Fort McCoy News Sept. 9, 2016

Enjoy hunting seasons safely — be prepared

BY DAVID SAN MIGUEL
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
 
What was supposed to be a great weekend hunting with friends came to an abrupt halt when the Soldier fell out of a deer stand and broke his arm.

Confident of his skills to ascend to the platform, the Soldier decided against using a safety harness. That decision resulted in the hunting group calling off the hunt and spending much of the day in a hospital emergency room.

Hunting graphic

Fortunately, no one in the group suffered serious injury. But the fall could have inadvertently set off a chain of events that included the Soldier's rifle firing and gravely wounding, if not killing, one of his friends.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, tree-stand mishaps account for the majority, about 80 percent, of all hunting accidents. Overall, the injury rate for hunters is relatively small, approximately 50 per 100,000 participants. There are ways to make hunting even safer, however.

To prevent tree-stand mishaps, the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) recommends hunters wear tree-stand restraints or harnesses at all times until they're safely back on the ground.

Additionally, hunters should plan for instances where they might fall, get caught by the restraint system, and find themselves hanging in the air.

The IHEA also advises hunters to never hunt alone. Hunting with a partner increases the chance of survival in the event of injury or getting lost in unfamiliar terrain. Likewise, hunters should advise Family and friends of their locations to provide first responders a point of reference in case of emergency.

Standard throughout much of the United States, hunters are required or highly encouraged to wear hunter-orange vests and hats to increase their visibility in the brush. Fatalities could result if hunters mistake an individual for game or do not check the foreground or background before firing.

A hunter-orange vest and hat do much to mitigate this risk, but hunters must nonetheless adhere to other safety precautions, such as not pointing the muzzle a an unsafe direction or ignoring proper handling procedures for crossing fences, obstacles, or difficult terrain.

Other tips include carrying a flashlight, glow stick, and whistle during hunting excursions. These devices not only increase visibility during the evening hours, but also provide a means to signal for help or ward off unwanted predators.

At Fort McCoy, fall hunting includes turkey, archery-deer, small-game, and gun-deer seasons. Installation Safety Office (ISO) Manager Randy Eddy said hunters should be prepared by brushing up on hunting safety rules and practices prior to going out in the woods.

"Safe hunting practices, especially with firearms, can prevent injuries and even death," Eddy said. "Being prepared and understanding safe hunting practices is a must before going out in the woods."

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to remember the "TAB-K" formula for firearms safety.

T — Treat every firearm as if it is loaded. Never assume a firearm is unloaded, and never treat it that way, even if you watch as it is unloaded. Make it a habit to treat guns like they are loaded all the time.

A — Always point the muzzle in a safe direction. A safe direction is a direction where the bullet will travel and harm no one in the event of an unwanted discharge. There are no accidental discharges with firearms, only unwanted discharges.

B — Be certain of your target and what's beyond it. Positive target identification is a must. You must be absolutely certain and correct in judgment before deciding to shoot. Otherwise, it's reckless behavior. In addition to identifying the target, a hunter must know that a safe backstop for their bullet is present in every shooting situation. A safe backstop guarantees that no one will get hurt.

K — Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. If a hunter stumbles with a firearm in one hand and nothing in the other, whatever that person does with their free hand will automatically happen with the hand holding the gun. If a finger is inside the trigger guard, that hand is likely going to close around the pistol grip of the gun and on the trigger, causing an unwanted discharge.

For more information about safety at Fort McCoy, call the ISO at 608-388-3403.

For more information about hunting rules and regulations at the installation, go to the Fort McCoy i-Sportsman website at https://ftmccoy.isportsman.net.

   (Fort McCoy Public Affairs contributed to this article.)