Hunting safety is no laughing matter. Nobody wants to find themselves in the midst of one of those epic stories about what NOT to do on a hunting trip. Hunting is a fun way to spend time outdoors and connect with our ancient heritage, but we’ve got to be safe about our hunting habits.
There are a number of common mistakes made by first-time hunters. Ignoring wind, being impatient, and failing to properly check your gear are a just a few examples of mistakes that can lead to an unsuccessful first trip. To help you maximize your hunting experience (and avoid injuries or unexpected curveballs), this article will cover five safety tips for first time hunters.
Tip #1: Practice Perfect Communication
There’s a familiar mantra about communication that says, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” When it comes to hunting, failure to communicate effectively can have disastrous consequences.
There are a number of ways to practice perfect communication for your first hunt. Before heading out with your hunting party, take the time to talk through the layout of the land and ensure that each member of the party has a thorough understanding of where the others will be. While we always recommend hunting with a partner or a group, rather than alone, it’s always a good practice to inform someone who isn’t heading out with you of where you’re going and when you intend to return.
Tip #2: Wear Appropriate Clothing
Choosing the right clothing requires that you understand the specific type of hunting you’ll be doing, as well as your state’s requirements. Some states require hunters to wear at least one piece of gear that fits the description of being a ‘blaze orange’ color. Others require multiple pieces of blaze orange clothing. Some states also have requirements that change depending on the season.
While camouflage is always a popular choice and useful in some scenarios, hunting in a group also requires that group members be able to identify other human hunters from their prey. Wearing a bright orange vest or hat, in this case, is a wonderful idea. In addition, be aware of the weather you’ll encounter on your hunting trip. An excess of cotton clothing is sure to result in an unpleasant experience in really wet or cold conditions.
Tip #3: Always Treat Your Firearm Like It’s Loaded
This is a very straightforward but incredibly important tip. In fact, if you take nothing else away from this article, this should be the one that sticks with you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting under a tree for lunch, walking from the car to the blind, or taking aim at your desired game, you should always, ALWAYS treat your firearm like it’s loaded.
Avoid pointing your gun at anyone or anything even if you know it’s not loaded. Make sure you double or even triple-check that it truly isn’t loaded when you think it isn’t. The only time you should point your firearm at anything is when you’re preparing to shoot. Even then, your finger should only find the trigger moments before you’re actually ready to fire. When identifying your target, go beyond that and make sure you recognize the surroundings as well, both of your target and of yourself.
Tip #4: Bring a First Aid Kit + Backup Supplies
Even if someone else in your hunting party says they have a first aid kit, it’s always a good practice to prepare a small kit just for yourself. In doing so, you can make sure that you have any specific supplies that you may need on a trip. For example, if you have an allergy of any kind, don’t rely on others to have an Epi-Pen® or diphenhydramine (i.e. Benadryl®) on hand when it’s already too late.
In addition to a fully stocked and up-to-date first aid kit, there are also a number of additional supplies that hunters need beyond just their gun or bow. This includes, but isn’t limited to, earplugs or sound-protecting headphones, rope, a whistle, a map and compass, a hand ax, and a waterproof fire-starting kit. It’s also never a bad idea to stash away a few extra granola bars or snack items that don’t go bad easily.
Tip #5: Make Sure You Have Permission to Hunt
Many novice hunters make the mistake of thinking they can hunt right out their back door if they live near a vast acreage of unpopulated woodlands. This is, indeed, not often the case and can actually result in causing a bit of trouble. For starters, you must be licensed to carry your preferred firearm in the state in which you intend to hunt. If you intend to travel away from your home state to hunt, for example, this means familiarizing yourself with the specific requirements of the state to which you intend to travel.
In addition, most landowners that allow hunting on their property like to know exactly who is hunting there at any given time. Failing to ask for permission from a landowner or failing to notify them before heading out to hunt on their property can result in serious injury or death. In this case, it’s most certainly always better to ask for permission rather than forgiveness.
In addition to these five tips, we recommend that every new hunter take a hunter safety course that’s applicable to your state if you haven’t already. This course will teach you how to be a safe, respectful hunter and the knowledge you gain will only bolster your confidence and make you more successful when you finally head out. Best of luck for smart, safe hunting trips ahead!