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Hunter’s Handbook is the official student “how-to” information pipeline of the International Hunter Education Association. As the experts in teaching safe, ethical and successful hunting, we are here to provide tips, tools, and great video content as well as offer you a place that you can learn more about your love and favorite past-time—hunting.  Spend some time with us.  New content is added monthly, and we are excited to share our expertise with you.  We wish you a lifetime of safe and memorable experiences in the outdoors.

Safety Blog

HOW TO HANG A LADDER STAND SAFELY

Sasha Landskov

Hanging a ladder stand sounds pretty simple. But doing it properly by keeping safety first and foremost isn't always the way it is done. That's why Hunter Safety System, the company dedicated to saving hunters' lives, has launched a new instructional video specifically on this topic on the popular video-sharing website, YouTube.

This new 7-minute, 30-second video addresses every detail of hanging a ladder stand and how to be safe the entire time. Staying connected 100-percent of the time is of paramount importance. You can't fall but so far if you are connected at all times. In fact, during the course of the video, the HSS staff demonstrates various obstacles that could occur while setting up the stand that leads people to unconnect themselves. The video shows the safe and proper way to address these obstacles should you encounter them.

Each year, we hear about hunters who fell from their treestand and sustained life-altering injuries or even died," said Jerry Wydner, president of Hunter Safety System. "With educational videos like this one, we at Hunter Safety System are hoping to help hunters avoid these tragedies."

Treestand accidents continue to be the number-one cause of serious injury and death to deer hunters. Recent data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) estimates there were approximately 5,600 treestand incidents in 2015 that resulted in injury. Don't become a statistic; stay connected from the time your feet leave the ground until they return, and stay educated with YouTube videos like this new one from HSS.

This new video has been added to Hunter Safety System's YouTube channel, which is a great resource for information for both Hunter Education Instructors and hunters. To stay informed and have the most up-to-date Hunter Safety System videos sent directly to you, simply hit the subscribe button.

Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Danville, Ala., Hunter Safety System is a leading designer and manufacturer of innovative deer hunting gear and hunting equipment for the serious hunter. The company has exclusive rights for use of ElimiShield scent eliminator in the hunting industry. For additional information, write to: The Hunter Safety System, 8237 Danville Road, Danville, AL 35619; call toll-free 877-296-3528; or visit www.hssvest.com.

SHOTGUN RANGE SAFETY

Sasha Landskov

Brad Fitzpatrick

Shotgun sports are exciting and they offer a great opportunity to improve your shooting skills, but safety is top priority.

The number of kids and young adults competing in shotgun sports has increased dramatically over the last decade. Since my own days as a college shooter in the early 2000s, the number of universities fielding teams at the annual ACUI Championship in San Antonio has more than tripled, and the state of Minnesota fielded over six thousand shooters for last year’s youth shotgun championship. Young or old, shotgun sports are a great way to improve your skill set, make new friends and spend quality time on the range. But, as with all shooting sports, safety is critical.

Trap, skeet, and five stand competitions are typically conducted on standardized courses where shooters move from one position to the next during the course of competition. Sporting clays generally require the shooter to move through the course as they would if they were playing golf, breaking targets at various stations. Regardless of which discipline you practice, here are some key things to keep in mind when shooting competitive shotgun events.

1. Hearing and Eye Protection: Wearing hearing and eye protection on the range should be as natural as fastening your seatbelt when you get into a vehicle. In many cases, hearing and vision loss is irreversible, so don’t take any risks when shooting. Ear plugs work well for most shotgun events and don’t interfere with your gun mount. These can be very inexpensive foam plugs purchased at a sporting goods store or supermarket, or more sophisticated digital models that are custom-fit to your ear and only cancel loud noises. There are a variety of safety glasses available, and many have interchangeable lenses to match ambient conditions.

2. Leave the Action Open: This is one of the first instructions that every shotgun shooter should receive as part of their fundamental training. When you aren’t on the shooting pad and planning to fire, be certain that the action of your shotgun is open. For a double, that means breaking the action, and for pumps or semiautos, the chamber needs to be left open. You should never load your shotgun until you are in position and ready to fire. On the trap range it’s tempting to reload after you fire, but don’t make that mistake.

