Hunting season is a time for great sport and caution. Accidental shootings in hunting or target practice situations generally involve wounding or killing a friend or family member.
Those who pull the trigger will spent the remainder of their life wishing they had never looked at a gun. One moment of carelessness and your father or brother is dead. Those who accidentally shoot a stranger feel a sense of guilt and remorse, too.
Let's examine reasons for hunting accidents:
FATIGUE: Fatigue slows reaction and judgment, making a hunter less responsible when handling a firearm. For example, hunting usually requires walking long distances.
Those in shape may feel fatigue. Others may feel like having a heart attack. Additional weight of a firearm or equipment is just as taxing on younger hunters who are trying to keep up with adults. The inexperienced hunter carries his firearm in a manner that potentially tires arms and shoulders. Experienced folks use a sling or belt-style shotgun butt rest.
How many times have you watched a fatigued hunter lean on his loaded shotgun? This foolish act is flirting with death. No doubt you have seen hunters rest their firearm against a fence or tree.
Sadly, a smoothed polished barrel will easily slide, slamming down the loaded shotgun or rifle. An alert hunter unloads his gun and opens the breech before leaning it against an object to avoid a loaded gun falling out of control.
WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING AT: Hunters education is necessary! Young and sometimes old students learn that you only take the safety off and touch the trigger when ready to shoot. But more importantly, only shoot when you are sure of your target.
Accidental shootings are reported every year by hunters who shot at sound, color or movement before positively identifying the target. Granted, this is more of a beginner's mistake that an old pro – right? Wrong – even the experienced hunters make mistakes, sometimes fatal.
STAYING CALM: Few moments will make you breath hard like a giant Canada goose flying straight in. Staying calm will allow you to make that all-important one-shot kill and allow you to not make deadly mistakes. Taking deep breaths or simply calming yourself down is necessary.
KNOW THE AREA: Hunters occasionally walk into another hunter's area, creating a dangerous situation. Never wave or speak to an approaching hunter in the woods. Some suggest you whistle a popular tune. Waving or other types of movement may receive a shot of lead pellets or a bullet. Hunters who are day dreaming will occasionally snap shoot.
Hunters who are deeply concentrating on their hunt may be just as likely to raise and fire without thinking.
REMOVING GAME FROM THE WOODS: Hunters occasionally carry harvested birds or animals over their shoulder. This scene is often portrayed in magazines, on television and in newspapers. Be cautious of this potential death trap. Wrap smaller wildlife that can't be hidden in game pouches in hunter's orange strips.
WALKING IN THE DARK: Finally, unload your firearm before walking through dark woods. I once watched an experienced hunter step in a hollow while trying to reach his car. His gun went off on impact. The bullet hit a rock and dangerously ricocheted through the darkness. The hunter's leg was broken.
Experienced hunters avoid careless nighttime walks by using a small flashlight like a Mag Lite or by simply taping a piece of red cellophane over their flashlight lens. Both make less light but give you enough vision to safely walk out of the woods.
Shooting may be compared to driving a car. A second of carelessness can cause instant death. Every hunter must remind himself that no wildlife is worth a human life. A calm, clear sight picture is always necessary before pulling that trigger. Otherwise, you may contribute to a horrible hunting statistic. Don't let your experience make you careless. It only takes one mistake.
Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org