Why is this important? When you encounter birds or rabbits things happen quickly. The idealistic picture of hunters walking in on a point is just that. Sometimes the bird holds for a point, sometimes not. They also run and can flush from any direction. Knowing where everyone is at all times helps avoid unwanted accidental gunshot wounds. Same holds for rabbit hunting. You know the rabbit is running ahead of the dogs but which path it chooses is up to the rabbit, not the dogs. Know where your hunting partners are at all times. Let them know where you are.
Again, upland hunting involves walking miles. That usually means crossing hazards. When crossing fences, unload the shotgun, put it through the fence first, and reload on the other side. When crossing large streams stepping on rocks, unload the gun. If you slip on a wet rock you no longer control the muzzle direction. A strong enough jar to the butt of a gun can cause it to discharge even if the safety is on.
One of the basic rules of gun safety is particularly important with upland game. Don’t take the safety off until you are ready to shoot. Not when you anticipate something happening. There is plenty of time when the bird flushes or rabbit appears to thumb the safety as part of the gun mount. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to practice that move at home with an unloaded gun just to make it part of your muscle memory. Also remember if the shot is not taken to put the safety back on.
Don’t always assume your hunting partners are thinking of these safety measures. It doesn’t hurt to remind a long time hunting partner when they violate one of these rules. When you hunt with someone for the first time, or are mentoring a new hunter, discuss these and other safety issues with them prior to the hunt or before leaving the vehicles. Yes, deer stand accidents get the most attention. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be safe while pursuing grouse and rabbits in the uplands. Let’s have a fun and successful upland season. It starts with safety.