By Nick Simonson
I predominantly hunt alone these days, and when I am in the field with others, it is usually with one or two trusted friends who have proven to be good, respectful hunters, but more importantly, safe with their guns. Those muzzles that have absent-mindedly strayed across me in the past and been dismissed with “don’t worry, the safety is on” have, along with their issuing owners, quietly been whittled out of most, if not all of my hunting adventures.
Whether it is a shotgun, pistol, or rifle, the number one fact that every hunter must know at all times is where the end that goes bang is pointing. This is the ultimate security device and the primary duty of all hunters to uphold in the field. There is no truly safe safety mechanism, there is no secure shell or cartridge, and there is no way to tell when a stumble could result in catastrophe. The only thing that can prevent firearm-related injuries is muzzle control, even in the most exciting or unpredictable of situations.
As firearms deer season approaches, hunters are advised to know their target and what lies in front of, around and beyond it. This is an extension of the muzzle control credo. We only point at what we plan to shoot; we only raise our muzzles – loaded, presumed unloaded or otherwise – on the quarry that we are targeting. At no other time should a living, breathing creature be on the other side of a gun – any gun. Should something else, like a vehicle, occupied structure or person be located in or near the potential path of a bullet between muzzle and target, remedy the situation immediately by lowering the firearm.
If you even think there is a risk of injury or damage occurring – don’t take the shot. Knowing the consequences before you pull the trigger is the only way to ensure safety. In fact, even if you are certain there is no chance of an incident, check again. A wise man once said, “Think Twice, Shoot Once.” Safe hunting requires knowledge of the situation, the area (and potential area) of the bullet’s travel and the target. Shooting at noise, or movement or at the color brown is not knowing your target. Shooting when you cannot account for party members is not knowing the area between the gun and the target. You can’t pull the shot back; you must be sure the shot is safe well before it leaves that barrel.
Know safety again this deer season. Know your target, know your plans for the hunt and know with whom you are hunting. More importantly, know where your muzzle is pointing at all times. In another simple turn of phrase that reflects the value of outdoorsmen who understand safety as job number one in the field for the upcoming season or any other, writer Greg Crehore scribed, “good hunters are envied, safe hunters are trusted.”
Be safe in the field in the coming days; trust in what you learned many years ago in hunter’s education and in your ability to promote safety by setting a good example. Whether posting a creek draw, pushing a cattail slough or sitting in a tree stand, know what is going on around you, know what the plan for the hunt will be and know where your muzzle is pointing at all times. Work to better yourself and others on firearm safety, ensuring another safe, enjoyable and exciting deer season this year and for many years to come.
Featured Photo: Know your target and what lies around and beyond it. Check for people, cars and buildings and make sure the deer you’re aiming at doesn’t have another one along side it or behind it that could also get hit. Simonson Photo.