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Michigan hunter ed (courtesy

“Two-thirds of the victims shot themselves. Two-thirds of the rest were shot by hunting companions. We’re safer, but the dangers that remain are close at hand.” – A hunter’s greatest risk [via]

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  1. And make sure you’re familiar with a gun’s manual of arms before you take it out in the field. There was a good article in American Rifleman years ago about an increasing trend in negligent discharges by guys finding Grandpa’s hundred year old side-by-side in the attic and taking it hunting. They assume that “safety” was the same then as it is now, and do incredibly stupid things like carrying the thing with the hammers down on live shells.

    My dad gave me his 40 year old single shot 12, and he didn’t even really know how it operated. I had to get it cleaned up and ready to go for its 40th anniversary. I gave it to him and he asked where the safety was…..I said “The trigger.”

    • What are you supposed to do with old doubles? In regards to carrying safely (I have more experience with stuff invented in the 19th century rather than the 18th).

      • You can carry it cracked open with the stock tucked under your arm and have it ready quickly. Or it might have a half cocked position, as someone mentioned.

      • It depends on the quality and design of the gun; Good hammer doubles usually have a half-cock on the sear that MIGHT permit safe carry with the barrels loaded and locked closed, but I wouldn’t depend on 100+-year-old technology (not counting for wear or abuse) all that much. Some high-grade hammerless doubles had rebounding hammers that withdrew the firing pins from ‘battery’ after firing, a ‘safety’ device that isn’t much use as it is disengaged after you open, recock and reload the gun–it was for preventing one from snapping off the ends of the firing pins which might happen if they otherwise protruded from the standing breech–something you still see happen today on some imported double guns. There were some that had external cocking levers along with rebounding hammers, or external hammer-position indicators, and some REALLY high-grade hammerless doubles that were alledgedly so finely fitted that they could be carried ‘cocked and locked’ right up until something touched the triggers. There were also models with hammer and trigger-blocking safety locks that were as good as what we have today. On the other hand, there were an awful lot of cheap, soft-metal-innards doubles that even if they had such features couldn’t be depended upon to be safe after a few firings, if that.
        The STANDARD, though, is to carry the things broken open, and only close the barrels when ready to shoot.

      • Failing what the others said, if you MUST carry it closed with a live shell in place it may actually be safer to carry it cocked as well.

        • Pretty much. Hammer types are definitely not ones to carry loaded with the hammers full down. If they have a reliable rebound system to rest the hammers just short of the firing-pin heads or to keep the attached pins away from the primers, that might be OK, but not for me. Half-cock is OKish IF it is certain in engagement, but it was never intended as a ‘drop safety’, and many of the old manufacturers encouraged carrying the guns at full cock, depending on their totally infallible and vastly superior British sear/hammer interconnection, some even claiming that their guns WERE ‘drop-safe’ at full cock.
          Um, no.
          Hammerless guns generally carry their hammers at full-cock anyway once opened and closed, and if there IS a safety, it’s probably on the trigger and not on the internal strikers. So with them, it’s full cock or nothing. Better to break open and unload.

  2. There’s always going to be some risk involved in your hobbies and sports. Watched a 4 wd club climbing hills down by hollister this weekend. Risky business. Went hunting after. Pushing thru brush so thick it was threatening to trip me up.

    Every activity, including sitting in your easy chair has some risk attatched. I wonder how many hunters are killed and injured every year driving to the spot they’re going to hunt?

      • I did that last season.

        And still had to haul that damn thing the rest of the way up the hill.

        Worth it.

      • Might be a reason shooters of all types should focus more on fitness than they do. I know I’ve been guilty of letting the coach get the best of me. It can still happen, but an injury is less likely to happen when you are in shape.

    • Probably more killed for heading home hammered drunk and plowing into a tree.

      About 4 years back, some buddies and I took a hog hunting/fishing trip, we all went home empty handed, but damn we drank our asses off and had a blast.

      Some activities are just a good excuse to get out and get drunk with the boys.

      • I don’t drink. But I can meet the ones that do on a narrow country road. Already been in 1 head on. Would not like a repeat of that experience.

        • Stopped drinking when I was quitting smoking. Every bar in WV was full of smoke and I told myself when I beat nicotine I’d go back. Once I kicked cigs, I figured, what the hell and gave up drinking all together. Too many smokers around me and too many temptations.

      • Alcohol and firearms don’t mix, period. I don’t even fish with people who drink while fishing. No thanks..

    • You back hunting? How did it go?

      In regards to your post, fitness should be focused on (I already excersise). But I have to ask: How do you train cardio if you don’t have an area to run in? I tried an indoors bike but my legs tire out before I start gasping for air.

      I would recommend the apps “0 to 100 pushups”, “squats 0-100”, “situps 0 to 200” and “pullups 0-20”. Together they cost less than 10 bucks (I got them for free) and are really great at keeping track and motivating yourself to excersise regularily. I got up from barely 15 pushups (was sick for a period) to 20 without much problem.

