Among seasoned hunters, the suggestions that handling firearms isn’t safe—or is dangerous—is borderline offensive. Regardless, Pulsar has some safety suggestions to refresh shooters on best practices.
Any well-trained, reasonably intelligent hunter knows the basics of firearm safety: Don’t point a loaded weapon at anything you don’t want to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger, acquire positive identification of your target before firing – these are the basics, the rules my father repeated to me every time we went to the range or the woods until he was certain I understood.
However, there are more dangers involved in hunting than simply getting shot. Let’s review some excellent Pulsar safety suggestions.
Tree Stand Accidents
Tree-stand accidents annually injure more deer hunters than any other single factor. Each year, it is estimated there are between 5,000-6,400 hunters requiring medical attention because they fell from a tree or a tree-stand.
There is no easy solution to this problem – hunting from a tree enables hunters to see a greater distance, to avoid being spotted by prey animals, and to reduce the spread of their scent. Shooting from a tree-stand also means the bullet’s trajectory is downward, so stray or missed shots go into the ground, instead of harming someone or something else.
So, hunters will continue to use tree-stands, and if they must, here are a few basic safety precautions to ensure a smooth experience.
- Don’t climb a tree-stand that is unstable, shaky or slippery.
- Don’t climb a tree-stand if you’re under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- Always use a safety harness that is securely fastened
- Don’t fall asleep in a tree-stand
The next most obvious danger when hunting, especially for beginners, is firearm-related accidents. Negligent discharges, misfiring rifles, misidentification…these are all valid concerns, so let’s address them one at a time.
A negligent discharge is when a weapon is unintentionally fired through the negligence of the shooter. This could be from a lingering finger on the trigger, or not recognizing whether the ‘safety’ is engaged or not.
As previously mentioned, keeping your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire is a golden rule. Also, ensure that you are always aware of your weapon’s condition. Is it loaded? Is the safety on? How am I carrying my firearm? Often, right after a young hunter harvests their first animal, they are overcome with joy and adrenaline. They want to run out, collect the carcass and begin the celebrations.
However, before any joys can be had, it is necessary to run a mental-checklist of your weapon – even for seasoned hunters, who might think this doesn’t apply to them. A safety refresher never hurt anyone.
A misfiring rifle, or a firearm malfunction, is exceptionally dangerous. A squib load, or an incomplete discharge, occurs when the round gets stuck inside the barrel.
If you think this has happened, unload the rifle immediately, and if you can, disassemble the upper and lower receiver. Then, take a cleaning rod, coat it in a cleaning solution to protect the barrel (we recommend Hoppes 9), and try to push the round out of the barrel. Whether you can free the round or not, you must still visit a gunsmith and have the weapon inspected, to avoid dangerous, incomplete discharges in the future.
If you have an incomplete discharge, and you try to fire the weapon again without clearing the stuck round, there is a high likelihood that the weapon will explode, severely injuring or possibly killing the shooter.
Failure to extract is like an incomplete discharge. After a round is fired, a properly-functioning weapon has a mechanism to discharge the used cartridge. After this ejection, the weapon is safe to fire again.
However, if the firearm is corroded, rusted or otherwise dirty, the used cartridge may not be ejected, and if a live round is forced into a used cartridge, the weapon may explode. This is uncommon, but a shooter must always be aware of where their spent brass is going. If nothing comes out of your rifle, stop and inspect the action.
It is better to spend the time verifying the weapon is safe than to plow ahead and possibly severely injure or kill yourself or others. As always, visit a gunsmith to determine why your firearm is failing to extract – a little money now is worth your health and safety in the years to come.
Misidentification while hunting is exceptionally dangerous. A hunter should never shoot at something unless they are certain it is the target they want. This can be difficult, especially in the woods, late at night, when it is difficult to differentiate between objects.
Generally, avoid firing at anything at night that is more than 200 yards away – you just can’t be sure of your target. Through a thermal optic, a human being or a whitetail deer will look eerily similar beyond 200 yards. Through a high-quality digital night vision riflescope, such as the Pulsar Digex, identification of animals/objects is much easier.
Night vision tends to provide greater detail, given that it amplifies light rather than heat, though night vision devices don’t provide the same detection range as thermal optics. To avoid misidentification, follow these steps:
- Use a high-quality riflescope if possible
- Be familiar with your intended prey, their habits, food sources, tracks and behavior
- Never fire until you have ironclad identification
- Don’t dress or behave like a game animal, which may confuse other hunters
Failure to follow these steps could result in catastrophe. You don’t want to shoot another human, a pet, livestock or other non-game animals – this could not only lead to heartache and guilt, but legal ramifications as well.
Review of Safety Suggestions
Naturally, there are a multitude of factors concerning firearm/hunting safety. For your benefit, here are 11 general tips to maximize your safety conditions.:
- Unload your firearm when not in use
- Use proper ammunition
- Use ear protection when discharging firearms
- Prepare for the weather
- In the woods, carry a map and flashlight
- Wear bright orange colors
- Carry a first-aid kit
- Don’t climb, jump or rappel while carrying a loaded firearm
- Be aware of people and buildings in your hunting vicinity
- Tell someone beforehand where you’re going and what you’re doing
- Never shoot unless you’re sure of your target’s identification
Hunting can be a joyous, satisfying experience. Spending time in nature, exercising, acquiring meat and trophies are just a few of the amazing benefits of hunting. Conversely, nothing will ruin a hunting excursion quicker and more painfully than a preventable accident.
Young hunters should follow the safety suggestions of seasoned hunters, and if possible, take one with them whenever possible. Use common sense, review safety procedures, and most importantly of all, cherish every moment of hunting that is given to you.