By Eric Long, Missouri Department of Conservation
Here in the Ozarks, deer season is a time for family and friends to get together around a campfire, share stories of the day’s hunt, and with any luck show off the trophy deer you’ve been yearning for. All too often, these good times can turn into times of tragedy with only one careless decision. Hunters and non-hunters alike should take a few cautionary steps to ensure that they and everyone in their party is safe.
One of the most common causes of hunting incidents is hunter judgment mistakes. This is when a hunter shoots at an object, sound, or movement before he or she is 100 percent certain of what it is. Common sense tells you that you should never do this, but at times hunters get caught up in the excitement of seeing deer and take ill advised shots.
To avoid this remain calm, practice breathing techniques, and wait patiently until you identify your target and have a clear shot to your target and a back stop behind it. Hunter orange can also prevent this. Wearing hunter orange is a law for all hunters, but it is also a good idea for non-hunters to wear it any time they plan to be outside and near any deer hunting activity.
Tree stand safety is another issue that causes several injuries every year. For those how plan to hunt from a tree stand you should check to make sure it is in good condition before stepping foot in it opening morning. Also, when climbing into and out of your stand always use a haul line to raise and lower your weapon. Carrying the gun up with you may throw you off balance and cause you to fall. Another good idea when using a stand is to wear a full body harness that will prevent you from falling in case of a misstep or other accident.
Campfire safety is often over looked during this time of year, however, with the incredibly dry weather it is of upmost importance this year. When setting up for camp, insure that you have a fire ring around your campfire and sweep leaves and debris far away from the ring. Keep the fires small and controllable and always keep wood and other flammables well away from the fire.
You should also keep a rake or shovel close by in case you need to quench the fire in a hurry. Lastly, always extinguish the fire before calling it a night or heading out for the hunt.
The last safety reminder whether in the field, at the camp, or at home is to always be sure to point the muzzle in a safe direction and treat every gun as if it were loaded. Doing this should ensure that no one is ever in the path of an unintended bullet. For any further information on this, deer season, or to speak with a Conservation Agent you can call me, Eric Long, at 573-579-5057.