Safety tips for firearms handling when hunting
It's easy to assume everybody knows how to handle a firearm if you are part of a hunting expedition but the truth is, that does not work in a such way always!
Perhaps you are a novice hunter and your experience with firearms is limited or null, but it's also possible to be an experienced hunter underestimating safety protocols and just relying on your large experience.
In both cases, accidents may occur and even when firearms safety courses help to keep this knowledge fresh and updated, it's always good to go back our steps and revisit key safety tips when you are hunting with guns, after all, "safety first".
1. Is the muzzle down the best way to point your gun?
Unless you have spotted a target and are sure the next step is a clear shot, keep your gun muzzle pointing in a safe direction, away from unsafe targets.
Most people tend to think the muzzle pointing down is safe and usually it's however, keep in mind that this is not always the best choice, especially if you have hounds as hunting partners.
In this case, pointing the muzzle down is dangerous for the dogs in case of an undesired shot, so pointing up might be better to keep you, your hunting fellows, and your hounds safe but...
Keep an eye on the trees! Particularly in crowded hunting areas where a tree stand might be used near you, in such case, it's important to be aware of the direction where the stand is and keep your gun pointing in the opposite direction.
2. Don't put the finger on the trigger unless you are ready to shoot
That's a common mistake, perhaps people do it unconsciously or they are conditioned by what they see on TV but a primary safety directive is to keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
That means, you have identified and confirmed a target, your shoot line is clear and you are completely aware of what there is in front of the target but also beyond it!
3. Know your firearm range
All we wish to hit the target but, what if we miss? The bullet won't stop because we failed, instead, it will go all the down until the shot energy dissipates.
How long will it travel? It will depend on the type of firearm, ammunition, and even the terrain or the direction you are firing to.
The range varies widely, from a hundred yards up to a mile, so before you release a bullet, be sure it won't reach anything but the target or the soil, in case the projectile misses the target.
4. Keep your firearm unloaded when you are scouting
Perhaps you wish to be ready for an opportunity shot, but it's not usual to shoot during scouting, so keeping your gun unloaded during this part of the hunting is a wise decision, after all, you are scouting to have the best chance to catch the best game, no to shoot the first identified target.
5. Keep your gun clean
It seems obvious but during long hunting expeditions, especially during bad weather it's easy to forget to keep the firearm clean and free from debris, and that's when it's more prone to get dirty, not only outside but also inside the barrel! Especially if you drop it accidentally.
So check regularly that your firearm is clean, the barrel free of obstruction, and the whole mechanism ready to be used when the time comes. This way malfunctions are avoided as well as accidents.
Remember, safety must be a top priority, that's the only way to have another day for the hunt.