Gun season for deer is under way in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and that means it's a good time to remember some basic tips for staying safe and having an enjoyable time hunting.
First, know where you are and where members of your hunting party are.
Don't hunt where your shots could reach homes or highways. You're not hunting property, people or automobiles, after all. That means you must know the range of your weapon and your ammunition.
Be careful of your own health, and know your limits. The hike alone is tiring, let alone a hike with a gun, or later, hopefully, with an animal to retrieve.
Do not head off intoxicated with a firearm. That's a recipe for disaster.
Annually, we have local stories of hunters who have heart attacks in the woods. It's best not to hunt alone, and it's always a good idea to have a cell phone or walkie-talkie handy, just in case of an emergency.
Wear bright clothing to be visible.
Be sure your weapon is unloaded before transporting it, and don't leave your gun visible in an unoccupied vehicle. Thieves are ready to pick up a new gun the easy way.
If you're bringing a new member of the hunting family into the woods, teach them the proper respect for firearms and fellow hunters. Be sure your target is in front of you and that your field of fire is clear of people. Be sure you've got a clear bead on the target and you're not just shooting at motion. That's how hunters shoot one another.
Unload your gun before climbing a fence or climbing into a tree stand. If you think you're falling asleep in the tree stand, secure your weapon.
Wear soft earplugs to protect hearing.
Above all, respect yourself and your fellow hunters.
That's how a tradition that goes back to the beginning of life in the area can be preserved for years, and generations, to come.