More than likely, you already know the Three Rules of Gun Safety set forth by the National Rifle Association.
- Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction
- Always keep your finger away from the trigger unless prepared to shoot
- Always keep your gun unloaded when not ready to use
These rules are great to follow and all gun carriers should apply them to every circumstance. However, there is another set of rules that also become relevant when you plan to take your gun into the field. The following rules are specifically intended to help keep you, the other people in your hunting party, and your legal standing safe when you venture into the woods with a long gun.
Positively Identify Target Before Shooting
The first tip may seem like a no-brainer but consider the next fact. Each year, farmers find it necessary to spray-paint their livestock to avoid having them shot during whitetail season. The reason this precaution is a necessity is the many hunters suffering from 'buck fever' who pull and shoot their guns before properly identifying a target. Buck fever is when a hunter wants to see a buck so badly, he will see one whether it is really there or not. The simple rule that should be followed is when in doubt, do not shoot.
Make sure the shot is safe
There are times you will need to move fast if you intend to take the shot you want. In the process, your muzzle may come across an object that you have no intention of harming. This is a shot you should not take. This rule is especially important to consider when you are not sure what is on the opposite side of the animal you wish to shoot. You should keep in mind that passing up a chance at the trophy buck you covet is a much better decision than one which could potentially place you or others in harm's way.
Falling is a common accident that happens in wooded areas. And no matter how surefooted you think you are or how well your boots may fit your feet, a stumble or two is inevitable from time to time when walking in wooded areas. When you fall and there is a long gun in your hands, the danger from the fall is a little more serious. The first thing you should do is try to control where the muzzle of the gun is aimed during the fall. After the fall, check to make sure the barrel of your gun is not obstructed by the debris of any type.
Proper Use of Scopes
Many hunters will use the scope of their gun in place of binoculars when convenient or in a rush. This habit can cause a great deal of danger. When you identify faraway targets with the scope of your gun instead of binoculars, it is no different than pointing your gun at a target you have not properly identified.
Proper Fence Crossing
If you hunt on a regular basis, you know there are times when you will encounter a fence you need to cross. If you are alone when crossing a fence, you should make sure your gun is completely unloaded before attempting to cross. Next, you need to slide your gun under the fence with the muzzle pointing away from you. If you are hunting with another person, hand the gun to them after you make sure it is unloaded. Once you are on the other side of the fence, you can take your gun and the gun of your hunting partner while he or she crosses the fence.
Unload When Needed
There are a number of times when your gun should be unloaded during a hunt in the woods. These unloading times include whenever you begin your return to camp, while traveling across ground that is wet or slippery, and before attempting to travel a steep bank. Some hunters feel that taking the time to unload at these times amounts to a waste of time. However, never has the old adage about an ounce of prevention been more relevant.