With nearly 600,000 gun deer hunters handling slugged shotguns, muzzleloaders, rifles, and various types of archery equipment, it behooves us to review the four rules of firearm safety before donning hunter orange caps and coats on Saturday, Nov. 17.
In addition, Wisconsin's gun deer season with cold weather, slippery conditions, heightened mindsets, and treacherous walking surfaces, reviewing some common sense “rules” of being in a woods and getting there on roadways is a good idea, too.
Some of the firearms rules have been modified recently.
A while back there were three rules. Number four was added suggesting we keep our finger out of the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
It’s interesting to page through pamphlets and magazines to determine just how conscious hunters/editors/photographers are of the four rules.
Rule number two, always point the gun’s muzzle in a safe direction, can apply to guns in a vehicle, particularly now that casing rifles and shotguns is no longer required. Pulling a gun up into a tree stand is another place muzzle direction should be watched, as well as when crossing fences, getting into and out of hunting blinds or duck hunting boat.
Even at a rifle range, while cleaning guns, and examining a gun in a gun shop, these rules should be followed as much as possible.
While we don’t take these implements of hunting into restaurants and stores, we do handle them in non-hunting situations.
Driving to a hunting site at 5 a.m. on Nov. 17, or home at 5 p.m., are we always concentrating on the road and other traffic? While on a ride-along with a local field warden, he was forced to make a split second truck maneuver because an oncoming truck driver was scanning the fields and woods of wildlife and drifted across the center line.
This year in particular, flooding, record rainfall, record vegetation growth and numerous washouts could make foot traffic treacherous. Apply the four firearm rules but also the rule of knowing your next step and beyond.
Leaves and wet undersurfaces may be great for moving quietly in a woods, but are of little help in walking with an old pair of boots with little gripping tread. Add three inches of snow and a load of gear can make for spilling lunch, punching a gun muzzle into the soil and even firing an unintended shot.
Glass bottles have no place on a beach or in a forest on opening day.
Knives, slippery, and cold hands. Draw your own picture.
While it is generally easier to walk alone with regard to muzzle direction, four eyes are usually better than two when it comes to slippery terrain.
If possible, a scouting trip might be best done at the time when you’d be walking to your deer stand on Saturday. Do a little trimming, with a clippers, move a few branches out of the way and cut some of those boot-catching brambles that trip hurried hunters.
A new hunter may be a bit nosier than an experienced hunter, but chances are good that hunter is as careful, maybe more so than the older guy.
There is nothing embarrassing about walking in a woods before the season begins to select a standing location and getting comfortable with the unpaved pathway.
If you use a phone, check the reception and check directions with a compass. There may be a compass on the phone. By the way, some phones have lights, too.
Be safe out there.