An Oklahoma game warden shows U.S. Air Force Capt. Lamar Reece, 97th Air Mobility Wing deputy wing chaplain, how to hold a shotgun before skeet shooting at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Dec. 11, 2021. The skeet shooting allowed Airmen and their families to practice before hunting doves.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Christenson)

Hunting Safety

Firearm Safety Videos

Tips for hunters

  • Complete a state-certified hunter education course. Hunter education courses have dramatically decreased hunting-related injuries since 1949, when New York introduced the first mandatory course. Today's hunter education programs teach not just hunter safety but also promote ethical hunting practices and wildlife conservation.
  • Review and follow the four basic rules of firearm safety. The most common hunting incidents result from hunter judgment mistakes. To avoid hunting incidents, every hunter should review and follow these basic rules:

   1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded
   2. Never let the muzzle of a firearm point at anything you do not intend to shoot
   3. Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until your sights are on the target and you are ready to shoot
   4. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond 

  • Wear blaze orange clothing.  According to the National Rifle Association, deer cannot distinguish this color, but your fellow hunters can, and for that reason, wearing blaze orange helps enhance safe hunting.  43 out of 50 states require wearing blaze orange during specified hunting seasons.
  • Remember common sense safety rules. When you go hunting, keep other common sense safety rules in mind:

    1. Check the weather report before you go
    2. Tell someone, in writing, where you will be and when you will return
    3. Carry a first aid kit
    4. Bring dry clothing

Tree stand safety tips

PLAN AHEAD
  • Read, understand, and follow manufacturer's instructions.
  • Practice using equipment at ground level with a partner, including suspension release while in the harness and recovering from the suspended position.
  • Inspect equipment before each use.
  • Have a plan and let someone know where you'll be and when you plan to return.
  • Keep emergency equipment like a knife, cellphone, flashlight and whistle on you.
  • Select a healthy, straight tree that is large enough to support your weight.
CLIMBING
  • Always use a Full Body Fall Arrest Harness (FBH).
  • When climbing, keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times (both feet and one hand or two hands and one foot).
  • Keep your weight centered.
  • Always use a haul line to raise and lower equipment; never carry equipment while climbing. Firearms should be unloaded and arrows should be quivered while using a haul line.
IN THE STAND
  • Never place your stand higher than 16 feet.
  • Remain attached to the tree at all times.
  • Adjust the tether of your FBH so that you will not hang lower than your stand in the event of a fall. There should be very little slack while seated.
IF YOU FALL
  • Attempt to recover and return to your stand.
  • Stay calm and call for help.
  • Relieve pressure on your legs using your suspension relief device or exercise your legs by pushing against the tree until help arrives.
Hunter Eric Brazzale pulls his muzzle-loading rifle up to his tree stand at Fort Eustis, Va., Nov. 5, 2013.  Joint Base Langley-Eustis allows hunters to use a tree stand or high-seat for hunting on base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shaun Eagan/Released)

Firearm Safety and Education

Tips for non-hunters

If you feel uneasy about outdoor recreation during hunting season, follow these common sense rules and you can continue to enjoy the outdoors:

  • Identify hunting seasons and areas open to hunting.
  • Learn about where and when hunting is taking place and plan your recreation activities accordingly.
  • Wear bright clothing to make yourself more visible. Choose colors that stand out, like bright red or fluorescent orange or green. Avoid wearing earth-toned clothing.
  • Don't forget to protect your dog. Tie a swath of brightly-colored fabric or a bandana around your dog's neck or purchase a hunter blaze orange dog vest. These are available from many sporting goods outfitters.
  • Make noise. Whistle, sing or carry on a conversation as you walk to alert hunters to your presence.
  • Be courteous. Once a hunter is aware of your presence, don't make unnecessary noise that disturbs wildlife.
  • Make yourself known. If you do hear shooting, raise your voice and let hunters know that you are in the vicinity.
  • Choose an alternative place or time. If you don't feel comfortable outdoors this time of year, choose an area where hunting is not allowed, like most (but not all) national or state parks (check ahead to be sure). The most heavily hunted seasons last only a few weeks—find out when they occur and schedule your activities around them.