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This year’s top tip is to watch out for the hunter in the mirror.
By Jim Low, MDC
JEFFERSON CITY — As the Show-Me State’s most popular hunting season approaches, self-help tops the list of safety tips from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
Approximately 500,000 hunters will take part in Missouri’s main firearms deer season Nov. 12 through 22. Last year, MDC recorded nine firearms-related hunting incidents during the 11-day hunt. Although none of those incidents was fatal, last year was far from the best for deer-hunting safety. That distinction belongs to 2004, when MDC recorded only four firearms-related deer hunting incidents, all nonfatal.
MDC Hunter Education Coordinator Tony Legg says one astonishing fact stands out about last year’s deer-hunting incidents. Eighty-seven percent of them were self-inflicted.
“Self-inflicted incidents are common every year,” said Legg, “but 2010 was a new high…or low point for deer hunters hurting themselves. The best advice last year would have been, ‘Look out for the guy in the mirror.’”
Following are brief descriptions of last year’s bumper crop of self-inflicted gunshot wounds and the violation of hunting-safety rules that caused them.
A 55-year-old hunter chambered a cartridge in his semiautomatic pistol and was moving the safety into the “safe” position when the pistol discharged, striking the palm of his left hand. Safety Violation: Failed to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
• A 13-year-old leaned his rifle against the tree in his tree stand to get something out of his backpack. He bumped the gun, causing it to fall. The rifle’s external hammer struck one of the tree stand’s steps, and it fired, striking him in the finger. Safety violation: Firearm leaned against an insecure rest.
Legg said tree-stand safety should be another major concern for deer hunters. MDC only records injuries caused by firearms, so no one knows exactly how many hunters are injured, paralyzed or even killed in Missouri each year as a result of falls. However, Legg said the number is substantial and has grown with the increased availability and use of tree stands.
“Evidence suggests that injuries from tree-stand falls far outnumber those from firearms,” said Legg. “One study showed that one out of every three tree-stand users will fall at some point in their hunting career.”
He said tree stands don’t have to be dangerous. In fact, hunters have access to safer stands and better protective gear today than ever before. Furthermore, decades of experience have revealed the causes of tree-stand falls and enabled safety advocates to address them. Hunters who follow safety recommendations and use equipment approved by the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association http://www.tmastands. com/_safety.html (TMA) have little to worry about. He offered the following advice.
Finally, MDC cautions deer hunters about two dangers associated with campfires. One is wildfire.
Much of Missouri is in a serious drought, heightening normal fire danger. Do not light a campfire unless the surrounding area has been cleared of leaves and other flammable materials. Don’t light a fire if windy conditions create the potential for embers to blow into surrounding woods or fields, and never leave a fire unattended.
MDC also cautions hunters against moving firewood. The presence of the emerald ash borer and the potential for bringing other destructive forest pests into Missouri make this precaution critical to protecting the state’s forest lands. Obtain firewood locally and burn it all before leaving