Keys to a good safety briefing
When I was a kid my dad had two rules while road hunting. Rule number 1: Don’t shoot the driver (him). Rule number 2: Don’t forget the first rule. This was a funny joke, but we always took hunting safety seriously. Whether or not you have novice hunters, these are the things you need to review before each hunt:
- Gun Safety: Our gun chambers are always open when not in the field. No questions. Safety is on at all times until a bird is in the air. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. And the gun is always pointed in the air. Some hunters walk with their guns pointed at the ground. You never know what will happen, and who’s dog may be crossing your path when it does. Sun’s up, gun’s up.
- Blue sky rule: This is especially important when hunting in large groups with blockers at the end of a field. If a bird gets up in front of you, there needs to be blue sky between that bird and the crops/horizon before you even think about shooting at it. Oftentimes, if you give it a second or two, that bird will fly high enough for you to get a shot, and he’ll still be in range for you as well. If it is low, let it go. Let the other people in your group shoot it when it gets to the edge.
- Empty the gun at the end of a field. Point the barrel in a safe direction and remove all shells from the chamber and magazine. Chamber is open after.
- Yell ROOSTER! When you know. If you don’t know, don’t shoot. It is illegal to shoot a hen in South Dakota. If you know it’s a rooster when it gets up (by its color, crackle, tail feathers, etc) call it out as loud as you can for others to hear. If it is a hen, yell that even louder. Shooting a hen is just as bad as letting someone in your group shoot a hen. No excuses. When in doubt, don’t take the shot.
- No shooting birds on the ground. Some hunters will do it, but it is not necessary here. No sense in risking the lives of good bird dogs to possibly shoot a bird on the ground. They will fly eventually, don’t even put a bead on them.
- Don’t shoot inanimate objects, other wildlife, or livestock. This one goes out to the very small minority of hunters who get this urge once-in-a-while. Please refrain from being stupid.
- Wear the proper gear. Blaze orange is not required in South Dakota, but it is highly recommended (at least a hat or vest), especially when hunting on your own. Safety glasses and a good hat are a must to protect your eyes and face. Things can go wrong in the field, being proactive will keep you safe instead of sorry.
Be familiar with your gun before you go. Too many times novice hunters (or hunters with new equipment) get into the field without having first practiced with their firearm. This is just asking for accidents or tragedy to happen. If you are unfamiliar with something, ask a friend or fellow hunter. If you need a few practice shots, go out to a range or shoot some hand-thrown clays in the field. The more comfortable you are with your gear, the more confident you will be in the field. Be proactive in the prevention of accidents.