Rabbit hunting is a popular sport that is practiced by many around the United States. As these hunters and their rabbit dogs take to the field, part of their cargo includes a loaded weapon. Although loaded weapons are something that should be treated with the utmost care, far too often we see someone carrying it precariously over rough terrain or otherwise treating it in a dangerous manner. This is not safe for the owner of that weapon or those around him or her and it is with safety in mind that we should all develop, implement, and practice safe firearm handling.
Since summer is upon us and we are out of hunting season, now is a good time to visit the range to brush up on not only your shooting but also your safe weapons handling skills. During the warmer months it is fairly common to see shooters at ranges who hunt regularly as well as those who are handling guns for the first time. Regardless of whether the shooters you encounter are old pros or new amateurs, gun safety is something that should be practiced across the board.
With safe weapons handling in mind, the NRA set forth three basic rules that should be followed by all gun owners and users at all times. These rules are as follows:
1. Always keep guns pointed in a safe direction. This means treating every gun as if it is loaded and not pointing it a person, dwelling, roadway, or anything you do not intend to shoot.
2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Establishing good trigger discipline is one of the best ways to ensure your safety and that of others. For example, not having your finger on the trigger helps prevent accidental discharges if you were to fall with your gun in hand.
3. Keep all guns unloaded until it is time for use. If you are hiking out to your favorite hunting spot, don't load your gun until you get there; the same concept applies to the trek back out. Moving supplies and rabbit dogs about in and out of your vehicle is also safer when guns are unloaded. Also keep in mind that in addition to it being safer not to move about with a loaded gun, there is some legality that requires guns be unloaded during travel. To find out how such laws affect you, brush up on local ordinances.
Photo: Bellamy Herald
As you traverse ground in search of a good rabbit hunting spot, carry long guns with the barrel pointed up and safety mechanism engaged at all times. Although some advocate a muzzle down approach, that is a good way to shoot yourself or a companion in the leg. It is also possible to injure a rabbit dog or wind up with a muzzle clogged full of dirt. Handguns should be contained in retention holsters that hold them securely and prevent them from falling out unexpectedly. Additionally, it is good practice to check with your hunting companions to ensure they can load properly. Though to many of us loading a gun is second nature, it is not something that newbies should learn on the fly without assistance.
Remember that when it comes to gun safety, you cannot get by on good intentions. Whether it is practicing your skills on the range this summer or aiming at a rabbit, you should always conduct yourself in a safe manner and demand the same from others. After all, every person and every rabbit dog should be able to go home safe at the end of the day.
Do you have any safe gun handling habits you've developed over the years that you'd like to share? In what ways do you prioritize safety in the field amongst yourself and other hunters? Let us know in the comments.