2023 deer hunting safety refresher
Special to the Enquirer
Deer hunting is a popular recreational pastime for many Alabamians. In fact, the 2021-2022 hunting season saw more than 228,000 hunters spend a combined 4.9 million days in pursuit of white-tailed deer. Last season was also the safest on record, with minimal recorded incidents. In support of Alabama’s hunting safety education efforts, two Alabama Cooperative Extension System forestry and wildlife experts share a refresher on hunting safety.
A Hunter’s Pledge
According to Alabama Extension Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Professor Mark Smith, no deer in the woods is worth the risk of a hunting injury. This is especially true when hunting with loved ones. Carelessness and complacency are often the cause of injury while spending time in the woods. However, the good news is injury can be prevented. Even the most veteran outdoor enthusiast needs a safety refresher.
“With deer season now in full swing, let’s all do our part and pledge to continue keeping safety as a top priority,” Smith said.
Last year, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) reported 15 hunting-related accidents. Ten of these accidents were caused by firearms and five were related to tree stands.
“Our state witnessed approximately five to six hunting fatalities according to the past 10-year average,” Smith said. “Fortunately, Alabama did not record any fatal hunting incidents last year.”
A Hunter’s Safety Guide
Smith said hunting is one of the safer recreational activities with fewer annual accidents compared to football, bicycling, golf and even bowling. Review the guide below keep yourself and others safe while enjoying the outdoors.
Carelessness and Complacency
Generally, most accidents will occur when someone is careless or complacent about their safety. In some cases, safety equipment and precautions may seem like an inconvenience. However, they exist for a reason. Below are a few examples of mistakes while hunting.
- Failing to double check the safety switch on a firearm
- Not pointing a firearm muzzle in a safe direction (i.e., treat all firearms as if they are loaded)
- Uncertainty of a target as well as what is behind it
- Forgetting to wear hunter orange to let a fellow hunter know you are not their next target
Tree stands are one of the most frequent causes of hunting accidents. As previously mentioned, exactly one third of ADCNR’s documented 2021-2022 incidents involved tree stands–further reinforcing the need for safety refreshers.
Bence Carter, an Alabama Extension regional agent, said using a simple safety measure can reduce these accidents.
“Everyone who prefers to hunt in tree stands should wear a safety harness,” Carter said. “Using this tool is important to prevent injury from a potential fall.”
Smith adds hunters should also be sure to wear harnesses when checking or moving tree stands prior to the beginning of hunting season.
As the saying goes, you are never too old to learn. This motto is also beneficial when adapting it for youth. Similar to wearing a seatbelt while driving a vehicle, leading by example is important to spread knowledge of hunter safety.
“Although it isn’t required for hunters younger than 16 years of age, attending a hunter safety course hosted by ADCNR is recommended,” Carter said. “For hunters 16 years old or older, this course is required for purchasing a hunting license.”
Alabama has a relatively successful hunter safety record. Smith said this did not occur by chance. Instead, he attributes this accomplishment to the hard work of the ADCNR staff and their statewide team of volunteers.
“Each year approximately 13,000 new students are provided hunter safety instruction,” Smith said. “This effort helps keep hunting as one of the safest activities for enjoying Alabama’s wonderful natural resources.”
Spreading the word
To continue ensuring hunting as a safe recreational opportunity in Alabama, everyone must do their part. Spread the word of this safety refresher at a hunting camp or practice safety with children at home before embarking into the woods.
Learn more about hunting and youth in the content piece titled, Hunting and Outdoor Skills. More information about hunting antler sheds and deer processing are available on Alabama Extension’s website, www.aces.edu.