10/03/12 Indiana Conservation Officers want to remind hunters to think safety first as you take to the woods and waters this hunting season.  Hunters by the thousands will be pursuing their quarry this fall as the hunting seasons are now upon us.  Deer, turkey, waterfowl, rabbits, and upland game birds are just some of the species that hunters will be harvesting.  With these hunting opportunities come some safety tips to follow to minimize the risk of accidents.

There are three “commandments” to follow when handling firearms whether it be while hunting, cleaning, loading and unloading, or showing firearms to others.  Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.  Most accidental shootings happen with the victim being within just a few feet of the shooter and most occur in the home.  This suggests that carelessness is the primary cause of this type of accident.  Never assume a firearm is unloaded.  When not actively using your firearm unload the firearm and open the action so you and others can see it is unloaded.  Always positively identify your target and what is beyond it.  Do not shoot at objects that you “think” may be a game animal.  Do not shoot at flashes of color, movement in the brush, or in a direction that may have structures or roadways behind it.  For additional firearms safety tips and education officers encourage hunters to attend a hunting safety class.  Hunting safety courses are available year round and class sites can be found by visiting the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website.

Deer hunters beware, falls from elevated tree stands are the number one cause of hunting related injuries every year.  Unfortunately many of these falls result in serious injury and death.  Take your time when climbing into your stand.  Use solid foot and hand holds while climbing and use a fall arrest safety harness system while climbing to and from your platform and while seated in your stand.  Once in your stand use a haul line to raise and lower your firearm or bow to you.  Never climb into or out of your deer stand with your weapon in your hands or slung across your back.

Hunters and non-hunters are encouraged to wear a hunter orange garment at all times when in the woods this fall.  While it is required for certain periods of the various hunting seasons for hunters, it is a sound safety practice to wear it even when not required.  Hunter orange helps everyone identify where each other is at and can greatly reduce your likelihood of being involved in an accident.  And those hunters who will be hunting from a boat are strongly encouraged to wear their life jackets.  If a hunter falls overboard while dressed in heavy hunting gear without a life jacket on they may have difficulty swimming to safety or staying afloat.  Additionally if using all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) as part of your hunt remember to ride responsibly and wear a helmet at all times.  Do not ride in an unfamiliar area without using caution as to the terrain changes and hidden obstacles that could cause your ATV to roll. Riding with a partner is much safer if possible, but if riding alone slow down and proceed with caution.

Hunters should always hunt with a partner if possible.  If hunting alone, tell someone where you will be hunting at and when you should be expected home.  Take a fully charged cell phone with you on every hunt.  Indiana Conservation Officers look forward to working for and with the law abiding hunters this fall to help manage our states wildlife resources.  Officers want everyone to enjoy their hunts and to lead by example to others by practicing safe firearm handling techniques and responsible hunting practices.  If you witness a fish and game violation please contact the Indiana Conservation Officer’s dispatch center at 1.812.837.9256 or report the violation anonymously at 1.800.TIP.IDNR.