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Spotlight: Safety During Hunting Season

Spotlight: Safety During Hunting Season

Both hunters and non-hunters alike can safely share the great outdoors.

Hunter and Dog Hunting in the Chequamegon National Forest (USFWS)

Fall is hunting season throughout the country, and a great time to remind anyone who loves autumn recreation—hunters, anglers, hikers, mountain bikers, birders or campers—how to enjoy and safely share the great outdoors.

Hunting Safety Tips for Non-Hunters

If you feel uneasy about outdoor recreation during hunting season, follow these common sense rules and (with a few fashionable swaths of hunter blaze orange fabric) you can continue to enjoy the outdoors during hunting season.

  • Identify hunting seasons and lands open to hunting. Learn about where and when hunting is taking place and plan your recreation activities accordingly.
  • Wear bright clothing (like hunter blaze orange). Make yourself more visible. Choose colors that stand out, like bright, fluorescent red, orange or green. Avoid earth-toned and animal-colored clothing.
  • Don’t forget to protect your dog, too. Tie a swath of brightly-colored fabric or bandana around your dog’s neck or purchase a hunter blaze orange dog vest, available from many sporting goods outfitters.
  • Make noise. Whistle, sing or carry on a conversation as you walk to alert hunters to your presence.
  • Be courteous. Once a hunter is aware of your presence, don’t make unnecessary noise that disturbs wildlife. Avoid confrontations.
  • Make yourself known. If you do hear shooting, raise your voice and let hunters know that you are in the vicinity.
  • Choose an alternative place or date. If you don’t feel comfortable out in the woods this time of year, choose an area where hunting is not allowed, like most (but not all) national or state parks (check ahead to be sure). The most heavily hunted seasons last only a few weeks—find out when they occur and schedule your activities around them.

Read more in Hunting Safety: Information for Hunters and Non-Hunters courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Region.

Hunting Safety Tips for Hunters

Most of the above tips for non-hunters also apply to hunters, with the addition of the most important step hunters can take—completing a state-certified hunter education course. Hunter education courses have dramatically decreased hunting-related injuries since 1949, when New York introduced the first mandatory course. Today’s hunter education programs teach not just hunter safety but also promote ethical hunting practices and wildlife conservation.

  • Get safe. Get certified! If you don’t already have your hunter certification, start with this convenient online Introduction to Hunter Education course provided by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA). IHEA also partners with a leading recreation safety training provider and state wildlife agencies to provide links to most states’ online Official Hunter Safety Courses.
  • Review and follow the four basic rules of firearm safety. The most common hunting incidents result from hunter judgment mistakes. To avoid hunting incidents, every hunter should review and follow these basic rules:

    1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
    2. Never let the muzzle of a firearm point at anything you do not intend to shoot.
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until your sights are on the target and you are ready to shoot.
    4. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond.
  • Remember common sense safety rules. When you go hunting, keep other common sense safety rules in mind: check the weather report before you go, tell someone, in writing, where you will be hunting and when you will return and carry a first aid kit as well as a spare set of dry clothing. Be sure to review the Hunting Safety Tips for Non-Hunters (above) or download the Hunting Safety Checklist, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Region.