Hunting season is getting into full swing. Let’s look at open seasons right now. The second split of archery deer season started back up on October 15 and will continue through November 17th. Grouse and squirrel season also started on October 15 along with raccoon, opossum, and bobcat. Waterfowl, gun deer, and other small game seasons are just around the corner so 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. “Treat every firearm as if it were loaded and always point the muzzle in a safe direction,” said Travis Casper, state hunter education coordinator. “Don’t rest a barrel on your foot or lean on it — that’s not a safe direction.”
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.
“Throughout the various hunting seasons, the majority of folks are responsible and safe,” Casper said. “North Carolina has an excellent hunting safety record that improves every year. But it isn’t perfect and we want to eliminate all preventable incidents.” 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 ten hour course of instruction.
Occasionally we hear a story in the store about hunter harassment, particularly on our National Forests. For some reason, people who hike and bike on public land (paying no fee) try to stop hunters from pursuing their sport (paying a Game Lands fee). I’ve even had one hunter tell me his truck was vandalized. Some of these folks are getting more brazen thanks to PETA. There is no denying that PETA opposes hunting. Now the animal rights group also is on record urging people to violate laws—make that hunter harassment laws. In an October 9, 2012 blog posting, PETA urges its supporters to: “Help counter the cruelty of hunting in your area: Post “No Hunting” signs on your land and that of sympathetic neighbors and friends, join or form a local anti-hunting group, protest organized hunts, and spread deer repellent or human hair (from barber shops) near hunting areas. Also, before supporting any wildlife or conservation group, make sure that it opposes hunting.”
Fortunately for hunters, these tactics constitute hunter harassment, a practice that is illegal in all fifty states and also on federal land. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) championed the enactment of these laws during the 1980’s and 1990’s in response to a campaign entitled “Hints for Hunt Saboteurs” by the anti-hunting organization, Friends of Animals. The Sportsmen’s Alliance also helped defend state hunter harassment laws in both Iowa and New Jersey courts when challenged by the anti-hunting lobby. The result has been protection for American sportsmen and women from the exact sort of thing being promoted by PETA.
“It may be hunter harassment in itself for PETA to be encouraging others to break the law,” observed USSA president and CEO, Bud Pidgeon. “If indeed there are foolish people out there who follow the PETA directive to harass hunters, I would not be surprised to see the authors of this article charged as well as the perpetrators.”
Hunters encountering protestors or harassment should immediately contact the WRC Violations Hotline, 800-662-7137. The number is on the back of your license.