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Safe hunting tips

By Thomas Nelson,

A lot of hunting safety is common sense, following the weapon safety rules and properly preparing, but sometimes that common sense isn’t so common.

In about a week youth pheasant season will begin and shortly thereafter the regular pheasant season will start up.

Hunting pheasants is not like hunting deer where you could get set up and sit for a while. Hunters need to move around through occasionally rocky and hilly terrain.

Get in shape

“With pheasant hunting you either have to be out walking yourself or have a dog with you,” said Iowa Department of Natural Resources Recreational Safety Officer Jeff Barnes. “The likelihood of one walking by you is pretty slim.”

Every year hunters go down due to heart attacks.

“You run the risk of something medically happening to you,” Barnes said. “If you’re hunting with a dog that dog needs to be gotten into shape prior to the season as well.”

A preseason warm-up is a good idea for hunters and their dogs, Barnes said.

Be visible

“Make sure you’re wearing the required blaze orange,” Barnes said. “With the minimum of a hat that’s 50 percent solid blaze orange.”

Not only is it a good idea to wear blaze orange, it’s required.

“We obviously encourage as much blaze orange as you can have on,” Barnes said, “because it makes you that much more visible all the time.”

Weapon safety

Know what’s in front and behind your target, Barnes said.

Proper weapon safety is always a good idea and following the standard weapon safety rules can help prevent injuries.

• Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.

• Never point your weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.

• Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

• Keep your weapon on safe until you’re prepared to fire.

• Know your target and what lies beyond it.

“People have a tendency to get target fixation when a pheasant gets up in the air and he starts swinging sideways,” Barnes said. “They kind of fixate on the pheasant and lose track of where the hunting partners are and that’s one of the No. 1 reasons people end up getting shot during pheasant season.”

Getting fixated on a target and losing track of your surroundings is called “swinging on game”, Barnes said.

“Maintain your good zone of fire,” Barnes said. “When a bird gets up in front you, make sure it’s actually in front of you, so you’re not cross shooting.”

Know where everyone is

Sometimes hunters will hunt in corn fields where a group of people will push pheasants out to the end of the corn field where there is another hunter waiting.

“A lot of folks use blockers,” Barnes said. “When you do that you create a situation where you have the possibility of shooting right back and forth at each other.”

Knowing where your party members are can prevent other people from being wounded by gunfire.

If a hunter is on a public ground they need to be aware there might be someone else out there, Barnes said.

“There’s folks out there that might be hunting stuff other than what you’re hunting,” Barnes said. “If it’s deer or anything of that nature, then they don’t have to have orange on.”