As deer hunters across the country begin to head afield with firearms in hand, the number one concern must be safety. We all hope for success and expect to have an enjoyable experience, but each year tragedy strikes. Lesser disruptions in pursuit of a good time include accidental game violations and confrontations with other hunters. If regulations, a few common-sense rules and suggestions are followed, deer season should be a great experience for every hunter participating. Please keep the following 10 rules in mind.
Know your firearm and how it functions
Never enter the field with a firearm you are not familiar with. Everyone should have shot their firearm prior to taking it hunting. You must know where the safety is and how to properly use it. Know how to cycle your ammunition and be careful to never send a second or third shot accidently.
Wear hunter orange
Hunter orange is required in every state I know of. I’m not sure if there are any states where it is not required during rifle season, but regardless, you should wear it. Hunter orange allows other hunters to see you so they do not fire in your direction. If you can see hunter orange, don’t even consider firing in that direction. Bullets can ricochet and skip in strange ways.
Know your target and what lies beyond it
Never shoot at a sky-lined deer. If can’t see what is over the hill behind an animal you are shooting at, do not take that shot. There could be another hunter or a vehicle within striking distance you are unaware of. You must be completely confident of where your bullet will end up if you miss your target.
Respect private property rights
Do not trespass. This includes shooting a deer just on the other side of a fence. Private property laws are strict and you don’t want to break them. You want to be a good neighbor. If you shoot a deer that runs onto neighboring property, you must seek the permission of the landowner before going onto their property to retrieve the animal. If there is a dispute, contact your local game warden.
Share public land
Public land is just that – public. It doesn’t matter if you had a spot all picked out for your hunt. If somebody beat you there on any given day, they have just as much of a right to be there as you do. Always have a backup plan, and a backup plan for your backup plan. We are fortunate to have public land to hunt in the country. We all own it. We have to share it. Try to remember that you share a common bond with other hunters. They are not your enemy. They are more likely a friend you haven’t met yet.
Leave the public land better than you found it
If you are using public land to hunt, take pride in it. Do not litter. In fact, if you find litter, pick it up. Small gestures like this not only improve your experience, but the experiences of other hunters, as well. Do not damage trees. Do not drive off road. Follow the rules and look for opportunities to leave your public lands better off than they would have been had you not exercised your privilege to hunt on land we all collectively own.
Know the rules on baiting
Just because the local sporting goods store sells deer corn, doesn’t make it legal to use while hunting. There are numerous attractants and feeds marketed to hunters as the key to killing a giant buck that aren’t legal in your state. In many states, all these are actually key to is committing a game violation and getting you a pricy fine. You must be aware of your local laws regarding the legality of baiting and what is considered bait.
Hunt within the legal hours
If the buck of your dreams gives you a shot five minutes before legal shooting light, don’t take it. You never know where the game warden is sitting, listening for shots before the first legal minute. And it’s cheating, plain and simple. Ethics are doing the right thing even when no one else will know. Wait for legal shooting light, and when legal shooting light ends, empty your firearm. Tomorrow is another day.
Properly tag and check your deer
Most states have gone to a telecheck system and digital tags. You should easily be able to check your deer if you have cell service. There are many different rules when it comes to transporting deer. Especially considering CWD. Make sure you are familiar with all the legalities of tagging, checking and transporting your deer.
Be respectful to other hunters and the general public
We are all in this together. Hunting is an American tradition. It brings friends and families together. Be respectful of each other. We are a small lot of citizens these days. We must project a positive images to non-hunters. Show respect by trying to limit the gore. Transport deer under a tarp or cover. Don’t post pictures of deer covered in blood with their tongue hanging out. By showing respect for the animals, you paint hunters in a positive light. Most people don’t hunt and don’t really understand why we do. Don’t turn them off further by parading dead deer around openly. We need all the support we can get.
See you down the trail…
Pic: Use common-sense and follow the rules for a safe and successful firearms deer season.
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