The November firearms deer season is drawing near (it runs Nov. 10-20), which means many people are focusing on the hunting opportunities in the near future.

Specifically, this means in the weeks ahead much attention is going to be paid to scouting, travel plans and any other hunt preparation that’s yet to be done. This, of course, will be followed by the excitement of actually hunting.

In the midst of all this preparation and excitement, don’t forget about safety. Safety is always the most important aspect of deer season, but unfortunately this is the point in the season when some hunters begin to forget that.

Throughout the exciting days of firearms deer hunting that are coming up, it’s important for hunters to remain safety-conscious. Safety will be important during those first days of hunting, when it’s easy for excitement to overtake good judgment as hunters take to the field and woods with an anticipation that’s been building since this past fall. 

Safety will be equally important in the latter days of the season when, for some hunters, the frustration factor will start to kick in. Some hunters will have seen whitetails, but they weren’t close enough to get a good shot. There will be other hunters who haven’t seen anything and are afraid their favorite time of year is going to be nothing but a bust.

Some hunters are going to have strong urges to stretch the safety guidelines they learned in hunter education or from older hunting peers. Less attention will be paid to positive identification of a deer by some individuals. Good judgment will begin to get nosed out by taking a gamble in the hopes of getting venison for the table.

That’s why now is an excellent time to review the basic safety principles of deer hunting, which are actually principles of any type of safe firearms hunting. Think about it in this sobering way: Which will leave a bigger impression in your memory, shooting a deer or shooting another human being?

That being said, here are some oft-repeated, but always imperative, rules of safe deer hunting.

• Never identify a deer by sound or movement. Always see the deer clearly before you pull the trigger. Depending on your permit situation, you also might have to positively identify the deer as a male or female before you shoot.

• Never assume you are the only hunter in an area, even if you’re hunting on private property. Assume every sound or movement is another hunter until it has been safely and positively identified otherwise.

• Always take a moment to look beyond your target before you pull the trigger. This helps to ensure that a potentially occupied building, previously unnoticed livestock or a previously unnoticed hunter is not in your line of fire.

• Never take your safety “off” until a deer has been positively identified and you are ready to pull the trigger. This helps to keep your rifle from going off at an unplanned moment. In addition to the obvious safety aspects, this makes just plain good hunting sense, too. All it takes is one accidental discharge of your gun to spook the deer away from your hunting area for the remainder of the day (and perhaps the next several days as well).

More information about deer hunting can be found at your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office or at missouriconservation.org.

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation's Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call (417) 895-6880.

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