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Safety first

September 28, 2008
Bill Harding

Hunting season got underway on September 1st and will gain speed as seasons open on more and more species. It's a great time to be outdoors and a hunter, but it's also a time when we should think about safety.

If hunters use common sense when hunting it is a very safe sport and Ohio has an excellent record for hunter safety. Much of this good record can be attributed to hunter education courses being required for first time hunters. These courses are especially important now that not all fathers hunt and some beginning hunters are raised by single parents.

Times change, but nearly all of my buddies were taught to hunt by their dads. Girls, of course, learned to cook and sew. Like I said, times change and girls now hunt. I don't know how other fathers taught hunter safety, but my dad was the king of zero tolerance. His rule was that if I did something stupid with a firearm I would probably be an old man before I was allowed to touch another one. Evidently his teaching got through to me, because I remain extra careful concerning firearms.

The 3-shot limit has also been attributed with increasing safety. Shotguns used to hunt deer and waterfowl must be plugged so that they can hold just 3 shells. Keep in mind that the rule does not mean that you just load three rounds. It means that the shotgun must be rendered incapable of holding more than three. The magazine must be plugged in such a way that it cannot accept more than two rounds and then you may carry one in the chamber for a total of three.

By limiting the amount of shells available, hunters are more careful about shot placement. The days of emptying your shotgun at a running deer that is 100 yards away are over, as they should be. In fact, a good case could be made for using a single shot shotgun, especially for a novice hunter. With just one shot available it becomes all the more important to make your only shot count.

When my generation was learning to hunt there was no deer season in Ohio, but we still started hunting with a single shot .410. When a rabbit bolted from cover we had to pull back the hammer, line up the shot and squeeze the trigger. This all took concentration and once the shot was taken there was no need to reset the safety. I would never start even an adult hunter with a semi-automatic firearm.

Decades later, I have added other safety measures to my hunting. I no longer hunt from a tree stand. I never was happy about high places, but when I was younger I spent a lot of deer season sitting in trees. Today I use a ground blind and these old bones can be quite comfortable while I wait for a shot. Best of all I don't have to worry about these old bones falling out of a tree.

I also carry a cell phone. If I should have an accident, I can call a friend or two who would be able to find me. I could call 911, but I would spend a lot of time trying to guide them to me.

The cell phone has also been a help when everything goes my way and I kill a deer. More than one older hunter has been stricken with a heart attack while trying to drag out a deer. Most of my buddies are also old enough for a Golden Buckeye Card, but together we can hoist a deer into my van. Some of them even have big grandsons who will do the lifting for us. I guess age does have its advantages. Now, if I could just talk them into field dressing the deer for me I would have it made.

More reasons

I saw a TV report that the FDA is going to allow genetically altered meat. The experts seemed to differ on whether or not this was a good idea. They can debate all they like, but I'm not thrilled with scientists messing around with my steaks. It sounds too much like Dr. Frankenstein and Igor to me.

One thing I know for sure is that my venison, squirrel, rabbit and grouse have not been genetically altered. I'll stick with wild meat when I can get it.

As if this was not enough news, I also heard that a vegan diet can shrink your brain. I am not a scientist, but that sure explains a lot of the rhetoric I hear from the anti-hunting crowd. Those folks might need a little venison in their diet.



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