By Ray Metzler, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

As you enjoy the last weeks of deer hunting in Alabama, remember that you owe it to yourself, family, and other hunters to abide by state laws, regulations and the common sense rules of safe hunting. By doing this, we ensure that we will enjoy a safe hunt and return home. Contrary to what some may believe, hunting is one of the safest outdoor recreational activities in which an individual can participate. However, accidents occur each hunting season that could be easily avoided by adhering to the “10 Commandments of Firearms Safety” and other common sense rules of safe hunting.
State law requires that all hunters wear a minimum of 144 square inches of blaze orange or a solid blaze orange cap during and in areas of open gun deer season. Blaze orange does not occur in nature and when seen by a hunter it is easily recognizable as another human being. Wearing blaze orange greatly reduces the risk of being mistaken for game or being involved in a two-party hunting accident.
A common sense rule that all hunters should abide by is turning on a small flashlight while traveling to and from a vehicle during low light conditions. The small beam of light identifies you as a person and not a deer while walking in low light conditions.
Abiding by the 10 Commandments of Firearms Safety greatly reduces your risk of being involved in a hunting accident. Please do your part to make a safe activity even safer, abide by the following rules:
  1. Treat every firearm with the same respect due a loaded firearm.
  2. Control the direction of your firearm’s muzzle.
  3. Identify your target and what is beyond.
  4. Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
  5. Unload firearms when not in use.
  6. Never point a firearm at anything you do not want to shoot.
  7. Never climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch or log, with a loaded firearm.
  8. Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water.
  9. Store firearms and ammunition separately beyond the reach of children.
  10. Avoid alcoholic beverages before or while shooting.
The use of elevated platforms or treestands by Alabama’s deer hunters has increased during the past decades. In fact, according to a recent survey, approximately two-thirds of Alabama’s deer hunters use an elevated platform or treestand. Unfortunately, the number of treestand related accidents has also increased and continues to be a major cause of hunting accidents.
Hunters are required to wear a safety harness while using a treestand on Alabama’s wildlife management areas and harnesses are highly recommended for all hunters. Although wearing a safety harness does not eliminate the possibility of being involved in a treestand accident, it should minimize the potential for serious injury. It’s also important for treestand hunters to have a plan that allows them to safely descend to the ground once their safety harness has kept them from falling to the ground in an uncontrolled manner.
All two-piece climbing stands should be tied together with a short piece of rope to prevent the bottom portion of the stand from falling to the ground. In addition, all equipment should be raised and lowered from a treestand with a pull-up rope. To avoid accidental discharges, guns should be unloaded prior to raising or lowering them from a treestand.
Hunters can minimize their chances of being involved in a treestand accident by using good judgment and exercising all safety precautions. The following are tips that should be followed by all treestand users:
  1. Wear a safety belt or harness from the moment you begin climbing the tree until you descend to the ground.
  2. Inspect your treestand at the beginning of each season and before each use.
  3. Test your treestand slightly off the ground to make sure it’s safe.
  4. Be sure your stand is fastened to the tree securely and that the tree is the right size.
  5. Unload your gun prior to pulling it up with a strong cord or rope.
  6. Avoid excessive movement that could cause you to lose your balance.
  7. Clear away obstructive branches before shooting from a stand.
  8. Respect landowner rights and do not damage trees.
The hunting accident rate has been improving over past decades. In fact, the past three hunting seasons have been the safest on record when comparing the firearms accident rate. It is hoped that this trend will continue in the future. Improved hunter awareness coupled with mandatory hunter education has made a safe activity even safer.
For more information on hunting safety or a hunter education course, call the hunter education office of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries at 334-242-3620 or 1-800-245-2740.