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The Dangers of Deer Hunting -- Major Risks in Hunter's Safety

Updated on January 31, 2011

Deer hunting is popular for both food and sport. Not only does deer hunting help fill up the freezer with lean meat and allow people time to get out to exercise and enjoy nature, it's also beneficial to the environment by keeping the numbers of deer within the limits of what a habitat can handle. However, deer hunting is certainly not without its risks. In fact, as pastimes go, hunting of any kind is pretty high up on the risk scale.

The most obvious danger in deer hunting is your firearm. If you don't know how to properly handle your weapon the chance of injury to yourself and others is increased a hundred fold. You can accidentally shoot yourself or others, injure your eyes trying to unload a cartridge that didn't fire until after you opened the bolt, fracture orbits when a rifle kicks back and the scope strikes improperly-protected eyes, suffer permanent hearing loss by not wearing ear protection...the list goes on.

Next, you may be in danger of being shot by other hunters. Though everyone should be absolutely sure of the identity of their target before firing, mistakes are still made. Hunters wearing exclusively camouflage or dark colors can be taken for an animal if someone hastily shoots at the motion.

Field dressing an animal comes with its own set of risks. You're out in the middle of nowhere cutting open a deer. Dull blades can make the cut more difficult and thus give a blade much more force if it slips free of the animal. Hunters cutting toward themselves take a huge risk of that blade's force being stopped by their body. In some areas, there is the danger of large scavengers such as grizzly bears wanting their part of the animal.

Depending on where you live, the areas you hunt may be far away from towns or any other human structure. Hunters who do not know the area and are not prepared can get lost. If you're lost and don't know anything about wilderness survival, dehydration and hypothermia are very real dangers as you wait for rescue.

Does this mean that you should avoid deer hunting, or that you should fear the dangers associated with it? Absolutely not! All it takes is proper safety training and proper preparation to make your hunting trip relaxing, enjoyable and safer than most other pastimes. Not only that, but you'll likely have a few stories to tell your friends over venison steaks later. What should you know?

Firearm safety should be instilled in a person at a very young age. If there is any chance at all that your children will come into contact with firearms, it is exceedingly important that they be taught the proper safety and handling of firearms as soon as they're old enough to pay attention and learn safely. A child that knows how to properly handle a firearm and knows beyond any doubt that this is NOT a toy is far less likely to injure him/herself or others.

Safety training will teach people how to always treat a firearm as if it's loaded, proper muzzle control, the safety gear such as eye and ear protection that should always be used, proper ways to safely carry the weapon, how to ensure the firearm is properly maintained and how to handle misfires and other such evens safely. Anyone who has not learned these basics of firearm safety should, by no means, be allowed to hunt.

To help protect yourself from being mistaken for game by other hunters, make sure you always wear at least one article of blaze orange or "hunter's orange" clothing. In most areas, this is required by law. Avoid areas you've heard gunshots being fired from. While a safe hunter should always be sure there's a good backstop for their shot, not everyone does. That bullet can travel a long distance with nothing to stop it and you could accidentally be shot without the other hunter ever even knowing you were there.

Safety for field dressing is simple. Always keep your knife very sharp, you should not have to ever force the blade while field dressing. Not only does this give you much better control over the blade, it also requires a lot less time and effort to dress the animal. Always cut away from yourself, just in case the blade does slip. The most common serious injury to hunters not related to firearms is a knife wound to the femoral artery which, if severed, can be fatal very quickly.

Know the basics of wilderness survival. If you do not know an area, bring someone along that does know it if at all possible. Always hunt with a compass or GPS unit (don't forget extra batteries for the GPS!) and pay attention to landmarks as you pass by them. In case you do get lost or are unable to return for some other reason, always bring plenty of water, a solar blanket and waterproof matches. Wilderness survival kits should include several other items as well, but these are the most critical. Never go hunting without letting at least one person other than your hunting buddy know where you are and when to expect you back.

Hunter's safety courses are required in many places before a person can even get a hunting license. If you're new to hunting, these courses should be taken whether they're required or not. A hunter's safety course will teach you everything you need to know for basic safety and survival as well as the ethics of hunting. No activity comes without risk, but being prepared, properly educated and always paying attention will spectacularly reduce that danger.


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