Guest post by Frank Ferguson
FIREARMS SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
The privilege of owning and using firearms carries with it a number of responsibilities i.e. to store, maintain, transport and use firearms safely at all times. As firearms licence holders we have some very serious responsibilities every time we pick up a firearm and can, by law, be held personally responsible for our actions or inactions (e.g. failing to adequately secure a firearm). There was a hunting tragedy last year, with the fatal shooting of a young hunter at close range by his hunting companion, who failed to positively identify what he was shooting at. These days the consequences of this sort of negligence can lead to a fine, loss of licence and possibly a prison term.
With the roar here again and large numbers of hunters in the bush it is timely to review the safety guidelines that allow us to enjoy our hunting and return home to our families safely. When we sat our firearms licence tests (some of us may struggle to remember back that far) we learnt the Seven Basic Safety Rules and these must be applied every time you handle a firearm. Try to make them habits that you do instinctively and insist that others do the same. If you cannot recall these or are unsure of their meaning, get a copy of the Arms Code from your nearest Police Station and go through it again.
- Treat every firearm as loaded.
- Always point firearms in a safe direction.
- Load a firearm only when ready to fire.
- Identify your target beyond all doubt.
- Check your firing zone.
- Store firearms and ammunition safely.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs when handling firearms.
As hunters here are some extra guidelines to keep you safe while hunting.
- When hunting with companions, only the person in front has a loaded firearm and they must restrict their arc of fire depending on the position of their companions. Do not try to hunt parallel to a companion, you will soon lose sight of each other in the bush and end up in a confusing and dangerous situation.
- If members of a party are hunting individually, always hunt in separate, agreed, designated areas and never enter someone else’s area. Always look out for hunters from other parties though that may be hunting the same area.
- Always assume movement, sound, colour or shape is another hunter until you prove otherwise. This will focus your mind on ensuring that it is not a person, rather than immediately assuming it is an animal.
- Look very carefully with your eyes and through your scope or binoculars to positively identify what you are looking at. Your brain can play tricks on you in the heat of the moment and you may convince yourself that you are seeing what you want or expect to see.
- Try to sight at least the head, neck and shoulder of the target animal at the same time, to confirm target identification and place the shot in a vital area.
- Wear high visibility clothing so that other hunters can see you. This should contrast with the environment and the animals you are hunting. Blaze orange is one of the best and is readily available. A cap and a vest that can be worn over any other clothing should be considered a minimum coverage area. If you are carrying an animal or a set of antlers tie some high visibility clothing or plastic over part of them.
- Emotions can override rational thought in the heat of the moment (e.g. buck or stag fever) so learn to recognize this and counter it.
- Attend a training course if you are inexperienced. An NZDA HUNTS hunter training course is a great way to learn everything you need to know to hunt safely and improve your chances of success.
Remember, it is always the responsibility of the shooter to clearly identify their target, regardless of whatever strategies other hunters may or may not use to be seen. No meat is better than no mate!