your ATV at a safe speed.

Always transport firearms unloaded and in a secured case or rack mounted to the ATV so as not to interfere with the ATV's safe operation. The case will protect your firearm from damage while being transported.

The manner in which you operate your ATV goes hand in hand with its safe operation. When boarding your ATV, remember you have a responsibility to the landowner, wildlife, other people and the environment.

Always ask the landowner if ATVs are allowed on the land. Avoid chasing or scaring livestock, and never ride around locked gates. Never chase or harass wildlife or infringe on the rights of other outdoorsmen while riding your ATV.

Finally, protect the environment by riding on designated trails. ATVs can scar the terrain, cause severe erosion and destroy wildlife habitat. If you follow these suggestions, the next time you return to the same area you may not find a locked gate or posted signs. Enjoy your ATV, but do so in a safe and responsible manner. Set a good example for others to follow.

More Safety Tips

Finding Your Flashlight at Night
Ever wake up at night in camp and fumble around in the dark for your flashlight? It's never where you put it. But you'll always be able to put your hand on it if you tuck it into your shoe under or beside the bed, and it can't roll away, either.

Safe Cooking

Open-fire chefs who keep burning their fingers on pot covers can make things easier for themselves by making a lid-lifter from a Y-shaped branch. Trim it to a handle and fork and wedge the lid top in the fork.

Safely Dragging Deer out of Woods
To drag a deer out of the woods, tie one end of a 5-foot piece of rope around the base of the antlers and the other end around the center of a 2-foot-long dried stick about 2 inches thick. Extend your arms behind you and grasp the stick with both hands. As you walk away in this position you will be pulling the deer forward without lifting any of its weight. Two people can share the task by grasping opposite ends of the stick with one hand each, pulling shoulder to shoulder.

If You're Lost in Heavily Wooded Areas
If you are lost in heavily wooded country, the angles at which logging trails join will always show you the way out to a traveled road. Logging trail systems branch out like tree limbs from the main stem. The sharp angle formed at their junctions always points to the route the loggers used to haul timber to the road.

Keeping Extra Clothes out of the Way

When deer hunting, use your 5- or 6-foot drag rope to sling extra clothing over your back where it is out of the way and won't interfere with your shooting. Roll the clothing into a 2-foot-long bundle, leaving enough slack to permit slipping your head and one arm and shoulder through the resulting loop. Wear the bundle on your back with the strap over your non-shooting shoulder.

Snowshoe Safety

Buckled snowshoe harnesses are dangerous when you are crossing frozen lakes, ponds, or streams. You can't swim with snowshoes on. People who work around thin ice wear simple bindings that have only a leather toepiece and a loop of rubber tire tube or Bungee cord around the heel. The stretchable heel loop makes it possible to kick out of the harness or pull it free if you accidentally go through the ice.

If You Fall in the Water
If you fall in the water while wading, don't try to swim against the current. Instead, roll on your back, feet downstream, and let the current sweep you along, using your arms and legs to propel yourself slowly toward shore. Use your feet to kick off from rocks. When you get into shallow water, roll onto your stomach, and crawl ashore.

Keeping Warm

When building a lifesaving fire on snow or ice, lay a broad carpet of conifer boughs to stand on around the firesite. This will get your feet up off the cold surface and allow your boots to warm. If needed, use more boughs to build a wind barrier 3 feet high about 8 feet upwind of the fire to reduce heat loss.

Starting an Emergency Fire
Snowmobile operators should carry a small, dry container filled with strips of rags in the vehicle's storage box. If an emergency occurs and building a fire is necessary, dip the end of a rag strip in the gasoline tank and use it as an instant fire starter.