      • It went well even though I bagged nothing. Getting the lay of the land and found all sorts of pig and deer sign and coyotes. Some so fresh it was still steaming.

        • Cool, I prefer to not kill anything to be honest I would only do it for the meat and to get rid of pests (I don’t hunt yet).

          I just can’t stand city life, need to have some forest near me. Calms my nerves.

  3. I would venture a guess, without even reading the article, that alcohol and inexperience are the two main causes of people get injured hunting.

    • It is stereotypical to blame alcohol for all hunting accidents but it is pretty rarely a factor. According to the 2013 all incidents were the result of hunters violating one of the 4 basic rules of gun safety.

      One rabbit hunter let the muzzle of his gun cover one of his hunting buddies as he was shooting at a rabbit.

      Another was pulling his loaded rifle up to his tree stand with a rope. Something snagged the trigger and the gun went off. This was the only fatality last season.

      Another involved a 12 year old who shot at a deer and missed… there happened to be an old chicken coop in the woods behind the deer and the bullet ricocheted off it and struck another hunter.
      (Michigan has a mandatory hunter safety program young hunters must take and this was the only accident involving a hunter under 18)

      The rest were trips and falls with loaded weapons with the safety off.

      No alcohol involved in any of them.

      • I’m going to chalk up pulling your loaded rifle up a tree with a rope to Darwin. Sad that the individual died, but talk about stupid.

      • Well, butter my ass and call me biscuit… I would’ve guessed it was mostly alcohol.

        I’m going off the Texas stereotype, I guess, not the Michigan one.

        I know a lot of hunters that drink and hunt, I’m not condoning it, just stating the facts.

        Though we should not call it hunting down here, it should be called “Bait, sit, and waiting.”

      • I’ve come to the conclusion that alcohol is less of a factor in a LOT of areas than we are led to believe by the common memes.

        A few years ago, I had opportunity to look at several compilations of boating accident statistics. While we see “boating while under the influence” ads and what-not regularly, alcohol as a factor in one study (trying to remember which one, may have been USCG…but maybe not) ranked #9 in the Top Ten List.

        Across the board, inattention and inexperience with equipment were the top causes.

        Yet, the anti-alcohol meme continues.

        It is truly mind boggling how things can be demonized, and once done, it is VERY hard to undo.

        That emphasizes in my mind just how important the cultural fight against the anti-gun agitprop really is.

        • That’s funny, I thought talk of gun confiscation was the #1 cause of boating accidents.

  4. And did they happen to note the number of people involved in these accidents? In Michigan last year the number of firearm related accidents was 9. Out of the estimated 750,000 licensed deer hunters.

    • Missouri is similar; 500k + out hunting on opening day of rifle season, with accidents / injury’s in the single digits.

      There are less hunting injuries than there are for youth soccer clubs.

      The most common fatality isn’t firearm related; it’s falls from tree stands.

    • Yes. The usual trick with statistics for propaganda purposes – give a percentage instead of the real numbers the percentages are based upon.

  5. More hunters are probably killed and injured getting in and out tree stands than by getting shot. Few of these casualties get reported on the news because no firearm was involved.

    • The two worst hunting injuries I personally know of were a tree stand fall, and a kid getting squished by an ATV. Both survived with serious injuries. The ATV I drove for years at work had a sign on the dash: young drivers cause death. I think a lot of people are too cavalier with their kids and ATVs. They’re not toys.

      • You know my only issues with safety harnesses for tree stands? You fall, you are hanging there, then what?

        If you have the upper body strength to climb up the lanyard or reach the stand and pull yourself up, great.

        But, what if you do not? Just hang there, call for help, and get ready for the pain from lost circulation to your legs due to the harness straps across your crotch?

        • I usually attach it to the tree as high as I can reach and still be able to sit down with it for that reason.

          Of course, the harness is pretty useless while actually climbing the tree. At the end of the day, it all kind of boils down to “acceptable risk,” which is a VERY personal decision.

          Then there was the time I found myself in a predicament similar to what you describe. This was pre-cell phone era, and I was alone. Let’s just say – the thought of spending the rest of your (short) life hanging 30 ft in a tree allows you to solve problems you may not normally solve.

        • While I do have the ability to free-climb if I’m ever suspended from my harness, I always carry a suspension-relief strap in my vest when I’m in the stand. You loop it around the tree and it has another loop you can step into, taking the weight off your harness. If your lanyard is short enough that you can reach the strap holding your harness to the tree, you can then “walk” yourself down using the harness and relief strap alternately.

  6. Here we have a scenario where education is required. Upwards of 16 hours. Including firearms handling and safety.

    And still idiots manage to shoot themselves and take shots at rustling bushes without a care or thought as to where that bullet will impact or into what that bullet will impact.

