Hunters safety class means less accidents

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 18, 2008

For hunter education proponents, Alabama&8217;s 2006-2007 hunting season was cause for celebration. There wasn&8217;t a single firearms-related fatality during the entire season, which starts with dove hunting in the fall and ends with turkey season in the spring.

Still, to go eight months without a single firearms-related fatality is evidence that hunter education is working.

Those 10 commandments are as follows:

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1. Treat every firearm as if it was loaded.

2. Control the muzzle of your firearm &8212; keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction; never point a firearm at anything that you do not wish to shoot; insist that your shooting and hunting companions do the same.

3. Be sure of your target and beyond &8212; positively identify your target before you fire and make sure there are no people, livestock, roads or buildings beyond the target.

4. Never shoot at water or a hard, flat surface &8212; there is no control of a ricocheting bullet.

5. Only point a firearm at things you want to shoot &8212; and don&8217;t use a scope for target identification, use binoculars.

6. Never climb a tree, cross a fence or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.

7. Store guns and ammunition separately &8212; store firearms under lock and key and use a gun case to transport firearms.

8. Make sure your barrel and action are clear of all obstructions.

9. Unload firearms when not in use &8212; never take someone else&8217;s word that a firearm is unloaded. Check yourself.

10. Avoid drugs and alcohol when hunting or shooting &8212; even some over-the-counter medicines can cause impairment.

Hunter safety has been mandatory since 1993 and anyone born on or after Aug. 1, 1977 is required to complete the course before the person can purchase a regular hunting license. A new provision in the license law allows people of license-buying age (16 and older) who haven&8217;t completed the hunter education requirement to purchase a restricted license to hunt with a properly licensed hunter as a mentor. The license will indicate &8216;supervision required,&8217; which means the new hunter must be within normal voice control &8212; not over 30 feet &045; from a properly licensed hunter who is at least 21 years old.

Unfortunately, Metzler won&8217;t be able to celebrate the 2007-2008 season as free of firearms fatalities. According to news reports, an 18-year-old hunter fatally wounded his 15-year-old hunting companion, mistaking movement in the woods near Abbeville for a deer. The report also indicated the victim was wearing a hunter orange hat but had pulled his hood up and covered most of the blaze orange.

Metzler said the majority of firearms accidents occur during deer season. With a great deal of rutting activity expected through the end of the season on Jan. 31, the deer activity could be hot and heavy.

Metzler also wants hunters to take advantage of the safety equipment used in climbing trees.

David Rainer is with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.