Your students may be new to the outdoors and even more likely to be new to firearms and knives. This lack of familiarity increases the likelihood that they might have an accident and almost certainly means they don’t already know basic firearm, outdoor and cold weather safety rules.
Under no circumstances should any safety principle or practice be ignored or violated. We strongly recommend that program safety principles and practices be written and included in your overall program plan. They should be reviewed with every instructor.
Most of these principles and practices are common sense, particularly those related to firearm handling. However, none of them should be taken for granted.
We recommend that you discuss your firearm training practices with your agency hunter education administrator, even if you do not plan on incorporating a “full” hunter education course into your program. The hunter education administrator likely has a written safety principles or practices policy that can be adopted as is, or modified for your program purposes.
Hunter Orange Regulations
Most states have laws and regulations that address safety issues. These include “hunter orange” regulations, safety zones around houses and buildings, requirements for how a firearm should be carried in a vehicle, and others. Some special hunts held in national wildlife refuges, state parks, urban areas, and other areas have additional safety regulations.
We recommend reviewing these regulations again, even if you have covered them during the regulations section.
For the purposes of program planning, we have elected to include other safety issues, beyond firearms, in this section. In addition, we have included some, but not all outdoor hazards that could be encountered. There likely will be need for rationalization and customization for the specific outdoor hazards that may be encountered in your particular area and during your particular program.
Outdoor hazards encompass a wide variety of hazards that may or may not be different from those encountered during any other hiking or backpacking trip. Depending on the skills and experience of your participants, the region you are in, and the timing of your program, you may elect to not mention any or all of these hazards, or may add to the list. However, because hunting generally takes place off trail, some of these hazards may be greater for hunters than other outdoor recreationists.
The list of hazards may include:
- Rough or slippery terrain
- New or old fences
- Poisonous or injurious plants
- Blow-downs, downed trees or dead limbs
- Biting/stinging insects
- Other “dangerous” animals
In addition, a review of tree stand safety should be included if tree stands are going to be used by any participants. However, we recommend that hunting be conducted on the ground using natural cover, blinds constructed out of natural materials or popup blinds.
We recommend that you assess participant needs to determine the level of outdoor experience and skills your participants may have. See Assessing participant needs section for more details. Conducting this assessment will help guide you as to how much time you should devote to general outdoor hazards.