Each fall, sportsmen and women across Virginia take to the woods during hunting season. Whether you are a hunter or just plan to spend recreational time in the outdoors, here are some important safety tips to keep in mind.
Be Aware of your Surroundings
If you are venturing into the woods this fall, make yourself aware of the public hunting lands in your area. Become familiar with the various hunting seasons in your county. Note that early in the morning and late in the afternoon tend to be peak times for hunters. Go with a friend and let others know when you are leaving, where you are going, and when you plan to return.
Be Visible in the Forest
Always wear blaze orange to increase your visibility while in the woods, and to distinguish you from hunted game. The use of blaze orange is specifically required by law. In Virginia, during firearms deer season every hunter must wear a blaze orange hat or upper body clothing that is visible from 360 degrees. If you have your pet with you, you should outfit the animal with a brightly-colored collar or bandana as well.
Practice Firearm Safety
- Be sure that your firearm is in proper working order.
- Be sure to clearly identify your target, as well as what is located beyond your target.
- Check to be sure you are using the correct ammunition.
- Always handle the firearm with care, and use the safety at all times. When emptying the firearm of ammunition, operate the action several times even after you believe it is empty.
- Once emptied of ammunition, continue to treat the firearm as if it were loaded.
Archery Safety Tips
Never dry-fire a bow, and always match the arrow to the draw weight of the bow. Keep a covered quiver to protect yourself when carrying extra arrows. Just as with firearms, always be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.
Tree Stand Safety
Often hunters prefer to hunt from tree stands. These can be permanent stands constructed of wood or commercially manufactured stands, which are usually mobile. Permanent stands should be inspected before each use for hazards such as rotting or slippery wood, loose boards, or missing nails and screws. Manufactured stands should be installed in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s safety instructions. Tree stands manufactured since 2006 and approved by the Treestand Manufacturers Association are commercially designed and tested to meet recognized industry standards. Check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if your stand has been recalled due to safety defects. While climbing into or out of your tree stand, maintain three points of contact at all times. Use a haul line for gear, rather than attempting to carry all your gear in your arms or on your back. While climbing and while seated in your stand, strap yourself securely to the tree with a full body harness to avoid falls.
While in the woods, carry a cell phone or radio, and a first aid kit. Particularly in areas where cellular service is unavailable or unreliable, carry a horn or whistle that can be used to signal for help. A topographical map and compass are also helpful in the event you become lost or disoriented. Dress appropriately for the weather and carry plenty of water, even on cool days.
Hunter Education and Safety Programs
Visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries online for additional information on hunting regulations, seasons, education, and outdoor safety. Note that the Department offers hunter education courses statewide free of charge.
Follow these guidelines, remain aware of your surroundings, and have a safe and fun experience in the outdoors this fall season!
About the Author: David M. Irvine is an experienced trial attorney focusing his practice on personal injury law in the Allen & Allen office in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has handled cases involving car accidents, catastrophic injuries and wrongful death and has litigated cases across the Commonwealth on behalf of deserving clients. David has published on topics related to litigation in wrongful death cases and trial procedure, and regularly speaks on litigation topics.