Hunting Safety Requires Constant Vigilance

Let’s face it, I’m a stickler for safety.   I’m not apologizing for that, but perhaps I am warning you if we ever hunt together some day.   If you haphazardly point the muzzle of your gun in such a manner where I see it pointing at another person…you will be sternly reminded of your error in technique.   Whereas it might be polite in most social circles to bite your tongue and not say something you disagree with…those rules simply do not apply when it comes to firearms safety.   In fact, I believe it is the constant responsibility of all sportsmen to self-police each other and urge improvement in skills, especially when someone who knows much better has grown lax about such things.

Recently a friend passed along a picture to me thinking I might want to use it on my blog site.   Truth is I did want to use it, but probably not for the reason he had intended.   Instead, I offer up the following picture as a fine example of careless gun handling…and to make matters even worse, it’s being done by a teenager who is already learning some bad habits by not respecting his gun.   See below:


First off, if you don’t see anything wrong with this picture then you better read this blog post carefully.   This message is especially directed at you.   The kid second from the left is holding the gun by resting his hands on the muzzle…and worse yet, the muzzle appears to be pointed directly at his head.   All it would take is an overzealous dog sitting right next to the gun to bump it and…well, we all know stranger things have happened in this world.

Pictures like this really make me sad.   It also tells me a lot about the hunting group.   First off, if I seen this happening in real life the kid would be chastised and promptly told to clean up his gun-handling act.   Doesn’t matter if this kid is mine or someone else’s…I have no tolerance for carelessness and if you need to hear it, you better believe you will be told.

Several years back I was out in Montana on an antelope hunt when one of the hunters in my group had a doe tag to fill.   We were hunting in a sagebrush filled area where you could see for miles.   I motored up on some bluff area with my ATV while the other hunters glassed the area on the other side watching some antelope out probably about 350 yards.   It was a long shot, but indeed we had our guns sighted-in for making such shots so the hunter set up and readied himself to pull the trigger.

I continued to scan the area using binoculars and just happened to catch a small glimpse of orange moving off in the distance…and yes, immediately beyond the intended target.   I hollered “DON’T SHOOT” as everyone turned around and looked curiously at me.   I explained that there was a hunter sneaking up on the antelope from the backside and he would have likely been caught up in any bullets that overshot the target animal.   The other hunters looked carefully further beyond the target and could immediately see what I was talking about.

The hunter who soon was planning to pull the trigger, who by the way teaches firearm safety and had a career promoting good gun-handling skills, took a deep breath, unloaded his gun and walked away not filling his tag.   He knew, as we all did, that a cardinal rule of safety was broken by not looking beyond your target…in this case I was observant and he got lucky.   Yet, sometimes the raw excitement involved during the hunt can distract you from observing all the necessary rules of safety.   For this individual having a close call like this suddenly ended his fun.   Imagine how much worse he would have felt had he actually shot the gun and then recognized the other hunter off in the distance.

Here was a perfect example of hunters working as a team to promote increased safety within the group.   You have to be aware at all times what is going on.   Even a momentary lapse in technique can be all it takes to produce some devastating results.

When I carry a gun I try to stay aware of what direction the muzzle is pointing at all times.   I also try to anticipate how I might react if I stumbled and suddenly fell forward carrying that gun.   Playing these little scenarios in your head helps develop a healthy gun-toting technique.

Quite frankly when a person carries a gun I don’t EVER want to see that muzzle pointed at another person…EVER!!   Not even if they break the action open so it can’t fire.   I want to see the people I hunt with get into the habit that the muzzle AT NO TIME ever points at another person no matter what.

Have I hunted with folks who displayed poor gun handling technique…you bet!   Will I hunt with them again…probably not.   For me it distracts from the general fun of the hunt when you not only have to worry about your own gun, but also that of the other hunters around you.   The way I figure it…if someone is prone to being careless afield they are an accident waiting to happen.   I neither want to be a victim of that accident or even a bystander.

Indeed, when I looked at the picture above I noticed first the nice display of ducks they have from a morning hunt.   But quickly my eye was drawn to the kid holding the gun in an improper manner.   I told my friend who sent me this picture that it would get used.   Yet, I also told him that I hoped the picture would be used as a teaching tool so this kid breaks this bad habit.   His life…and certainly those who hunt around him…just might someday depend on it.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.