Donald Reed, Merrill, Thomas A. | 9/30/2006 1:45:17 AM
The month of October signals the opening of hunting season for many game animals in Louisiana, and an LSU AgCenter expert says hunters should keep safety foremost in their minds.
"The annual ritual of hunting season, which is enjoyed by thousands of Louisiana residents each year, provides recreational opportunities for family and friends in addition to many savory meals for the dinner table," LSU AgCenter hunting safety expert Dr. Don Reed said.
Reed said the vast majority of Louisiana hunters log countless hours in forests and fields with shotguns and rifles in hand – and they conduct their sport safely.
"Unfortunately, however, there seems to be one or two incidents each year in our state where injury or death has resulted from a hunting-related accident," Reed said. "When the investigations of these cases are done, it almost always leads to a situation where one or more of the fundamentally basic hunting safety rules were ignored."
Reed points out one of the oldest rules in the codes of hunter safety – always treat a firearm as if it were loaded.
"When followed, this rule prevents individuals from injuring themselves or others with a firearm that they mistook for being unloaded," he said.
Another rule Reed reminds hunters of is to never aim a firearm at any object unless they intend to pull the trigger. Reed also says rifles with scopes should never be treated as binoculars to casually view the landscape over which someone is hunting.
Accidents involving the hunting of white-tailed deer are often the result of individuals mistaking a person for the game they are pursuing, so Reed says to make sure you know what you’re aiming at.
"The requirement that all deer hunters in our state wear hunter orange has greatly reduced these incidents," Reed said. "But in some cases, individuals fail to heed this requirement, so it is imperative for everyone to be certain of their target prior to pulling the trigger."
The hunter orange requirement also is not a regulation during the spring turkey season in our state, so Reed says this makes target identification even a more critical issue during that time.
"A good safety rule is to always use a flashlight when traveling through the woods in the early morning and evening just prior to and after sunrise and sunset," said Reed. "Hunter orange may be difficult to see during these times, but even a small flashlight is visible for great distances in the darkness."
Another safety issue Reed addresses is that deer hunters can be injured climbing in and out of elevated deer stands. Reed recommends using sound ladders, sturdy platforms and safety harnesses to reduce the chance of injury.
Reed notes when hunting white-tailed deer from these elevated locations, firearms should be loaded only once they are safely in the stand and in the hands of the hunter.
"Pull ropes should be used to raise and lower the firearm to and from these locations," he said.
Waterfowl, quail and dove hunters use shotguns rather than rifles, but Reed said they should still follow the basic rules of hunter safety. An added danger in many of these situations, especially waterfowl hunting, occurs when two or more hunters share the same blind.
"The camaraderie enjoyed by individuals in these situations can be done safely when certain rules are established prior to the first shot being fired," he said.
In these situations, hunters should establish "zones of fire." Those basically dictate who is to shoot when ducks fly in certain areas around the blind.
Other common-sense hunting safety rules include never running with a loaded gun, never crossing a fence or other obstacle with a loaded gun in hand and never shooting a firearm if you believe the barrel has an obstruction in any part of it.
The 1984 Louisiana Legislature mandated that anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1969, must successfully complete a hunter safety education course prior to purchasing a hunting license. Reed notes that older hunters planning to hunt out of state should check the regulations in the state where they plan to hunt – because other states may have such requirements for all hunters.
"All states now require some form of mandatory hunter education certificate prior to issuing a license." Reed said.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries administers the hunter education program in our state, conducting over 600 courses annually.
For more information on a variety of topics ranging from wildlife to health and nutrition, visit the LSU AgCenter’s Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.