Safety is key to a great hunting season

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jimmy Smith
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Safety Office
If you are an avid hunter then you know various hunting seasons are open or opening up very soon.

Maybe you are a novice hunter and want to try your hand at hunting. Either way the 71st Flying Training Wing Safety Office would like to remind you to be safe and offer up some hunter safety information.

While not directly safety related, hunters need an applicable license for the game they plan to hunt. According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, hunters age 10 to 30 must complete the Hunter Education course and test for certification prior to purchasing a hunting license.

Hunters 31 years and older are not required to take the Hunter Education certification course to buy a hunting license, but it is highly recommended. Hunters 9 years old and younger may complete a Hunter Education course but cannot test for certification.

Hunter education covers a variety of topics including firearms safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation and management, survival, archery, muzzleloading and hunter responsibility.

This course is available three different ways. You can take it online as a 4-hour home study, as an 8-hour traditional classroom course or as a hybrid home study course where half the course is home study and the other half is instructor lead.

According to, "Since states have begun requiring hunter education, over the last 30 years hunting incidents have drastically decreased, while the number of hunters has increased."

Visit the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation website for links to classes, course schedules and more details on licensing requirements.

The website,, offers some great hunting safety tips. While this list is not all encompassing, it is a good review of the bigger hunting safety concerns.

Judgment mistakes -- The number one cause of hunting accidents is mistakes in judgment, such as mistaking a person for game, not checking what's in front of or beyond your target, and getting caught up in the excitement of the hunt which can cause you to make foolish mistakes.

Not following firearm safety rules -- Another common cause of hunting related accidents is not following the four primary rules of firearm safety. (See below)

Not enough practice -- A huge problem in the field is hunters who don't know their firearms capabilities. This stems from a lack of practice that can lead to accidental discharges and stray shots.

Mechanical failures -- When it comes to firearms you can never let your guard down. Mechanical failures can and will happen. Know how to deal with them when they do.

Following the four primary rules of firearm safety goes a long way in preventing accidents and injury while hunting.

Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction -- The muzzle of your firearm should never be pointed towards anything that you don't intend to shoot. Practicing safe muzzle control is one of the most important things that you can do out in the field and should be something that's second nature long before you ever head out into the field.

There is no such thing as an unloaded weapon -- Every firearm should be treated as a loaded weapon. They should always be given the respect due a loaded weapon. When handing a firearm in the field always assume the gun is loaded even if someone tells you it's unloaded.

Make sure you know what's in front of and beyond your target -- When taking a shot you must always be sure of what's in front of and what's beyond your target. If you cannot see what lies beyond your target, don't take the shot.

Keep your finger off the trigger -- When carrying any firearm your finger should never be inside the trigger guard unless you're ready to shoot.

Remember your hunting license, education and safety rules and make this hunting season safe and productive.