In a week, my favorite time of the year will be here. Deer season begins in West Virginia on Monday, Nov. 20. All over the state, hunters of all genders and ages are feeling like young children in the days before Christmas. Fathers look forward to that first hunt with their young children, and 20 years later those same young children are excited about spending one more year with the old man. For many of us, especially those of us who are over 50, each year deer season becomes less about actually bagging a buck, and more about getting together with our closest friends to share some beers, smoke some cigars and laugh until our sides hurt. It’s a time when those who are no longer young are given the luxury to act as if we are.
While it’s true that deer camp can often seem like one big party, it’s important for everyone to remember that when opening day arrives, the #1 priority is safety. It seems as if each year, we read about a hunter who is seriously injured or even killed due to someone’s carelessness. Sometimes, the hunter himself is to blame; other times, it’s the fault of another hunter in the woods. With that in mind, I’d like to review a few of the safety rules that every hunter should know and follow each time he or she ventures out into the woods.
1. If you are hunting from an elevated tree stand, always use a safety strap. Sometimes tree stands simply fail; other times an excited hunter who bags the buck of a lifetime simply stands up and walks in the direction he just fired. Safety straps can prevent a tragedy.
2. Make sure of your target before you shoot. Just as importantly, make sure you know what is beyond your target before pulling the trigger. The woods are full of hunters during the first few days of the season, and it is common to encounter other hunters, including some who are not part of your group, in the woods. Not everyone observes posted property signs. Trespassing is a crime, but it’s not one that should cost a fellow hunter his life.
3. Make sure that every hunter in your group wears plenty of blaze orange. West Virginia hunting regulations require hunters to wear at least 400 square inches of blaze orange; vests meeting those requirements can be purchased at very little expense. Don’t allow anyone in your group to go into the woods without one.
4. Don’t try to pull off a shot unless you are absolutely confident it is a shot you can make. A 50/50 shot is always, ALWAYS a shot you should never take.
5. Never shoot at a “silhouetted” deer. If the only thing behind the animal is sky, the shot is not safe. Today’s rifle cartridges can travel a mile or more and still inflict serious damage.
6. Alcohol and hunting don’t mix. It’s fine to throw down a few cold ones in the days leading up to the season opener. However, a hunter who drinks a beer on a day he is hunting is a hunter who is done hunting for the day. No exceptions.
7. Don’t point your gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot, and don’t put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to execute the shot.
8. Finally, always remember there is no such thing as an unloaded gun. Every gun should be treated as if it is loaded and ready to fire. Always.
Safety and common sense are the two things no hunter should ever go into the woods without. Follow these simple safety rules, and you will be looking forward to deer season in 2018 and for many years beyond. Good luck, and HUNT SAFELY!!