The fall season brings many fun activities including football games, Halloween and, of course, hunting season. In Nebraska, big game hunting seasons begin in late August and continue through the end of January. Whether you prefer to hunt with a bow and arrow or with a hunting firearm, following standard safety rules can prevent serious injury and even death. In 2012, there were nine hunting incidents in Nebraska, including eight resulting in personal injury and one fatality. One of the incidents resulted from illegal hunting activity.
Nebraska law requires all persons age twelve through twenty-nine years of age who hunt with a firearm or crossbow to complete a firearm hunter education program. An approved hunter education course includes a minimum of ten hours of classroom instruction, or independent study sufficient to pass an examination given by the commission followed by the student’s participation in a minimum of four hours of practical instruction in the areas of safe firearms use, shooting and sighting techniques, hunter ethics, game identification and conservation management.
Some basic hunter safety tips can keep you and your entire hunting party safe.
- Assume your weapon is always loaded and avoid pointing a weapon in any direction you do not wish it to be fired;
- Keep your safety on and point the barrel of your firearm down when walking with or transporting a firearm;
- Make sure you can identify your target before discharging your weapon, avoiding any area where humans are present;
- Wear safety orange and a brightly colored hat when hunting to avoid blending in with your surroundings and accidentally being mistaken for wildlife;
- Ensure your target is deceased prior to putting them into or strapping them onto your vehicle;
- Never hunt with small children;
- Do not climb up or down a tree or over a fence with a loaded gun. Pass your gun to a hunting partner with the safety on and allow them to hand it to you when you are in shooting position;
- Stay sober and avoid mind-altering drugs before or during your hunting session;
- Look beyond your target to avoid striking something other than your target should you miss the primary target;
- Whenever possible, hunt with a buddy or ensure someone knows your hunting path and schedule of when you expect to return;
- When using a tree stand, wear a safety belt;
- Test all your hunting equipment to ensure it is working properly and you know the correct way to operate all equipment;
- Store and transport your ammunition separately from your firearm;
- When not in use, keep both ammunition and firearms under lock and key;
- Never shoot at a sound or movement;
- Store both firearms and bows in cool, dry places;
- Carry a safety kit and first aid kit, including a waterproof fire-starting kit to avoid hypothermia if you get wet or stranded in an area you are not familiar with;
- Make sure your vehicle is in good working order and stocked with safety gear, including survival rations, rope, a flare gun, space blanket, hand axe, whistle and small compass; and
- Carry your cell phone in a waterproof plastic bag when hunting so if an emergency arises, you can call for help.
With proper preparation and observation of safety procedures, you and your hunting party can enjoy the sport and avoid a preventable tragedy.