When getting back to nature, don't forgo the modern conveniences of safety. As hunting season approaches, the excitement of taking to the woods in the brisk, early morning air can make even the most steadfast hunters a little giddy.
“Most hunting injuries can be avoided,” said Rex Roberg, wildlife management program associate with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. “Knowing and practicing gun safety as well as general hunting ethics will keep not only you safe but those hunting with you as well.”
Consider these guidelines from the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission when planning an adventure in the great outdoors to ensure a great time.
Tree stand safety is one of the most overlooked areas of hunting safely. More hunters are injured each year falling out of tree stands than in firearm accidents. That's why it's vital to inspect the stand before climbing into it, especially if it has been installed for more than a year.
“Always use a safety belt,” Roberg said. “The belt connects you with the tree, and if you happen to lose your footing, it will catch you before you hit the ground.”
The second part of this is to tell someone where you will be going and when you will be there and to carry a cell phone with you to call if you need help. If you fall out of a stand, the belt will keep you from falling to the ground but may not allow you a way to get down. You don't want to be hanging there for hours with no sign of help.
When it comes to the most dangerous aspect of hunting, it's the hunter himself who is the most treacherous. Gun safety is imperative when ensuring a safe hunt. Basic firearm safety should be used at all times, such as unloading a firearm before crossing a fence, ensuring the safety is on and the firearm is clean and functioning properly before ever taking the first shot, wearing orange vests and hats so you can be seen by other hunters and outdoors people, hunting only during broad daylight, keeping a clear sight line and always knowing the location of your companions.
In addition to these tips, keep these principles from the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission in mind when maintaining a safe hunt.
- Don't rely on your gun's safety. Treat all weapons as if they're loaded and ready to fire.
- Always cross a fence, climb a tree or stand or jump a ditch with your gun unloaded. In addition, hoist your unloaded weapon into your tree stand, then load once you are situated.
- Shoot only when absolutely sure of your target and what is beyond it.
- Shoot sober. Never hunt while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Dress appropriately for the weather and carry a compass and maps to prevent getting lost.
- Obey all the rules of safety and game laws and insist that those around you do the same.
- Keep your campsite neat.
- Pass along to others, especially youngsters, attitudes and skills essential to being a true outdoor sportsman.
Now is the time to review hunting safety procedures. The Arkansas crossbow and archery season for deer began Oct. 1, the first muzzleloading season begins Oct. 13 and the modern gun season begins Nov. 10.
For more information about the Arkansas outdoors, visit www.uaex.edu or contact an Arkansas county extension agent.