Guns in the Great Outdoors
The transition from October to November is always a beautiful time for those of us who love the outdoors. ‘Tis the season for hunting, camping, and outdoor target shooting before it gets too cold. The weather is crisp, and the deer plentiful. For many, camping or hunting trips are a yearly tradition to spend some quality time with loved ones, get away from the daily grind and let loose. Firearm owners often bring a gun or two along- be it for protection or for sport.
Gun safety is a hot topic for responsible firearm owners, and rightfully so. But when handling a firearm in the wilderness, where there are few people, it’s easy for the general safety rules we abide by at the shooting range to flee our minds. After all, it’s only you and your buddies out there, right?
Know the season schedule and your surroundings.
There are hundreds of hunting and outdoor shooting accidents in the US every year. They are not always rookie mistakes, and they can and do happen to non-hunters. If you are in the woods for any reason during hunting season, you are potentially at risk. “No Trespassing” signs and Hunting warning signs can be easily missed. The best way to avoid becoming a statistic is to recognize and accept that the danger is real, and take proper precautions.
Take this case last year, for example: A man in New York was mistaken for a deer when he was jogging through the woods with his dog. Fortunately, the man survived. It is not clear if any hunting or trespassing signs marked the area, so we’ll assume both parties had every right to be there. However this is a prime example- knowing your surroundings and being aware of the hunting season schedule could save your life. The safest practice for non-hunters would be to stick to the main trails or the outskirts of the woods during season. According to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, those wearing “hunters orange” are seven times less likely to be mistaken for deer. For fellow outdoor recreationalists who do choose to venture into the deep woods, the unattractive color is a small price to pay for not getting shot. As important as it is for non-hunters to take precaution, it is equally as important for hunters to have full visibility of their target. Not just hunters, but all shooters for that matter.
Be sure of your target. Really sure.
Some of the most common accidents involve fellow hunters being mistaken for deer- often people of the same hunting party. A simple google search of “hunting accidents” will return a flood of cases from this month alone. Like this story of a man in Alabama who mistook his friend for the deer he had just shot. He went for the buckshot and accidentally killed his friend instead. Similar tragedies happen every year to those of all experience levels. This is why in addition to being sure of your target, you must also be sure of your target’s surroundings. If there are other people in your group and you are unsure of their location, just take an extra moment and be sure that your target is in fact your target. It’s worth it.
Enjoy yourself out there. But never forget the basic firearm safety rules.
Whether you carry a pistol on your camping trip “just in case”, you’re an avid hunter, or you’re just out shooting for fun, the most important thing to remember is to stay mindful. Firearm accidents are tragic and traumatizing for all parties involved, and they are not always someone’s fault. Stay humble and mindful of what is possible, and keep these three rules-of-thumb in mind:
1. Handle your gun with care. This seems like a no-brainer, but it encompasses several different aspects. When walking outside- be careful. Watch your step and only keep your gun loaded when you are using it. Trying not to fall down a steep embankment is a balancing act that might leave you with you gun’s barrel pointed at somebody. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. If you are carrying a gun in your bag, remember not to drop your bag too hard. Earlier this year, one man ended up facing charges when he accidentally dropped his bag, and the loaded gun inside if it fired. The bullet struck and killed a man standing nearby (read the article).
2. Never leave a loaded gun unattended around children or uneducated handlers. If you are sharing a camp site or it is otherwise unavoidable, just unload it. Even if the child is educated about gun safety, they should not be unattended.
3. Never point a gun at another person or yourself. This golden rule has likely been drilled into your mind by every firearm instructor you know - and it is the easiest rule to accidentally break. In a recent story, a young boy in Ohio accidentally shot and killed his brother during a target shooting outing (read the article here). The gun misfired as he was holding it, and it happened to be pointed at his brother striking him in the chest. In another story, a man’s shotgun went off as he was getting into his duck blind. His shotgun muzzle was pointed directly at his arm.
Remember to enjoy shooting outdoors before winter comes! Just be aware of your surroundings and stay cautious when handling your firearm. For more information regarding gun safety tips or the law, contact Firearms Legal Protection.