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Put safety first during wildlife sports seasons
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's outdoor sportsmen should not let the thrill of the hunt exceed their good judgement when it comes to safety.
“Negligence and carelessness from getting in a hurry are common causes for hunting accidents,” said Jonathan Peeples, wildlife and fisheries associate with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Peeples said wildlife sports seasons are in full swing across Mississippi. Deer season with guns runs from Nov. 19 until Dec. 1 and again from Dec. 16 through Jan. 18. Primitive weapon season lasts from Dec. 2 until Dec. 15 and resumes Jan. 19 until Jan. 31. Other species in season at various times as the new year approaches include bobwhite quail, rabbit, squirrel, doves and ducks.
“For safety and accountability reasons, hunters should let others know where they are going and what time they plan to return,” he said.
Research has suggested that deer are color blind and are most likely to see movement. Peeples said hunters who want to be undetected by deer should consider their scent first. Products are available to help cover or neutralize human smells. Many hunters still use a traditional method of rubbing cedar branches on their clothing to camouflage their scent.
“Visibility is a key to safe hunting seasons. Deer hunters need to be easy to see by wearing the required hunter orange. Actually, anyone in the woods during deer season should wear orange as a safety precaution,” he said.
“From a safety standpoint, the most important thing is to know what you are shooting at and what is beyond your target. A common problem is when a hunter is mistaken as game. It is also not unusual to have your sights trained on wild game and then miss seeing that someone or something is just beyond the animal,” Peeples said. “We would like to think we won't miss our mark, but it's always possible, especially if you feel like you need to hurry.”
Peeples encouraged hunters to know where houses and building are located. Do not use rifle scopes as binoculars. Avoid shooting up toward deer standing on hills because missing those target could result in stray bullets going beyond the hunter's line of vision.
Hunting deer from elevated stands improves a hunter's ability to see game and reduces the deer's ability to detect the hunter. Missed shots or bullets that pass through their targets are more likely to enter the ground when they originate from stands.
“Deer stands are also a common source of hunting injuries, including fatalities. Always wear the safety harness when sitting in a stand,” Peeples said. “Make sure stands are in good condition before the day of the hunt. Check straps and webbing for decay during the off-season. Homemade stands often have rotten wood and loose nails that will need attention.”
Steve Adcock is assistant chief of law enforcement for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. He said Mississippi averages 32 to 34 tree stand and hunting incidents reported each year.
“The tree stand is the most dangerous piece of equipment a hunter has. Usually, it will be user error, not wearing a safety harness or incorrectly worn harnesses, that causes the injury,” Adcock said.
Peeples said hunters should leave their rifles or archery equipment on the ground while climbing into a deer stand, then use a rope to pull the weapon up.
“Do not prop rifles on fences. Lay them flat on the ground when going through fences. Make sure the rifle is in good working order before going on a hunt,” Peeples said. “Do not ride a four-wheeler with a loaded rifle or shotgun. Remember, you cannot shoot an animal while you are on a motorized vehicle.”
Maci Flautt, Extension agrimedicine associate based in Stoneville, is overseeing a grant to increase all-terrain vehicle safety. A National 4-H Council report released last May indicated that since 1982, more than 125,500 people have been seriously injured in ATV-associated accidents and more than 5,700 have been killed in the United States.
“The biggest problems with ATVs are excessive speed and being unfamiliar with the terrain,” Flautt said. “Four-wheelers are designed for one adult. An additional passenger or even a deer can cause a weight imbalance and also distract and limit the mobility of the driver.”
Flautt said additional problems occur when adults allow children under age 16 on large four-wheelers. If children are going to be allowed on ATVs, parents should find smaller vehicles that are designed for younger riders.
“Children under age 16 accounted for more than 31 percent of the injuries reported in 2003,” Flautt said. “Anyone riding a four-wheeler should wear proper equipment, especially a helmet, and they should attend ATV-certified safety rider courses. Dealerships provide them free to people who purchase their ATVs and usually for a fee to others.”
The Bolivar County Extension Service will be offering ATV safety classes for youth and adults in December, January and February. For more information, call (662) 843-8362.
Contact: Jonathan Peeples, (662) 325-0221