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Holiday Hunters Crowd Woods, So Think Safety
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A large number of Mississippians have hunting on their minds when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, making safety in the woods a major consideration.
Each year, about 301,000 Mississippians over age 16 go hunting, spending a yearly average 22 days in the woods. With a state population of 2.6 million people in 1990 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that means nearly 11.6 percent of Mississippians have hunting licenses.
Dean Stewart, wildlife specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said no exact numbers of holiday hunters are available, but the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the most popular hunting times of the year.
"With about 2 million white-tailed deer in the state, Mississippi has the highest concentration of this species of any state," Stewart said. "The variety of game, large tracts of forested land and generous season and bag limits make Mississippi a popular hunting destination."
Thanksgiving has deer, quail and other small game hunters in the woods. The majority of Christmas hunters are looking for both deer and waterfowl, but most hunting seasons are open at some point during the Christmas holidays.
With all the hunters in the woods at the same time, safety becomes even more important than ever.
"The holidays offer significant opportunities to combine family activities with hunting, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are traditionally times when families get together and spend time out in the woods," Stewart said.
Follow these safety tips on all hunts:
- Wear hunter orange during deer season.
- Properly identify your target before pulling the trigger.
- Leave guns unloaded until the hunt begins and keep muzzles pointed away from people.
- Use only tree stands made by a reputable manufacturer. Know how to get into and use these properly.
- Get a good night's sleep before using a tree stand, and wear the properly-adjusted safety belt.
- Remember that alcohol and firearms do not mix. Don't drink before going hunting.
Stewart also recommended that all prospective hunters take a hunter education course before going hunting. This certification is mandatory for those born in 1972 or later.
"The holidays are a time of joy and togetherness," Stewart said. "Be safe when you're out hunting and don't let hunting accidents or injuries spoil the fun of the season."