See and Be Seen
MAJ. TRAVIS EASTERLING
Accident Investigations, Reporting and Tracking
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
As autumn continues to cool the air and leaves change colors, many Soldiers are getting ready to enjoy one of their favorite pastimes — hunting. By this point in the year, hunters have worked diligently to place cameras in just the right spot to aid in the identification of trophy animals and better understand when they are there and when they are not. Some have even planted food plots or placed bait stations near stands or ground blinds in hopes of bringing in the animals just a little closer. All this time and effort has been spent to increase the probability of harvesting an animal, but have we put enough attention and effort into understanding one of the most dangerous portions of the hunt?
Hunters must be mindful of their trek into and out of a hunting area. This is especially true if they are hunting on public access or wildlife management areas. These are great places to hunt for free, but hunters must be aware of their risk factors. While hunting on public access or WMAs, hunters need to think about how to safely negotiate an area without alerting the animal. This seems like an easy task, but the execution is more difficult.
In an effort to reduce the risk of accidents, many states require hunters to wear blaze orange while traversing to and from their hunting location or during their hunts. Wearing blaze orange enhances other hunters’ abilities to see you while you move through the woods. This is especially important while traveling in low-light conditions.
During deer season, I am normally in the stand long before daylight and don’t leave until well past sunset. This, combined with the fact that hunters often travel long distances, often through dense underbrush, increases the chances of encountering a fellow hunter. Wearing blaze orange drastically reduces the chances of having an accident while traveling to and from your hunting location.
In addition to blaze orange, there are other ways to increase your safety. Let’s face it, no one expects to get into an accident when hunting. That is why the hunting industry developed items like the tree-stand safety harness. But before going hunting, you need to let someone know where you will be. Having all the safety gear in the world will not help if someone can’t find you. There are numerous smartphone apps available to aid in the sharing of your hunting location. Some hunters frown upon sharing their favorite spot because their “friend” may steal it. If this happens, find a new friend.
Finally, hunters need to follow some basic firearm safety procedures. First, treat every gun as if it was loaded. Second, do not point you weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot. Third, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. And lastly, be aware of what is beyond your target. I know most of these rules seem intuitive, but hunting accidents happen every year because hunters fail to follow basic firearm safety rules.
For hunters, not much can compare to being in the woods. Keeping these tips in mind should allow you to have fun and successful hunting seasons for years to come without putting yourself or others at risk for injury or death.