In the US, this time of the year is prime time for hunting. Whether it is waterfowl, big game or upland game, just to name a few, millions of Americans enjoy the sport of hunting. With such activities there is a certain amount of risk. Over the past 30 or so years, there have been many risk reduction efforts taken to make hunting safer.
Probably the most important change that has taken place is the requirement to have passed a Hunter Safety course prior to being able to purchase a hunting license in any given state. Hunter safety is offered both on-line and in person. Most states require a gun handling practical day out as well. Having grown up in the Midwest in the 1970s, I attended this course during the school week, in the evenings. It was a special time for everybody that attended because it was participatory, as well as it set the standard for Hunter ethos, and safe gun handling. (EDUCATION/CULTURE)
The Minnesota Hunters Education Course teaches us The Ten Commandments of Firearm Safety (CULTURE):
1. Watch that muzzle!
2. Treat every firearm with the respect due a loaded gun.
3. Be sure of the target and what is in front of it and beyond it.
4. Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
5. Check your barrel and ammunition.
6. Unload firearms when not in use.
7. Point a firearm only at something you intend to shoot.
8. Don’t run, jump, or climb with a loaded firearm.
9. Store firearms and ammunition separately and safely.
10. Avoid alcoholic beverages before and during shooting.
The third most potentially important improvement made for safer hunting is the use of hunter orange or in some states chartreuse apparel. This is especially important when hunting in groups, in thick cover or in open fields, because the human eye is naturally attracted to these colors. For example, in Arkansas, it is unlawful to hunt wildlife; or to accompany or assist anyone in hunting wildlife, in zones open to firearm deer, bear, or elk seasons, without wearing an outer garment that is either hunter orange or chartreuse. The rule further requires that the hunting apparel is above the waistline daylight fluorescent blaze orange (Hunter Orange) within the color range of 595-605 nanometers, or fluorescent chartreuse color range of 555nm – 565nm (Hunter Safety Green) totaling at least 400 square inches. Additionally, hunters must wear hunter orange or hunter safety green hats on their heads, clearly visible to all hunters. ANSI even has a standard Z535.1-1998 which states how safety orange is defined (PPE).
Perhaps the fourth most important improvement is the expectation of the parent or guardian being present with a minor hunter. When I was growing up, my brother and I shared a gun while hunting together. He was 11 years of age and I was 8 years of age. Today, that wouldn’t be legal (in most situations). Nowadays, responsible mentors are assigned to the beginning hunters. This helps to establish a solid framework for the beginning hunter to learn the proper aspects of gun handling and decision making.
My final thoughts on this subject are on one aspect of hunting that has recently been affecting a hunter’s risk for injury or death, and that is falling from tree stands. Since this type of hunting has become popular among deer hunters in particular, more and more accidents occur while hunting this way. Although technology has been improving, there are still a large number of hunters that experience serious or even fatal injuries while afield.