Anyone I’ve ever talked to about hunting has a story or two where they’ve experienced something which could be described as a sterling example of “what not to do.” Whether greenhorn mistakes or veteran omissions, anyone can have accidents. I bang the drum of safety quite often, but I feel it continually deserves merit. I know, I know, these “pep talks” and statistics could bore the socks off of several dozen hot wings waitresses, but it’s when we get lax that accidents happen.

I, for one, cringe when I see streaming videos of cheechakos indulging in complete idiocy with firearms. Recklessness, immaturity and ignorance fuel these beer-guzzling imps and their fatuity. As an aside, alcohol and guns have no place together. Not only does it give responsible shooters a bad name, it’s exceedingly dangerous. I think shooting is and should be fun, but safety can never be compromised. We are constantly representing shooters everywhere with our actions and must never fail to cast a positive light on the shooting and hunting community.

Each year, approximately 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada are involved in hunting-related accidents. Around 10% result in fatalities. Recent estimates claim there are almost 6,000 hunting accidents involving tree stands nationally. In Indiana alone, 55% of hunting accidents involve folks falling out of tree stands.

According to the Loder-Farren report of 2014, there are approximately 123,000 firearms accidents in the U.S. annually, though only 144 resulted in fatalities that year. It’s not clear how many of those were hunting related. In Oregon, between 2008-2017, according to ODFW stats, there were 41 hunting accidents, 10 of which resulted in fatalities. Some of these were self-inflicted, some were due to mistaken or no identification of target but all could be attributed to negligence. Safety, you make it happen.

Many states require blaze orange apparel to hunt on public land. Oregon only requires it for youth under the age of 18. Though it’s not required by law, I highly recommend wearing it. It’s pretty cheap insurance and tough to be mistaken for a game animal when wearing it. Blaze orange is no sure thing and cannot replace responsible gun handling in any case.

Treat every gun like it is loaded, never point your gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot and be sure of your target and what’s beyond it. Don’t even touch the safety or the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Following basic gun safety rules, dressing appropriately and taking the time to really identify our targets will result in safer hunting and shooting experiences for everyone.

The future of hunting and shooting very much depends upon what we do. There are many who would like to see both banned from existence, and when carelessness leads to accidents, it provides these antagonists with literal ammunition in the fight for our rights. Let’s take extra special care when we are out enjoying our hunts and plinking. When everyone goes home, everyone wins.

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Dale Valade is a local country gent with a deep love for handloading, hunting and shooting.

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