These are the most important tips for first-time hunters to keep in mind.
If you're hoping to hit the woods for the first time this year, make sure to prepare yourself first.
Harvesting an animal isn't as simple as walking outside with a rifle; not only do you need a legitimate strategy, you also need to be legally certified.
Here's how to stay safe this season.
Complete Your Hunter Safety Education
Before you ever purchase a hunting license, you'll need to take the required hunter safety course in your state to get your hunter education certificate or certification card--after you've hit the minimum age, of course.
Just remember no hunter education course will teach you everything you need to know in the field.
Take the Bowhunter Education Course
If you'll be bowhunting, take the bowhunter education course in addition to your regular hunter education training. Some states require it, but all bowhunters can benefit from it. Archery is a different animal, and the additional information specific to this tackle could save a life.
Practice Treestand Safety
Always wear a safety harness when you're hunting from a treestand. Always. And maintain three points of contact when you're climbing, even if you're connected to a lifeline.
Watch Where You Point That Thing
Treat your gun like it's loaded at all times, even if it isn't. Always be aware of where your barrel is pointing, and never point it in the direction of another person.
Never climb or drive with a loaded weapon--crossbows included.
Identify Your Target
Always be sure before pulling the trigger. Wildlife identification is critical, especially for big game hunting. Your department of natural resources--or the governing body in your state--may have minimum restrictions in place for wildlife management purposes.
But even more important is ensuring you're firing at an animal, not another hunter. Once you're 100 percent confident of your target and know what's behind it, pick a hair for the most ethical shot.
Always comply with state regulations for wearing orange. While you might identify your target and surroundings, not everyone does.
Check the Weather
High winds and hail can be incredibly dangerous in a treestand, so be sure conditions are suitable before heading out, and dress in layers to keep warm based on the forecast.
Take Your Phone
While I'd never advocate you play on social media from the stand, keeping your phone in your pocket is a great safety measure. Even if you don't gave cell service where you're hunting, it can act as a GPS with an app like onX.
Tell Someone Where You're Going
It may sound like blasphemy to say you should give up your honey hole location, but it could save your life. If you're worried about your buddies stealing your secret spot, at least let a non-hunting friend or family member know where you'll be.
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