Hunting is more than just a sport that gets you outdoors with your buddies; it's a great way to participate in the circle of life and bring food home for your family. Of course, some people do it just for the thrill of tracking and shooting. But it seems silly to shoot ducks, geese, deer, elk, and more with no intention of using them for food, especially if you're a meat eater. That's just wasteful. At least consider selling it to a local butcher for some gain. That said, your reasons for hunting are your own and so long as you follow the law by gaining the proper permits and observing limits and restrictions, you can do what you want with whatever game you bag. However, before you pick up a rifle and head out into the woods, you need to know that there are proper safety procedures you must follow in order to ensure that no unnecessary injuries or damages occur as a result of your actions. You don't want to pull a Dick Cheney. Here are just a few hunting safety tips for the new ones out there who intend to bag their first kill.
1. Wear the obnoxious hat and coat. You might not like the eye-searingly bright hunter's orange jackets that you're advised to wear, or even the red-and-black plaid that many use as an alternative, but it's for your own protection. If you're out in the woods hunting during a particular season, chances are good you're not out there alone. And in truth, it only takes one hunter mistaking you for a deer or some other large game to result in an accidental shooting, and potentially even death. You don't necessarily have to wear head-to-toe orange, but there are prescribed guidelines for how much orange to wear and where to place it so that you don't become a target yourself.
2. Dress for the weather. When you think of safety where hunting is concerned, you likely focus on how to safely handle your firearms, and this is definitely important. But many hunting seasons occur when the weather is cold, and since you could be wandering around in the woods for hours at a time in search of game (or hauling it back to your car) it's a good idea to prepare for inclement weather conditions. This means utilizing cold weather gear that is appropriate for the climate, bringing along hand and foot warming packets to stave off frostbite, and of course, navigating with a map so that you always know how to get back to your vehicle. Yes, you could use GPS, but there are bound to be dead zones in wilderness areas and your batteries could run out. Make sure to take plenty of water, as well, and a basic first-aid kit in case of injury. And keep extra equipment (non-perishable food, sub-zero sleeping bags, and so on) in the truck in case you get snowed in.
3. Always assume a gun is loaded. Basic firearm safety starts with treating your rifle like the deadly weapon it is and handling it accordingly. When you always assume that a gun is loaded before you pick it up, you're going to treat it in a manner that is more inline with overall firearm safety, which means keeping it pointed at the ground, making sure the safety is on, keeping your finger off the trigger, and NEVER, EVER pointing the gun at people. Gun safety is deadly serious and you should always treat firearms with the care and consideration they deserve. Failure to do so could result in damage to property, or worse, injury or death.
4. Don't drink and hunt. When you get out in the woods with your buddies, you might want to have some fun by drinking a few beers to help pass the time spent seeking your prey. But there are a couple of good reasons to skip the consumption of alcohol when you hunt. For one thing, it lowers your inhibitions, which could cause you to act in an unsafe manner while wielding a deadly weapon. For another thing, it will certainly impair your ability to hit a target. And if the weather is cold, you should know that alcohol lowers your core temperature, potentially speeding the process of hypothermia, even if it does make you feel warmer.
Take a hunter safety course. You can learn a lot from family, friends, online tutorials, and even resources like North American Hunter Magazine when it comes to safety, but there's really no substitute for the valuable information you'll learn in a hunter safety course. So if you're just starting with the sport and you want to make sure your fun isn't spoiled by frostbite or involuntary manslaughter, taking a course that specifically centers on the safety issues all hunters face is a good place to start.