Hunting, when done properly, is a safe pursuit. Yet there are aspects of the hunting experience – many of them due to where hunting takes place – that can be potentially dangerous. Here are a few tips to make your time afield safer.
1. Tell someone where you’re going: A sudden inspiration to go hunting is fine, but you need to make sure you tell a person or two where you are going, for how long, and when they should expect you back. There are many, many cases of people who have gone hunting, gotten lost, and no one knew where to look for them.
Without some information about where to look, you are a needle in a haystack. These days many people assume they will have cell phone coverage, but the reality is many hunting areas have dodgy coverage at best. A note, call, or text (with response) to those close to you before you head out should cover your bases.
2. Always have a first aid kit: This may seem obvious, but many hunters do not routinely have one. This is a potentially dangerous mistake. It does not have to be a big first aid kit. There are all sorts of portable kits available and many can easily fit in a backpack or fanny pack.
Last fall, a poorly placed cut gutting a deer left me with a nasty slice above my thumb. Luckily I had a first aid kit handy and was able to staunch the bleeding. However, it all happened very quickly and it would have been a lot more scary if I had not been able to wrap that thumb and treat it. Make sure the kit has band aids, tape, gauze, antibiotics, and small scissors.
3. Wear your hunter orange and make sure it’s bright: During rifle season, you always need to wear a hunter orange hat and vest at a minimum (400 square inches of solid orange above the waist). Hunter orange is remarkably bright on the landscape and removes any doubt about where your fellow hunters are located. Yet there are still some old-time “blaze” hunting hats and jackets out there that are closer to the colour of a creamsicle.
That old-time orange does not cut the mustard, especially in low light situations. While many of us would like to wear our lucky clothes and hats, safety in the field takes priority. Don’t risk your personal safety (and a fine) by wearing hunting clothes that are not up to snuff.
Learn the do’s and don’ts of hunter orange here.
4. Wear a safety harness in a tree stand: This is pretty much a no brainer, but there are a whole lot of hunters out there who do not wear any type of safety strap in a tree. This is especially the case with many homemade tree stands that are boards nailed across branches. I think just about anyone who has spent time in a tree stand understands the dangers inherent in them.
The biggest one is sleepy-hunter syndrome. You get warm, you were up early, and all of a sudden you’re nodding off. Even a safety bar across the front of a commercial stand doesn’t guarantee you won’t fall. But a safety harness properly attached to you and the tree, will prevent you from going more than a few feet from your seat.
5. Mind your muzzle: Again, this should not have to be spelled out, but every once in a while I see some sloppy gun handling that makes me shudder. Many times, it’s just sloppy gun carrying on the trail. In more concerning situations, it’s while loading or unloading a gun. One mistake with a poorly pointed rifle barrel could be catastrophic. And accidents can happen. Watch your muzzle direction.
6. Carry water and food: Again, this may seem like it goes without saying, but I’ve hunted with a remarkable number of hunters who routinely carry neither. It’s incredibly easy to become dehydrated when you’re hunting, and having some food not only keeps your energy up, it could also be a huge help if you have to handle an animal and are in the field a few hours longer than expected. Sandwiches, fruit and jerky are good choices, and I always throw a few protein bars in my pack as back-up. Keep fed and watered and safely enjoy your hunt.
Get our top five set-up tips for ground blind hunting here.