Hunting season is here and it’s time to make sure everything is in order to make your big hunt safe.
Here is a list of tasks you should remember to complete before you go out hunting and also another set of safety rules you should follow during the hunt.
What Should You do Before the Big Day?
These suggestions are not in a particular order.
Check Your Stands
Many hunters use permanent blinds that sit outside during the entire year and thus are exposed to various weather conditions. These conditions can cause blinds to become unsafe. Therefore, it is prudent to go out beforehand to make sure they are in safe working order. Frankly, most experts agree that permanent stands made of wood that are left out year round are generally not safe. They rot too easily.
It is much safer to use a sturdy portable stand. Inspect it beforehand and make sure it is in good condition and then put it up in advance.
Don’t go up too high. Generally speaking 15 to 20 feet up is sufficient. Anything higher than that just increases your chance of falling.
This is also a good time to check and make sure that there are not any trees near your stand that are in poor condition and risk falling on your stand. Just imagine how mad you’d be at yourself to arrive the morning of your first hunt and see that a tree adjacent to your blind had fallen on it.
(Do not cut down any trees without the permission of the land owner.)
Map Your Location
Taking time to familiarize yourself with your hunting grounds is also important. Make sure you map your location. The last thing you want to do is get lost on the way to your stand and miss getting in your blind just before sunrise. Arriving late after sunrise is one sure way to kill the hunt.
Mark the Way to Your Stand
Even though I grew up hunting in the same place year after year we always marked the path to our tree stands with florescent colored tags. It is amazing how different the terrain looks just before sun up or sun down. It is easy to get disoriented without ample light to guide you in the right direction.
Practice Shooting from a Stand
A more practiced shooter is always safer and more likely to bring home a deer. Lack of practice can lead to poor shots, shooting the wrong target, and accidental misfires.
When was the last time you shot your gun that you planned on using? And more importantly, have you practiced in a stand recently? It is much different to be in a stand shooting downward than standing on the ground and shooting horizontally at a target.
Also, it is possible that you might be shooting while sitting in an odd position. Make sure you have practiced all scenarios in advance. Practice makes perfect and you are more likely to down a deer if you are used to shooting in that position.
Now you might not want to practice shooting from your actual stand right before deer season. This will most likely just scare away any deer that usually wander in the direction of your stand. Ideally, practice from a stand at the range or in an area that you don’t usually hunt in.
Clean Your Equipment And Get It Ready
Taking care of your equipment is paramount to your safety. This avoids misfires or any other unforeseen mishaps.
When was the last time you cleaned your gun? Make sure you give your firearm a little bit of TLC to make sure that it works properly when that big deer or other game you are hunting is right in front of you.
Make sure you understand your equipment and how it works.
This might seem obvious, but there are new hunters yearly. Some have a lot of firearm experience and others do not. Mechanical failures can happen and you need to be ready in that situation.
Make sure you have appropriate clothing for the weather.
Many people forget how necessary it is to be properly dressed to be safe. If you are too cold you won’t last long and you also risk getting sick with frostbite or getting sick afterward. Getting sick can also ruin your hunt if you plan on going out multiple days.
Make Sure You are in Shape
Frankly it’s a bit late to get on this, however, in general, it’s never too late to take charge of your health.
Hunting is more physical than a lot of people realize. Often there is a lot of hiking. You have to carry heavy and/or awkward equipment. Hopefully, you will be dragging a deer back to your car. Dead weight is exhausting to carry.
All of this requires a healthy and in-shape body. You do not want to be that horrible statistic of the one guy or gal this hunting season that has a heart attack in the woods. (And here’s a great reason to tell a friend where you are.)
Here’s a link to the last article I wrote on how to get in shape for hunting season.
Buy a Safety Harness
I will say this again. Buy a safety harness. Too many hunters fall out of their tree stands. Do not let this be you. It is easily preventable!
What Should You do to be Safe on the Big Day?
Firearm Safety Rules
Assume that your gun and the guns of those around you are loaded at all times.
Always make sure that your gun is pointed in a safe direction. This is critical at all times and is crucial when you are hiking out with others. Often we need to climb over or under fences and we want to make sure we are aware of our firearms at all times.
Your finger stays off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
Climb into your tree stand with your gun unloaded. And at a minimum make sure that the safety is on. You do not want an accidental fire.
Before you shoot scan the area to make sure the area is safe. Mistakes in judgment between a deer and a human is a mistake that you do not want to make. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Take a breath and make sure your area is safe before you fire.
Getting into Your Stand Safely
Never carry your firearm or bow in your hand when you are climbing in and out of your stand. It is hard to safely handle them when you are trying to get in and out of a stand carefully. If you drop it you not only risk damaging your gun, but shooting yourself accidentally.
Always use a rope to haul up your gun and bow and always do this unloaded.
Use a Safety Belt for Climbing
Most falling accidents happen when hunters are getting in and out of their stand. Use a safety belt.
Strap Yourself in Once You are in Your Stand
Ideally, a body harness is the safest. And a belt is better than nothing. When you are only using a belt attach it around your chest so you don’t injure yourself with your belt if you fall.
It is better to have a short tether than a longer one. A longer fall increases the severity of your injuries.
Hunting is exciting and when you see a deer, caribou, or whatever in front of you, most likely your heart will start racing. Awareness is the key to controlling this situation.
Do you know when it is happening to you? Remember to take a deep breath. If you are too excited to focus, don’t take the shot.
This situation can cause you to not be 100% aware of what you are shooting at and it might prevent you from making sure that the surrounding area is safe.
It is also not fair to the game. If you are excited you risk only maiming the animal. A clean kill is humane.
Tell Someone Where You are Hunting
This seems a bit paranoid, but if you have the misfortune of getting hurt in the woods you will be glad that you did this. There are a surprising number of people who have heart attacks while hunting or injure themselves another way.
If you followed the suggestions above you will have mapped out your location and can give a copy of it to a friend or family member.
Make Sure You Charge Your Cell Phone
Bring your cell phone and make sure that it is charged.
Some states require hunters to wear orange. Others, like New York, do not.
The fact is that wearing orange saves lives. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation in New York, hunters are seven times less likely to get shot when they are wearing orange.
Orange is there for your protection so other hunters can see you. Sure it is possible that you are hunting on your own private property and are convinced you won’t run into anyone. This is the case where I grew up hunting. However, more than once we had trespassers on our land. And this is where wearing orange is necessary (in addition to the law in Illinois.)
Scientists say that deer do not have red-sensitive cone cells in their eyes and therefore do not see that you are wearing orange.
Tell the people of adjoining properties when you are going out.
This is not only a courtesy to them but also keeps you safe. It also prevents them from inadvertently messing up your hunt.
And while it should be a given that all people keep their dogs inside during hunting season it will remind your neighbors to do so. Growing up we also had people riding horses around us so we liked to let them know we were out.
Make sure you have the proper hunting license and you keep it in a secure location on your person.
Now, this may seem like a given, but it’s aways good to keep it on your checklist. The last thing you want to do is forget it at home or lose it.
Wrapping It All Up
Staying safe while hunting is easy as long as you follow a few simple rules. Most injuries are due to carelessness.
Now that you know how to be safe. Make sure you have everything read that you need to bring with you. Here is a checklist to help you out.
Good luck on your next hunt!