Safety is undoubtedly the most important element when you are manipulating an object that can kill any life form. There are basic universal rules based on common sense for most of them. Knowing and practicing them will ensure a future to you, to your beloved ones and to the next generation of hunters.
Following the 10 Hunter Safety Rules will eliminate many accidents and tragedies. This article is about Bowhunting safety rules but you can apply these rules to any weapons that have Foot per Second capabilities (Slingshots, Guns, Bows, Air Guns, Crossbows, etc...)
Rule #1 - Safety Education Courses
Either you hunt with firearms, bows or crossbows, in most states, provinces or even countries, you will need to complete a Hunter Safety Educational Course before purchasing a hunting license and hunt.
So rule number 1. is to follow a bowhunting education course. If not mandatory in your area, I would strongly recommend you to seek for an online hunter safety educational course. The good thing about this, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to learn and pass a hunter safety course. Much of what you learn is just common sense.
The goals of the program are to prevent hunting accidents and ensure the future of hunting by teaching hunters about their responsibilities and role in conservation. There are usually two parts in those courses. The knowledge session and the skills session with or without exams. Much of the sessions (knowledge and skills) covers what is listed below:
- Hunter responsibility and ethics
- How bows and crossbows work and bow and crossbow safety
- Wildlife identification, game care, survival, and first-aid skills
- Bows and Crossbows-handling skills and hunting techniques
- Awareness about wildlife conservation and management
- Rules and information unique to your Area.
The last point is important. You must be aware that in some states or provinces, they have differing hunter education requirements, so hunters planning trips to other states, provinces or countries should check the hunter education requirements of their destination well in advance of their trip. For instance, hunters traveling to Louisiana must have hunter education certification if they were born on or after September 1, 1969, from a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
You probably know a lot about it already but when it comes to safety, the old adage is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Remember that how to be a safe hunter is not something you learn once. Hunting safety should be an ongoing development of skills and attitude over the lifetime of the hunter.
Rules #2 - Safety while manipulating
How to manipulate any weapons is crucial to avoid accidents and tragedies. There are known under the 10 commandments of general safety while manipulating a weapon.
1. Always point the field point or broadhead in a safe direction.
Control the direction of the field point or broadhead at all times. Do not point a bow at anything you do not intend to shoot. Never rest a field point or a broadhead on your toe or foot. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until the instant you are ready to fire. Always keep the safety on until ready to fire; however, the safety should never be a substitute for safe bow handling.
2. Treat every crossbow with the same respect you would show a cocked crossbow.
Every time you pick up a crossbow, the first thing you do is point the riser in a safe direction and check to see if it is cocked (which should never be if not used). Be sure the flight track is empty. If you do not understand how to determine if it is cocked and has the safety on, do not accept the crossbow until someone has safely shown you that it is safe to manipulate. Read your instruction manual carefully before you handle new crossbows or bows.
3. Be sure of your target and what is in front of and beyond your target.
I couldn't insist more on the fact that before you pull the trigger you must properly identify game animals. Do not even raise your scope to see it until your target is fully visible and identified. Use binoculars! You should know what is in front of and behind your target and should be able to determine that you have a safe backstop or background.
Tip: Since you do not know what is on the other side, never take a shot at any animals on top of ridges or hillsides. You should test how far arrows and bolts can travel. I strongly recommend to never shoot at flat, hard surfaces, such as water, rocks or steel because of ricochets and the possible injuries that could follow.
4. Unstring conventional bows and Uncocked crossbows when not in use.
Store sporting arms in cases when traveling to and from shooting areas. Take bolts out. Know how your equipment operates. Store bows and crossbows in cool, dry places.
5. Handle arrows and bolts carefully.
Don't climb a fence, a tree or a ladder with a loaded bow or crossbow. Don't cross difficult terrain with a nocked arrow or bolt. Don't face or look down the flight track from the riser end if loaded. Always carry arrows in a protected cover or quiver. Learn the proper carries. If you fall, be sure to clean the bow or the crossbow and check the accessories and flight track for obstructions. Carry a field cleaning kit.
