By Don Mallicoat- Hunting season is getting into full swing. Let’s look at open seasons right now. The second split of archery deer season will continue through November 20th. Gun deer season in our region starts November 20th and continues until December 10th. Grouse and squirrel season started on October 17 along with raccoon, opossum, and bobcat. Waterfowl starts back up this Saturday, November 12th, and mountain bear season continues through November 19th. This is a great time to remind all hunters about gun safety; something that should be a first consideration for each hunting trip, particularly if you are introducing a young hunter to the sport.
The Home From The Hunt™ safety campaign of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission states that too many hunting injuries come from ignoring basic firearms safety. “It’s easy to get excited when you’ve got something in your sights,” said Chet Clark, the Commission’s eastern outreach manager. “It’s important to collect yourself and ensure there are no houses, vehicles or people in front of or behind your target.”
The four basic rules of firearms safety are: 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. Of all of these, the one I see most violated in the gun store is keeping your finger off the trigger. I guess it just seems natural to put your finger on the trigger when you mount and point a gun. That doesn’t make it right. Bottom line: if your finger is not on the trigger until you are ready to shoot you greatly decrease the likelihood of a firearms accident. If you keep your gun pointed in a safe direction and finger off the trigger you are pretty much assured a safe hunt.
Firearms safety is taught as a component of hunter education. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission provides free hunter education courses throughout the year in every county. Hunter education instructors stress firearms safety in the classes. As a Hunter Education instructor I can tell you that the safety chapter in the booklet that all participants get is the longest and also the most thoroughly covered during the six hour course of instruction.
This is also the time of the year when hunters in the woods, particularly on National Forests, cross paths with hikers and mountain bikers. Some of those folks take exception to our chosen activity and can harass hunters. Did you know North Carolina law protects your hunting privileges? In North Carolina, it is unlawful for a person to interfere intentionally with the lawful taking of wildlife resources or to drive, harass, or intentionally disturb any wildlife resources for the purpose of disrupting the lawful taking of wildlife resources on public or private property. NOTE: This law does not apply to activity by a person on land he owns or leases or to a person who incidentally interferes with the taking of wildlife resources while using the land for other lawful activity such as agriculture, mining, or recreation.
Violation of this subsection is a misdemeanor punishable for a first conviction by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00, by imprisonment not to exceed 30 days, or by both and punishable for a second or subsequent conviction by a fine left to the discretion of the court. (North Carolina General Statute 295). What should you do if you are harassed? If you experience unlawful harassment, immediately notify your nearest wildlife enforcement officer (800-662-7137), county sheriff’s office or local police department. Advise the authorities of this law and that you wish to hunt peacefully. DO NOT provoke a fight, threaten reprisals or use profanity. Remember these anti-hunting activists are seeking confrontation and may be accompanied by the news media.
One final note before heading out. With the warm, dry conditions in our forests right now please be careful with fire. If you have been in the woods lately the leaves are dry tinder. Any heat source whether a cigarette put out on the ground or exhaust pipe on an ATV can start a forest fire. There is currently a burn ban in Buncombe County and the National Forest prohibits fires except in designated camping areas. Be safe.