Safety is always paramount when handling firearms. And hunting season is always a great time for a few reminders. These suggestions are courtesy of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
- Treat every firearm as if it is loaded. When another person hands you a firearm, assume it is loaded even if you are told it is not. Ask anyone handing you a firearm to open the action before they hand it to you.
- Always control the muzzle of your firearm. As long as the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction, nobody is likely to get hurt even if the firearm discharges unexpectedly. A safety is a mechanical device which can fail, so there is no instance where you can disregard where the muzzle is pointing simply because the safety is on.
- Never touch the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Keep your fingers away from the trigger while loading or unloading. Never pull the trigger on any firearm with the safety on or anywhere in between “safe” and “fire.” Again, the gun’s safety serves as a supplement to proper gun handling but cannot serve as a substitute for common sense.
- Never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot. Carry and use binoculars to check out the hillside. Never look through your scope at something you cannot identify.
- Be certain of your target and what is beyond it. A safe hunter never shoots at sound or movement. A safe hunter makes certain that movement or sound is a game animal that is in season before pointing a muzzle. Prior to taking a shot a hunter must check the background for other people, livestock, buildings, equipment or roads to make sure there is a safe backstop.
- Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting. Make a habit to check your barrel often. Even a small bit of mud, snow, excess lubricating oil or grease in the bore can cause the barrel to bulge or worse – explode.
- Never cross a fence, climb a tree or perform any awkward action with a loaded gun. There will be times when common sense and the basic rules of firearms safety will require you to unload your gun for maximum safety. Never pull or push a loaded firearm toward yourself or another person.
- Store firearms and ammunition separately. While most gun owners consider this most of the year, many leave guns and ammunition in their vehicles during the hunting season. It goes without saying firearms should be unloaded for safety when in the vehicle. Ammunition should always be inaccessible to children.
- Alcohol and guns don’t mix. If there is alcohol in your hunting camp, make certain all firearms are put away before the alcohol comes out. Showing your hunting partner grandpa’s old rifle after you have a few beers can lead to a tragic mistake.
- Don’t be timid when it comes to gun safety. Don’t hesitate to let your hunting partners know when you think they are putting themselves or others at risk. Gun safety starts with you.
(Photo source: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)