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How To Hunt Safely With A Gun

Oct 12, 2007
Jack was the picture of health, even at age 75. He loved life, and all of his outdoor pursuits, especially squirrel hunting.

It wasn't taxing, and he didn't have to travel far from home to do it. He arrived at his favorite oak tree at dawn and sat down.

He knew the barrel of his shotgun had bumped the ground entering the timber, but there was no time for that now. He saw a squirrel! Jack fired, and his jammed barrel exploded, breaking his jaw and seriously cutting his right hand.

He lost a good morning's hunt and a trusty shotgun. Luckily, he didn't lose more.

In a recent year about 80 fatalities and 750 nonfatal injuries occurred to U.S. hunters, according to the International Hunter Education Association. If you are among the millions of Americans who take to the fields with a loaded firearm, keep these things in mind.

Aim For Safety

Begin by taking a hunter education course available in your area. These courses can be valuable whether you are a novice or an experienced hunter, and are required in most states.

* A gun requires periodic inspection, adjustment and service. Check with the manufacturer or dealer for recommended servicing.

* Keep firearms unloaded and keep the action open until you are hunting. Carry guns in their cases to the shooting area.

* Always assume every firearm is loaded and dangerous. Treat it as if it could shoot at any time. A safety mechanism is not foolproof.

* Never take someone else's word that a firearm is not loaded. Always check for yourself.

* Never engage in horseplay with a firearm. Guns are deadly business and should be treated with a serious, cautious manner.

* Always point the muzzle in a "safe" direction. A safe direction is one in which, if fired accidentally, a gun will not cause injury or damage.

* Never point a gun at anything you do not intend to shoot.

* Before loading (or shooting), be sure the barrel and mechanisms are clear of obstructions. This is best done by looking down from the breech end of the firearm.

Even a small bit of mud, snow, or excess lubricating oil can cause increased pressures, and the barrel could bulge or burst on firing.

* If the noise or recoil on firing seems weak or different, stop firing the gun at once and be sure the barrel is not obstructed.

* Be sure you use the proper ammunition for the firearm you are using. And know the maximum range of your ammunition.

* Do not hunt if you are using alcohol, drugs or medication which may impair your judgment and dull your senses.

On The Hunt

* Wear hunter orange or fluorescent clothing.

* Wear protective shooting glasses and some form of hearing protectors while shooting.

* When carrying a gun, follow these simple rules:
- Keep the muzzle under control and pointed away from yourself and others.
- Be certain the safety is "on." Don't play with the safety by putting it on and off. Leave it on until you're ready to fire.
- Keep your fingers outside the trigger guard and off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- Unload the gun as soon as you are through hunting or shooting.

* Clearly identify your target before you shoot. If you are not absolutely sure of your target, do not shoot.

* Know what's beyond your target. For example, if you cannot see what's in the distance, do not shoot at an animal standing on the horizon of a hill. Some bullets can travel several miles.

* Never shoot at a sound or a patch of color.

* When a shell does not fire, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction for at least 45 seconds and then remove the cartridge.

* Do not climb fences or trees, cross slippery areas, or jump ditches or creeks while carrying a loaded gun. Unload the firearm first.

It only takes a few seconds, and it could save a life. If you are hunting with a partner, hand your gun to him before crossing the obstacle.

* Never pull a firearm toward you by the muzzle.

* Carry handguns in a holster.

* Do not shoot at flat, hard surfaces, or at water. Bullets will ricochet off these surfaces out of control.

Remember, a bullet or shotgun shell is your responsibility from the instant it leaves your gun.

* Always shout to alert other hunters of your presence as they approach you. Never assume you are the only hunter in an area.

* Be especially careful at the end of the day as you become tired and the firearm you are carrying becomes heavier. This fatigue can make you careless. If you feel tired, stop, unload your firearm, and rest.
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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