Hunting 101: Safety first

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published November 21, 2017

Key Takeaways

Hunting season is now upon us. But before heading out into the great wilds, remember some basic safety recommendations to keep yourself and everyone around you safe.

Here are some basic tips to remember:

  • Always wear at least one article (or more) of clothing that is fluorescent orange. This applies to dogs as well.
  • Make sure other hunters are aware of your presence.
  • Make sure others know where you are going, and when you will return.
  • Find out what cell phone reception is like in your preferred area, and whether you will need to bring maps or download electronic ones to your phone to access in case there is no service. “Getting lost probably happens more often than people want to believe,” said Kimberly Patil, injury prevention and outreach coordinator with the adult trauma program, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Dauphin County, PA.
  • Take a safety kit, with basic first aid supplies, a pocket knife, fire starters, waterproof matches, flashlights, and tourniquets. Also remember to bring extra doses of any medication you may be taking.
  • When handling guns, treat each one as if it were loaded. No pointing or putting a finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  • Never drink alcohol when using firearms or bows. Wait until after you’ve finished and are ready to set up camp for the night, or until you’ve returned home.
  • Know the hunting and gun laws in your state and the laws for the particular land or property you are hunting on.

Young hunters

When including young hunters, keep in mind that they are typically less experienced and less physically capable than adults are. According to Joe Hess, PhD, MHA, MS, RN, performance and quality improvement coordinator with the pediatric trauma program at Penn State Children’s Hospital, Hershey, PA, anyone old enough to hunt should always first complete a hunter safety course.

“You need to understand the types and parts of a gun,” he said. “You also need to understand what it means to shoot the gun.”

When hunting with children, adults should also lower their expectations about the length of the hunting trip and how far they can travel. With children, hunting is less about shooting the animal than it is about teaching the child the fundamentals.

“They aren’t going to want to sit out there as long as you do. Go out the first couple hours or last couple hours of the day and bring food and clothing,” said Dr. Hess.

Those forgotten falls

Falls from tree stands are an often-overlooked hazard to hunters as well.

“We see accidental gunshot wounds, but we also see many injuries from falls,” said Patil.
According to Patil, hunters should choose tree stands carefully, and be sure to use a fall arrest system or harness both when climbing into a tree and out of one.

“You want to keep it on you and tethered from start to finish so if you miss a step or lose your balance, it will catch you,” she said.

Before hunting season, hunters should practice using their tree stands with other adults present, according to Patil. And climbing with equipment in your hands is also a big no-no.

“Use a haul line to raise or lower your equipment,” Patil said.

Finally, she issued the reminder to always keep three points of contact at all times with the tree you are climbing—two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand.

According to Patil, taking the necessary steps to insure safety for all will pay off in the end.

“Hunting can be a really good time. When you do it safely, it’s fun and enjoyable,” she concluded.

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