(Cheyenne, Wyo.) – With many hunting seasons already open or about to open in most of Wyoming, those going afield are reminded of basic hunter safety rules that will help ensure a safe and enjoyable hunt. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Hunter Education Coordinator Jim Dawson offers some basic tips to stay safe this hunting season.
Wear hunter orange. “The wearing of a garment of Hunter Orange is a legal requirement for all while hunting big or trophy game and for hunting pheasants on Game and Fish Wildlife Habitat Management Units,” Dawson said. “This highly visible outerwear is important for the safety of those hunting and others in the field. Even if Hunter Orange is not required, as with small game hunting, it is a very good safety practice for all members of the hunting party.”
Handle firearms safely. “Treating every firearm as if it were loaded is one of the golden rules of firearms handling and should be emphasized by both the beginner and the most experienced hunter,” Dawson said. “This safe handling practice also should include a constant awareness of the direction of the firearm’s muzzle, which often changes in hunting situations due to terrain and varying conditions.”
Use good judgment. Knowing what the target is and what is beyond this target requires a hunter to use good judgment. To ensure safety, never shoot at sound, at flash of color, or shapes in the cover – positively identify the target and beyond since the bullet can never be retracted once fired.
Be careful around vehicles and fences. Dawson said that accidents often occur in and around vehicles and during fence crossings. “Take extra precautions when handling firearms in these situations and make sure others with you are reminded of this as well,” Dawson said. “It only takes minutes to walk away from these two areas where the highest firearms-related incidents occur before loading or unloading your guns.”
Be prepared for weather changes. Weather changes can be quick, unpredictable, and extreme in the fall months. Being prepared for rain and snow especially at higher elevations is an all-season concern in Wyoming. Hunters should always have survival gear for shelter making, signaling, and fire starting even on the shortest hunt.
Don’t keep your hunting trip a secret. Inform someone of where you are going and when you expect to return. Search and Rescue teams are much more effective with their efforts of finding lost or injured hunters when a point last seen is readily available.
Be safe while field dressing your animal. Field dressing is another aspect of the hunt where extra safety precautions should be taken. In Wyoming, tagging must be done prior to leaving the site of the kill but may, or may not be conducted prior to field dressing. “When field dressing game, maintaining a good sharp edge on your knife makes the job safer in that less pressure is needed to get the job done,” Dawson said. Other equipment helps, but a good sharp knife gets the most use. Always make sure the strokes of the knife blade are made away from your body so that a slip will not find the blade coming back and causing injuries. With the awareness of disease transmission, it is also recommended that latex or rubber gloves are used throughout the field dressing process.
Dawson said that Wyoming’s Hunter Education program covers these and other topics including Hunter Ethics, Wildlife Conservation and Management, Game Care, Wildlife Identification, and Hunting Regulations. Hunter education is required of anyone born after Jan. 1, 1966.