6. Know your safe zone-of-fire and stick to it.
Your safe zone-of-fire is that area or direction in which you can safely fire a shot. It is easily defined at a shooting facility. In the field, it is that mental image you draw in your mind with every step you take. Be sure you know where your companions are at all times.
Tip: You should never swing your bow or crossbow out of your safe zone-of-fire and you should learn the safe carries when there are persons to your sides, in front of, or behind you. If in doubt, never take a shot.
7. Control your emotions when it comes to safety.
If you lose control of your emotions you may do something carelessly. If you have just shot a target or an animal you will probably be excited. Show discipline. Rehearse in your mind what the safe actions will be. Do not allow your daydreams to replace good judgment. Show restraint and pass up shots which have the slightest chance of being unsafe.
8. Wear eye protection.
While shooting at the range, you should wear eye protection at all times. Wear glasses to protect your eyes from debris or broken pieces of equipment.
9. Don't drink alcohol or take drugs before or while handling weapons.
Alcohol and drugs mustn't be used before or while handling archery equipment. These substances affect emotions and reflexes, making it easier to lose control or act carelessly.
10. Be aware of additional circumstances which require added caution or safety awareness.
Just because something isn't listed doesn't mean you can ignore it if it is dangerous. Practice all commandments of shooting safety and ensure a safe future for you, others and the shooting sports.
Rule #3 - Safety Clothing
Camouflage is important but it is more an attitude, to feel like a predator who owns his environment because when you think about it, many species tend to be blind colors, only few special games aren't. On the other end, most humans are not blind color and using safety clothes reduce mistaken-for-game accidents. I would, instead, recommend people to purchase clothes made of soft, noise resistant material, scent free, warm and that keep you dry from morning fogs or rainy conditions (waterproof).
Wearing quiet clothes with or without camouflage with scent elimination would be more recommended to avoid spooking the target then feared to be spotted by safety clothes. Most species are spotting predators by the vibrations, their smells or the sounds they make way before they can spot them visually.
That being said, without exception, kids should always wear fluorescent safety clothing no matter what. Avoiding accidents is more important than beeing spotted by an animal.
Rule #4 - Transportation and Storage Safety
Transportation storage and home storage safety. Possibly the most underestimated safety issue for many people. Accessibility to a powerful weapon can be appealing for kids to use them and this is when accidents happen. More than 80% of accidents with firearms (Guns, Bows, Crossbows, etc..) concern an under 19 years old kid in it. If your equipment is not properly locked or store at home I suggest you take care of this immediately. Take time to explain to all people in the house the dangers of the weapons. It may just keep everybody around to reach an older age.
During transportation, you also want to be safe but also prevent your precious weapons from damage. Many different types of cases are available and can suit your needs. If you are curious about this and want to know more, you can have a look at our article about Buying an Archery Bow Case: 8 aspects to consider.
Rule #5 - Maintenance safety
Maintenance safety means regular cleaning and keeping up with necessary repairs to your bows or crossbows. You must learn how to keep your equipment safe to make them last longer and keep their accuracy. All manufacturers recommend specific maintenance toward their weapons but you can't go wrong if you have the habit of waxing your strings after intensive use of your bow or crossbow.
Rule #6 - Firing Range safety
Firing ranges safety is personal to each firing clubs. However many rules are more or less universal. Here are the most common ones.
- Obey all range commands and signs and shoot only at authorized target.
- A "Range officer" needs to be designated if any are present.
- Uncock or un-nock your weapon during cease fires.
- Do not handle weapons when others are down range.
- All firing will be done from designated firing lines or positions.
- Always practice safety on the range
Rule #7 - Laws Safety and Requirements
Countries, provinces, and states have each of them their laws concerning purchasing weapons shooting projectiles. Make sure you gather all the necessary information before purchasing a bow or a crossbow and also some types of broadheads in your area. For Instance, In USA, the owner must be aware of what is legal and what is not in its state.
