Hunting is a risky passion that requires the utmost preparation before and during the day’s hunt. So here is a quick review of some of the safety aspects that should always be borne in mind.
Safety starts before the hunt
On the morning of the hunt, I take my rifle from my safe and put it in a gunslip, making sure the breech is open, the magazine is empty and removed, and the trigger lock is on. Then I grab the right ammunition for my gun from the safe’s locked ammo box. I also remember to take hi-viz clothing (a mandatory requirement in some regions).
On arrival at the hunt
When I get to the meet, the gun stays in my car while we walk the course. Once we’ve gone through all the safety rules and the plan for the day, I fetch my gunslip with the gun in and my ammunition before setting off for my peg.
At my peg
The first thing I do is determine my firing zone. The neighbour on my right is at 90°. As I am first in the line, there is no-one to my left, but there are parked vehicles in my angle of view, so I determine my shooting angle accordingly.
I take 5 steps to my right, then 3 steps forward; this establishes my zone of fire 30° in from my line. I use a visible and recognisable location marker and make my neighbour aware of my post. That is my neighbour reassured.
I imagine a straight line away to my left, between my firing point and a final obstacle. I take 5 steps along this line, and then 3 forward and mark the point. Now my zone of fire is safe to the left.
I can now take my gun from its slip, set up my seat and check the immediate area: trees and rocks in the zone of fire, obstructions in the distance, clear line of sight, no downhill gradients that might negate the downward angle of my shots, etc.
The hunt begins
I hear the horn announcing that the drive has begun. I load the magazine and, facing my zone of fire, check that nothing is blocking my barrel. Next, I insert the magazine, chamber a round and remember to protect my ears with defenders or plugs.
I keep the muzzle pointing downward and in the centre of my zone of fire, with the hand cocking system still in the locked position and my finger against the receiver, never on the trigger.
The game arrives; I keep a watchful eye on it, see it cross the line, and only when it crosses into my zone of fire do I shoulder my gun.
I keep the game in view through my scope, identify it, satisfy myself that it’s an animal I am allowed to hunt, that I will be firing at a downward angle and my shot won’t deflect off a tree or rock. I release the hand cocking system and rest my finger on the trigger, ready to fire.
My shot hit the animal, which carried on a little further before falling to the ground. That’s what it seemed like to me, anyway, but it’s behind a low mound topped with a bush, so there’s no way of knowing for sure whether it’s dead or continued on its way. The thrill from taking this shot makes me want to go check, but I have to wait for the drive to end first. I re-engage the hand cocking system and radio the others to tell them that I have shot a boar.
The end of the hunt
Three more calls of the horn signal the end of the hunt! Time for me to take the magazine from the gun, with the muzzle directed along the centre of the zone of fire. Next, I open the breech and check there is no round in the chamber. I remove the remaining cartridges from the magazine and put them back in their carton. The hand cocking system is always in safety mode. I refit the trigger lock and wipe my gun before putting it back in its slip with the magazine out and the breech left open. The cartons of ammunition go back in my bag.
A check shows that my boar did fall behind the mound. We won’t be needing bloodhounds to find it or have to mark the point of impact.
I return to my car, put my gunslip containing the gun, with its safety on, in the boot, out of sight under the parcel shelf, and lock the cartons of ammunition in their box. After locking the car, I can go back to my hunting friends and discuss the day’s events.
When I arrive back home, I store my ammo in the box provided in the gun safe. Then I clean my gun properly and add some lubricating oil. Now it’s time to put the gun away in the safe, remembering to leave the breech open, the trigger lock on, and the magazine on one of the shelves.
- Gun safety must be practised at all times and ammunition kept in a locked box separate from the guns, both at home and when traveling with firearms.
- Keep the gun safe (breech open, chamber empty, trigger lock fitted, magazine out) until at the post and the hunt has begun.
- At the post, calculate the 30° angles to determine the safe zone of fire and examine the environment to ascertain where you can shoot.
- Always note the location of stones and trees that could cause bullets to ricochet, including 180° back towards you!
- Make sure that nothing is obstructing the barrel and hold the gun with the muzzle pointing downwards and within the zone of fire prior to loading.
- Make sure you can always identify the target before taking the shot.
- Only shoulder the gun when in the zone of fire and shoot at a downward angle.
- Wait for the drive to end before checking whether the shot hit the target.
- Make the gun safe when the drive is over and store it away safely as soon as possible in a locked vehicle.
What is your safety routine when hunting?