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Outdoor Life: During hunting season, always think safety first
hunting safety

    Articles and columns by Alvin Richardson about hunting, fishing and other outdoor sports will appear Wednesdays in the Statesboro Herald. Richardson has spent the past 33 years in education as a teacher, coach and administrator. He has been the head football coach and athletic director at Morgan County High school, an assistant principal at the same school. His writing career began in Madison with the Morgan County Citizen and expanded to the Athens Banner-Herald, where he presently writes the outdoor page. Richardson also writes for Georgia Outdoor magazine and is the author of “It’s a Dawg’s Life” which is a 60-year historical account of the Morgan County football program. Richardson and his wife Laura reside outside Madison in Buckhead.

Hunting season is well underway and sportsmen all over Georgia are participating in this great tradition.  But no matter what kind of hunting you enjoy make sure that safety is your number one priority.
    The present generation of veteran hunters has an obligation to educate our young sportsmen as well as others who are new to the sport regardless of age.  The importance of a safety first philosophy cannot be overemphasized.  Every year we hear and read about a tragedy in the field.  Most of these could have been avoided by applying a simple set of rules and insisting that they be followed in all circumstances.
    It is also worth noting that extreme caution should be used when getting into or out of tree stands. Many catastrophic accidents occur when careless hunters get excited and exit a tree stand in an unsafe manner following a kill. Many other accidents are the result of sitting in stands that are not secured or built properly.
    In addition to these rules on gun safety it is also important to remember to store firearms correctly. Whether you own rifles, shotguns, or pistols they need to always be under lock and key or stored in such a way as to keep youngsters from getting their curious hands on them. Many disasters have occurred when guns are left lying around in drawers or under beds. 
Some of these rules may seem excessive or overly cautious, however one accident is one too many and one mishap will not only take a life, but will forever change the lives of countless other people.
    Let’s make it a point this year to put safety first and teach our youngsters to do the same. Pass on the great legacy that outdoor pursuits have to offer and enjoy your days in the field.

The 10 Commandments of gun and bow safety
1. Always point the gun muzzle in a safe direction — whether it is loaded or unloaded. The safety switch or button is no substitute for handling a gun the proper way.
2. Treat all guns and bows as if they are loaded from the time you pick them up. Make sure that the first thing you do is check to see that they are unloaded.
3. Be sure of your target as well as what is in front of and behind it. There are too many stories about over eager hunters shooting at unidentified targets that result in tragedies.
4. When you have finished hunting, unload your weapon and leave the action open. Always store the gun in a case when traveling to and from hunting sites. Use trigger locks and guards on stored guns.
5. Avoid horseplay with firearms. Do not climb fences, trees, or ladders with a loaded weapon or nocked arrow. Carry only ammo that matches your firearm. Carry the gun with two hands to afford the best muzzle control.
6. Know your zone of fire and stick to it. Always be sure where your hunting companions are and wear daylight fluorescent orange so others can identify you more easily.
7. Control your emotions. Don’t forget about safety procedures when you have taken an animal and pass up any shot that has the slightest chance of being unsafe.
8. Wear hearing and eye protection. Long term effects of gun noise can damage hearing and escaping gases and burnt powder (especially in black powder shooting) can cause eye damage.
9. Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before or while handling firearms. They impair normal physical and body functions and effect emotional control.
10. Always use good judgment and caution when faced with a new or unique situation.