Safety Tips for Your First Hunting Trip

By Ashley Berg , last updated February 27, 2012

Hunting can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous for those who have never handled a firearm before; if you are about to embark on your first hunting trip, be sure to keep the following helpful and essential safety tips in mind. Even if you have hunted many times before, these are lessons that should be revisited often to make your trip both enjoyable and risk-free. Make sure you and everyone in your party goes over this list, and remember to always think before acting.

Assume the Gun is Loaded

You should treat every firearm you come in contact with as if it is loaded. Many tragic accidents happen because someone forgets to unload a gun or believes they have fired their last round. Even if you have double-checked that a gun is unloaded continue to treat it as if it is loaded. Practicing this habit will ensure that no mistakes ever occur. If you are unsure how to check if a gun is loaded have someone show you immediately, before you accept the weapon.

Always Point the Weapon in a Safe Direction

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous tip about treating the gun as if it is loaded. Making sure the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction is essential for avoiding fatal accidents. Should the gun fire unexpectedly you will thank yourself for keeping the muzzle away from your toes, head, and friends. Up to a third of gunshot wounds are self-inflicted, you can avoid being a statistic by keeping the gun pointed where it can do no harm if it discharges.

Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger

You can easily avoid an accidental discharge of your weapon by keeping your finger off of the trigger until you are sure of your target and about to fire. Keep the safety on until the last moment, and apply your finger only when you are completely certain of your intended prey. The gun's safety is not a substitute for good judgment or proper firearm safety training, and you should never have your finger on the trigger even with the safety on.

Be Sure of Your Target

Be aware of what is around your target, what is in front of it and beyond are important considerations, especially around other hunters. Never fire blindly into an area, like hillsides or ridges, and always know how far your ammunition can reach. Also, be sure and avoid shooting into water, rocks, or steel, as ricochets can cause serious injuries or death.

Control Your Emotions

Hunting is a thrilling sport and you may be so excited about making a kill you forget to put the safety on your gun. You may turn to your friend or run after your target without first considering the safety of yourself and others. Always keep your emotions in check and put on the safety, unload the gun, and cautiously approach others in a similar position.

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