About 13.7 million Americans go hunting every year, according to the most recent Census Bureau survey. The vast majority experience safe and enjoyable outings, but sadly, 80 to 90 fatal hunting accidents do occur each year, according to Interstate Sportsman host Brock Ray. In addition, there are about 8,122 injuries a year, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. This amounts to an injury rate of 1 person per 2,000 participants, making hunting statistically safer than volleyball, snowboarding or bicycle riding.
However, when you’re the one injured, statistics don’t count. Here are a few basic procedures you should follow to avoid becoming a statistic and stay safe.
Avoid Tree Stand Injuries
Tree stand falls account for most hunting-related injuries. A study of 130 hunters treated at Ohio State University and Grant medical centers between 1998 and 2007 found that half of injuries were from falls, while only 29 percent came from firearms. Most of these injuries were slips due to carelessness while climbing up or down or attaching or removing the stand. Wet weather can increase the risk of slipping. Sometimes fatigue is a factor, with hunters falling out of stands after falling asleep. Typical injuries are spinal injuries, fractured limbs and broken hips.
To prevent tree stand injuries, take caution when climbing and wear a safety harness called a fall-arrest system (FAS). An FAS includes a vest harness and a tether strap that keeps you tied to your tree. You should tie your strap short enough that you can easily climb back into your stand if you fall. Sporting goods suppliers such as Cabela’s sell hunter’s safety harness vests and equipment, often at a discount during holiday sales. Hunter Safety Systems has produced some instructional YouTube videos demonstrating how to safely hang a tree stand and properly use an FAS system.
The best way to avoid firearm injuries while hunting is for you and other members of your party to take a good hunter safety course. Your state’s Department of Natural Resources can point you toward local courses, and online courses are provided by sources such as the International Hunter Education Association and HunterCourse.com.
During a hunter safety course, you will learn things such as how to handle a firearm safely, how to safely transfer a firearm from one person to another, how to carry a firearm safely when entering a tree stand, how to load and unload a weapon, and how to store and clean it safely.
Dressing for Safety
How you dress is also essential for protecting you from other hunters and from the weather. Most states require hunters to wear blaze orange, so other hunters can easily spot you and distinguish you from deer. Never wear anything that might make you look like a deer, such as brown, tan or white clothing, and don’t carry a deer over your shoulders.
To protect you from the cold weather, keeping warm and dry is paramount. Layered clothing, a hat, gloves and boots are your most essential clothing items. Avoid cotton, which is not well-suited to extreme conditions. Instead, wear three layers, where the first layer is wool or a synthetic substitute, the second layer is fleece, and the third layer is windproof and waterproof. For footwear, deep, treaded hunting boots are your best choice. If you’ll be going on the water, you should wear a personal flotation device.
You should always carry a survival kit while hunting. Items you’ll want to take include a GPS-equipped smartphone, map, compass, matches, flashlight, headlamp, stainless steel cup, water purification tablets, food, multi-tool, parachute cords, toilet paper and large trash bags.
Author info: Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance copywriter who helps small businesses get more customers and make more sales. His specialty is helping experts reach their target market with a focused sales message. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.