What are the most important reminders as fall hunting seasons hit full stride?

Knowing the limits? Having the right license? Taking a kid hunting? These are all good, but the list below should occupy the top spot:

  1. Treat every firearm with the same respect due a loaded firearm.

  2. Control the direction of your firearm's muzzle.

  3. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

  4. Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.

  5. Unload firearms when not in use.

  6. Never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot.

  7. Never climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch or log, with a loaded firearm.

  8. Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water.

  9. Store firearms and ammunition separately.

  10. Avoid alcoholic beverages or other mood-altering drugs before or while shooting.

In some way, shape or form, those are the 10 commandments of hunter safety. Common sense isn’t listed, nor is understanding that once the trigger is pulled, you can’t undo what happens next. I could include these in just about every column year-round, and we’d still unfortunately end up with firearm accidents during the hunting season.

In similar fashion, no matter how many deer are on the landscape, any single deer-vehicle collision is significant for those who are involved. The same could be said if there’s only one hunting injury or accident. In the big picture, that may be a statistical success, but to the person involved and their family, it is significant.

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In 1979, the North Dakota Legislature made hunter education mandatory and required that all people born after 1961 complete a certified course to purchase a hunting license. The number of hunting accidents has fallen dramatically over time, yet one is still too many.

Firearms safety is not the only component of hunter safety. Waterfowl hunters especially need to pay attention to weather and wind if they are heading out in a boat. They need to make sure they don’t overload their craft and always wear life jackets, not just have them on board as is the minimum legal requirement.

Eight people have drowned in state waters since 1998 while hunting from a boat, and none were wearing life jackets. Capsizing and falling overboard from small boats are the most common types of fatal boating accidents for hunters. With all the gear in the boat, including dogs, it can quickly become unbalanced.

In addition, wearing a life jacket will not only keep an overboard hunter afloat, but also slow the loss of critical body heat caused by exposure to cold water

One last point. It’s October and whether your next outing is your first or 15th, think safety. Sure, we all want to get away from it all, but we need to be reasonable, as well. So, before you leave your mobile phones or communication devices back at the truck or hunting camp, think of what they can do for you in an emergency. Just put them on vibrate or silent. In the event you need one to call for help, you’ll be glad you have it along.

Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at dleier@nd.gov.

Doug Leier
Doug Leier