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The first of Iowa’s two shotgun deer seasons opens on Dec. 3, and while optimism for a successful hunt is the primary focus, hunters are encouraged to brush up on safe hunting practices.
Basic firearm rules are pretty straight forward: treat every firearm as though it were loaded; always point the muzzle in a safe direction; be sure of your target and what’s beyond it; keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
“Our deer hunting tradition is shared with our friends and our family,” said Megan Wisecup, hunter education administrator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Practicing safe hunting techniques is important to make sure we all get home at the end of the day.”
An estimated 125,000 hunters are expected to take to the timber during Iowa’s two shotgun deer seasons and Wisecup said self inflicted injuries and property damage continue to be prominent.
“Those incidents could be avoided by simply following the basic rules of firearm safety and ensuring there is a safe backdrop prior to taking a shot. Hunters need to remember that it is illegal to discharge a firearm within 200 yards of a building inhabited by people or livestock or a feedlot unless the owner or tenant has given their consent. It is also illegal to discharge a shotgun shooting slugs or a pistol or revolver on or over a public roadway,” she said.
“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.”
That advice can help to prevent self inflicted wounds as well.
Wisecup encouraged hunters to wear plenty of blaze orange and to discuss the hunting plan with everyone in the group.
“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 2015, there were 6 deer hunting related incidents in Iowa during the two shotgun seasons: five personal injuries and one property damage.
Hunting Safety Tips
· Treat every firearm as if it were loaded
· Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction
· Be sure of the target and what is beyond it
· Keep finger off the trigger until ready to fire
· Keep the barrel clear and choose the proper ammunition.
Winter Weather Factors
· Unload the firearm and open the action when crossing obstacles – if snow and ice is on the ground, the risk of slipping or falling dramatically increases
· Visibility – put the hunt on hold if visibility is poor due to fog and/or snowy conditions
· Bundled up – keeping your finger off the trigger and muzzle control are both extremely important as bulky coats and gloves increases chances of an accidental discharge
· Wear plenty of blaze orange. Hunters want to be seen from all sides in the woods and fields
· Discuss the hunting plan with everyone in the group. Outline the role for each person and where they will be throughout the hunt. Plan your hunt and hunt your plan. Communication is critical to ensure everyone knows where each other is at all times.
· Everyone gets home safely