As the state's deer firearms season opens Nov. 8, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds hunters to follow safety guidelines.
"Hunting is historically a safe sport, but only if hunters exercise caution and follow safety guidelines," said DNR Chief Conservation Officer Mike Hamm. "We want everyone this season to have a good experience hunting and to be safe."
One of the most popular pieces of equipment used by deer hunters is a tree stand. Each year, the majority of hunting accidents are the result of incorrect or careless use of tree stands. Nationally, one in three hunting injuries involve a tree stand. Falls from tree stands can be caused by a variety of factors, including a weakness in the stand's structure and incorrect installation.
To help prevent these accidents, Hamm advises hunters to follow these safety precautions:
* because most accidents occur when hunters are climbing up or down a tree, always use a climbing belt, and use a safety belt or harness when hunting from elevated tree stands
* never carry equipment with you while climbing
* use a haul line to raise or lower your gear
* make sure firearms are unloaded prior to raising or lowering them with a haul line
* check permanent tree stands every year before hunting from them, and replace any worn or weak lumber
* carry a whistle to call for help and carry a first aid kit, flashlight and cellular telephone with you
* wear boots with non-skid soles, because steps or platforms can be slippery in rain, sleet or snow
* don't fall asleep (a common cause of accidents); if you get drowsy, move your arms rapidly until you feel alert
* as a precautionary measure, remove all logs, upturned and cutoff saplings, rocks and other obstructions on the ground below the tree stand
* use updated equipment; when used properly, newer tree stand equipment is solid, safe and secure; older models of safety belts offer some protection, newer safety harnesses offer more protection
Firearms can be dangerous if they are used incorrectly or carelessly. Hunters are reminded to always follow these safety guidelines while using a firearm:
* treat every gun as if it were loaded; watch the muzzle and prepare to control the direction of the muzzle even if you stumble
* be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and that you have only ammunition of the proper size for the gun
* know identifying features of the game you hunt
* unload guns when not in use, take down or have actions open
* put guns in cases before carrying to the shooting area
* never climb a tree or jump a ditch with a loaded gun; never pull the gun toward you by the muzzle
* never shoot a bullet at flat, hard surfaces or water
* store guns and ammunition separately, beyond the reach of children and careless adults; trigger locks are strongly advised
* avoid alcoholic beverages and medications that cause drowsiness before or during use of a firearm
* identify your target and know the terrain beyond
* tell a dependable person where you're hunting and when you plan to return
* map your whereabouts and leave a note at camp, at home or in your car so that you can be found
"The average Minnesota deer hunter's chances of ending up an accident statistic are small, but that's no reason to ignore hunting safety," Hamm said. "Don't leave deer hunting safety to chance, follow safety guidelines."