Rule #8 - Safety for initial handling and processing the meat
Knowing the basics of handling and harvesting games safely is important. There are two main steps after a kill:Initial handling and transportation: Depending on your scenario, few actions are necessary on site. One thing is inevitable, YOU MUST ALWAYS have a sharp knife with you while hunting. A sharp knife will allow you to gut it on the field almost effortless but there is also a gutless method which is a cleaner way to do it. Also depending on your scenario, few actions are necessary before bringing it at home. If you can use an ATV or any other motorized vehicles, this will make your life easier. However, there are other methods like backpacking it. As you will see in this video, having a sharp knife is day and night while skinning off a deer otherwise you may struggle like in this video but his technique is good.
Butchering, Storing and Cooking: How to butcher the meat and put it into your freezer. After quartering at home or on the field as you saw in the video above, there are many possible actions to process the meat after that. Here is a nice and clear video on the following steps (you can also watch all 6 videos of Field2feast).Tip: Some species like deer, elk or moose can transmit diseases to other games if the initial handling is not done right. Ask local authorities if what you intend to hunt is subject to chronic wasting disease so you can avoid transporting the contaminated tissue.
Rule #9 - Safety of the hunter
Depending on your style, basic safety principle should be respected while Tracking, Stalking, Tree standing or Waiting for the game. The first safety principle would be you to be in good condition to travel different landscape or simply crawl next to your prey. Each of the methods (stalking, tree standing, etc...) you will use for hunting have their own safety procedure that you should know about. That said, here are few common rules for personal safety that you should pay attention as a hunter.
- Before any hunt, you should check your equipment to make sure that everything is working properly and nothing is missing.
- If you are using new equipment, test it in a safe setting before you go hunting and tune it to your liking.
- Be certain that your target is an animal before you shoot. Use Binoculars to do so. Also, do not shoot at an animal if there are human beings near it.
- Look far beyond your target to make sure that no human being is present before you release your shot. If you cannot see clearly, you can use binoculars. Do not shoot at a movement or sound. You have to know exactly what you are shooting at. Positive identification of your target can be difficult. If it is dawn, wait for better light to be certain at what you are shooting. If it is dusk, pass on the shot and come back in the morning for a safer shot!
- If you are planning to use a tree stand, you should wear a safety harness.
- The best is to hunt with a partner. If you cannot find someone to go with you, you should let your family members or friends know where you will be going and what time you will return.
- Make sure that all the animals you shot are dead before putting them in your vehicle. If you can't track back your target, you should warn local authorities if your law demands it.
- Check all your belongings and equipment before you leave the hunting ground so that you will not bring unwanted animals home. Sometimes, snakes or other harmful animals may sneak into your bags, and you will be in for an unpleasant surprise when you get home.
Rule #10 - Safety when attacked by game
What to do when attacked by game. First of all, wild animals attacks happen but they are rare. In most cases, the person being attacked did something to allow the attack to happen in the first place. That said, there are few commons sense rules to avoid any undesired experience.
- Never approach, threaten, run towards a wild animal.
- Do not cause unnecessary pain to a wild animal.
- Do not pet any wild animal and do not hand feed them.
- Do not turn and run away, they are probably faster than you and may consider you as food and attack.
- Back off slowly and talk in a monotone for some species (Ex: crocodiles) while making as much noise as possible for others (Ex: black bears).
- Do not corner a wild animal, leave space for them to escape.
All these rules are actually all number 1 rules. By following these 10 hunter safety rules you will ensure to enjoy many of your hunting trips and become a better hunter by preventing and protecting yourself from the unexpected. Best of the two worlds, enjoying what you like the most and be safe! Remember, I mentioned it often, always use binoculars to identify your target. If you are curious about how to choose binoculars for hunting, follow the link.
Thank you for reading us and do not hesitate to share this information, safety is a matter for everyone!
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