Iowa deer hunters are preparing for the opening of the first shotgun season on Dec. 3, and while optimism for a successful hunt is the primary focus, hunters are encouraged to brush up on safe hunting practices.
More than 70,000 hunters are expected to take to the timber on Saturday, and Megan Wisecup with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Recreation Safety Program said the tradition is rooted in the experiences of friends and family.
“If you think about who we go hunting with ― our friends and our family ― it is important to practice safe hunting techniques to make sure we all get home at the end of the day,” said Wisecup.
She said the top cause of deer hunting incidents is hunters shooting at running deer.
“Hunters are urged to not shoot at a running deer. Hunters tend to get fixated on their target and when a deer is running, they forget about their surroundings. Look beyond your target and clearly identify the target before taking the shot,” Wisecup said. “You must be certain you have a clear, safe shot. Never point your firearm at anything you do not want to shoot.”
While shooting at running deer is the leading cause of injury, the number of self-inflicted wounds is a concern.
“Hunters need to remember the basic firearm handling rules in the field,” she said.
The basic rules are always point the muzzle in a safe direction; treat every firearm as though it were loaded; unload the firearm and open the action, especially when crossing obstacles, until you are ready to shoot; keep the barrel clear and choose the proper ammunition.
Wisecup said other safety tips are to wear plenty of blaze orange and to discuss the hunting plan.
“You want to be seen from all sides in the woods,” she said. “It is also important to discuss the hunting plan that will outline the role for each person and where they will be during the hunt. Plan your hunt and hunt your plan. It is critical to communicate with your hunting partners to ensure everyone knows where each other is at all times.”
In 2010, there were 15 deer hunting related incidents in Iowa, of which four were self-inflicted. There were two fatal deer hunting incidents in 2010.
For more information contact Megan Wisecup, recreation safety program supervisor, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-238-4968.