    One more example of “it’s the idiot, stupid” and no amount of mandated training or time behind the gun can make an idiot not behave like an idiot.

    • Hell, I just have to look out the car window while driving US roads to get that. Mandated training (with a practical test), licensing, registration…

      And still, we have bad drivers doing stupid things. Go figure.

  7. We have to be careful of falling into the false argument of polling the survivors. If you only track the victims then you only track the accidents. In every endeavor there are accidents. I bet papercuts are the worse enemy of paper sorters. Usually it is self inflicted compared to inflicted on others.

    We fall into the Anti’s playbook by focusing on the risks of an endeavor instead of the rewards. If we follow their logic its time to order your plastic bubble to take up residence in for the next 50 years. Don’t want to risk getting hurt.

  8. While informative, this information is blowing things grossly out of proportion.

    1.35 million youths, for example, were injured playing school sports in 2013, according to USA Today (

    Unintentional firearms fatalities are down 58% in the last 10 years alone, reaching just 600(

    By contrast, 4,600 people died from choking to death in 2011 (

    While 600 is still too high, the long term and short term trends are in the right direction.

    The shooting sports, including hunting, are still far, far safer for everyone to enjoy than the growing sport of soccer in America.

  9. I really disagree with the online course. I understand there is a field day but come on… The DNR in Wisconsin are so dead set on getting participation numbers up that they have let all of their licencing classes slip. That goes for hunter, snowmobile, and ATV safety classes. Everything can be done online apart from a hunter ed. field day.

  10. I thought this article was going to be about hunters who think their hunting firearms are safe from the attacks of civilian disarmament proponents.

    If anyone reading this comment falls under that category, please note that gun grabbers want to remove all guns from everyone. They have recently even banned or proposed bans on various semi-automatic .22 caliber rimfire rifles in various states.

    Gun grabbers are not shy. They have publicly announced that they want to ban ALL handguns and all military style semi-automatic rifles. And, as I stated above, they recently moved to ban many semi-automatic .22 caliber rifles. Gun grabbers want other long guns as well such as pump action shotguns or lever action rifles with magazines that hold more than 5 rounds. Other gun grabbers, in somewhat less public venues, have expressed that they want to eliminate guns that hold more than three and even one round in some instances.

    So, to all you hunters who think the gun grabbers will never come after your “high powered sniper rifles” (bolt action deer rifles with scopes) and “assault shotguns” (pump action shotguns), you are sadly mistaken.

  11. Safety while hunting is no different than safety in other sports: gymnastics football motocross skateboard ramp jumps snowboarding. You can kill yourself deader than a doornail with one dumb mistake.

    • I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.

  12. Here in balmy GA by far the most severe hunting accidents (GA dnr figures) are from falling out of tree stands.

    Saying that, there was an interesting fatality here last October where group of Hispanics from out of state (Illinois), all legally licensed, decided to run a deer drive in one of the public parks. Surprisingly, it’s legal but frowned upon but it drives the locals nuts. Anyhow, they didn’t bag any deer although one of their party did manage a clean shot on one of his relatives who was driving the deer. D’oh!

  13. Your harness is attached to a line the minute you take the first step,up….

    Every stand gets a line tied off well above it with a line hanging down to waist level, on the line is a self tensioning hitch. Most often a Prussic knot, clip in slide knot up as you ascend down and you descend .

    Most falls happen it the transition between climbing into and out of stand.

  14. I can see that happening on public lands very easily,.. Last season, I choose to hunt public land as an exercise of my right to do so. I scouted out a nice spot, a small grassy field about 75 yds by 50 yds. I was in before dark and settled in when I heard a couple of guys coming in. They made a hell of a lot of noise getting in. I flashed my light to let them know I was in there. They were completely aware I was there. Guess were they setup at? Directly across the field from me. Needless to say, I just left. Nothing out there was worth the safety risk.

  15. If you’re worried about hanging helplessly from your harness, you either have old equipment or haven’t followed the instructions on your new gear. I’m a Florida hunter safety instructor and we spend a lot of time on tree stand and harness safety. Modern harnesses, properly used, prevent injury and save lives. And hauling a loaded rifle up to a stand is beyond stupid.

  16. ““Two-thirds of the victims shot themselves. Two-thirds of the rest were shot by hunting companions.”

    And the remaining 1/6th? They were shot by armed bears. I mean bears bearing arms. Angry bears – with guns. Very angry bears.

  17. It sucks that a lot of the hunting stories are derpy fuddliness, but in all honesty, it isnt without some truth. As noted above, hunting on public lands is REALLY a dice roll sometimes, had some great bird hunts and some big WTF hunts as well. Ive heard of and experienced an awful hunters ed class that could be complimented by comparing it to drivers ed.

    I dont hunt solo anymore for this reason, plus its a lot easier to have 2 people to skin grizz and cart the rest out. As much as we talk about first aid on here, its ironic that the topic of first aid rarely comes up in conversations about hunting.

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