The four basic rules of firearms safety: Always point a firearm in a safe direction; Treat every firearm as if it were loaded and never assume a firearm is unloaded; Keep your finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until ready to shoot; be sure of your target and what is beyond your target. Also hunters should use binoculars to first identify a target, Crabtree advised, and then sight through a scope only when ready to fire. This ensures the muzzle is always pointed in a safe direction.
In addition to these basic rules, waterfowlers need to take additional precautions. “Following simple safety guidelines can help prevent an unnecessary accident,” said Maj. Chris Huebner, the state boating safety coordinator. “Statistics show more waterfowl hunters die from hypothermia and drowning than gunshot wounds. The loss of body heat, left untreated, can prove fatal. Exposure to extreme cold, such as being in cold water or wearing wet clothes in cold conditions, can increase the chance of hypothermia.”
Huebner offers some simple tips on how to avoid accidents while hunting waterfowl fall and winter. “Wear protective clothing and watch the weather,” Huebner said. “And always let someone know where you’re hunting and an approximate return time.” Additional boating safety tips include: Always wear a life vest; don’t overload the boat, especially with passengers; keep hunting dogs in the center of the boat.
“In the event of capsizing or swamping, hunters should stay with the boat,” Huebner added. “It will provide some flotation and will be the initial focus of a rescue attempt.” I plan on doing some grouse and maybe goose hunting on Thanksgiving. Let’s enjoy our Thanksgiving hunts by observing these basic safety rules. Come home from the hunt.
So what will you be hunting over the upcoming holidays? Let’s look at the season’s currently open and upcoming opening dates. This weekend is the last of the archery deer season in the mountains. Gun deer season opens November 23rd and continues through December 12th with that last day being antlerless deer. Bear season will end November 21st right before gun deer season opens. For the small game hunter grouse and squirrel are currently open. Heard from a friend near Franklin who said they are flushing a lot of grouse, ahead of last year’s numbers. He thinks it is because of the light mast crop birds are moving around more for food and the birds are concentrated in certain areas.
As mentioned before, the regular waterfowl season for ducks and geese opened this past weekend on November 14th. This first split ends December 5th. My deadline precedes that opener but I’ve got some geese scouted and plan on being in the field that morning. One of my regular fields showed no sign of geese so this is my backup. The property owner said he saw 40-50 geese in the field the other morning on his way to work. Report to follow.
A couple of more important small game seasons up on November 21st. That’s the day quail and rabbit seasons open. Not much quail hunting here in the mountains but there are some diehard rabbit hunters that I know are itching to get started. The last half of the dove season opens November 23rd, giving hunters a chance to shoot some of those high flying Yankee birds. I may try to give a couple of goes out at Sandy Mush Game Lands. If you decide to go out for dove, tighten up your choke and go with a heavy load of 7 ½ shot. If weather holds warm, grouse hunters may be able to bag a woodcock, with the season starting December 17th. I plan on travelling down east for some woodcock action during the Christmas holidays. Let’s all hunt safe!