3. Control the Muzzle: This is one of the primary tenets of gun safety. Muzzle awareness is critical regardless of firearm type, and the same rules that apply to rifles and handguns apply to shotguns as well. The muzzle should always be pointed in a safe direction, and generally that means keeping the gun pointed in the air. There was a trend a few years ago that seems (thankfully) to be dying within shotgun sports, and that is resting the muzzle of the gun on the foot, usually on a leather tab. Some shooters will argue that if the action is open this is safe, but there have been accidents in the past that cost negligent shooters dearly.

4. Trigger Finger: Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to fire, regardless of the condition of the action or muzzle direction. So many shooters get into the habit of picking up a gun and immediately resting their finger on the trigger. This is a major mistake that can have dire consequences.

5. Manual Safety: Safeties are, as is often stated, mechanical devices, and those mechanical devices can fail. Some shotguns, particularly double shotguns, have automatic safeties; the safety engages when the gun is opened. Others do not. Regardless of what type of safety you have, you need to learn how the gun operates and keep the safety on until ready to fire. Having a gun in the safe position is no substitute for proper firearm handling.

6. Be Aware: You hope that everyone on the range is responsible, but that isn’t always the case, unfortunately. One mistake with a gun can be your last, and whether that mistake is yours or someone else’s is of little consequence if you are in front of their firearm when the gun fires. Be certain not to step ahead of the line of shooters and don’t go downrange until a ceasefire is called. Watch for unsafe gun handling by others and immediately address the situation. I’ve never been in a situation where other shooters wouldn’t comply with gun safety rules, but if they don’t you need to stay away.

CAUTION: PREDATOR APPROACHING

Sasha Landskov

THE EXCITING SPORT OF PREDATOR CALLING

By Joe Arterburn

Many predator hunters go afield without thinking about the scenario in which they will be a central figure. The scenario is this: the camouflaged hunter conceals herself or himself in a remote location, in this case let’s say in rural Texas, where both coyotes and bobcats are common. Sitting virtually motionless, the hunter produces a sound with mouth call or electronic call, usually imitating a distressed rabbit or other small animal in hopes of drawing in a coyote or bobcat looking for an easy meal.

Sometimes coyote hunters use howls and barks to entice a coyote to approach, but in any case, the idea is to draw the predator close enough to shoot it with a rifle or shotgun.

While attacks on predator hunters are uncommon, you may have heard stories in which a predator charged the caller or a bobcat approached so stealthily the caller didn’t notice until the bobcat pounced. (Turkey hunters who likewise conceal themselves and produce calls sounding like turkeys have been surprised by coyotes and bobcats. But that’s another story.)

Most coyotes and bobcats are so wary of humans, just seeing or smelling a person sends them into full flight. Nevertheless, here are precautions to consider when predator calling.

  • Set your remote-controlled electronic call 30 or 40 yards from where you sit. The predator will focus on the source of the sound. A decoy near the caller will also keep the predator’s attention away from you.

  • Sit back-to-back with a companion, or at least sit so between you both you can view 360 degrees. If more than two, you can each cover certain angles to assure a full view.

  • Sit with your back to a tree, bush, rock outcropping, anything that provides cover from behind. It will also help conceal you.

  • Be alert. Don’t let slow periods lull you to inattention. Slowly, slowly, slowly turn your head to scan for incoming animals. Listen. And watch other wildlife, they can tip you off to approaching predators.

 

And, of course, all hunter safety rules apply. If hunting with a companion or companions, be sure everyone knows where everyone else is located before starting to call. It is wise to sit close enough to see each other.

Discuss who will shoot if a predator approaches. Divide terrain equally, like pieces of a pie, so each hunter shoots only in the appointed direction. It can be exciting when a predator approaches, but no matter the excitement or how fast the action, under no circumstances should anyone risk a rushed shot in the direction of someone else. Never.

Be sure you are the only hunters in the area. Confirm that with the landowner or, if on public land, be sure no one else is in the area. If they are, make sure they know you are there too. If another hunter approaches, make sure you are seen—and not by waving a camouflaged arm. It is better to carry an orange hat which you can wave or don to get their attention. Plus, you can wear the orange hat as an added measure of safety as you carry your hard-earned coyote or bobcat.

PREDATOR HUNTING SAFETY

Sasha Landskov

Do you know the first thing to do before you go predator hunting and what to do when you return from your hunt? It’s important to take extra caution when hunting with kids, but even more so while hunting predators in a group. Shooting in groups requires specific ways to sit to ensure everyone is safe and the shooter has a clear view. You’ll want to protect yourself and others from diseases that animals can carry. Hunter orange may not be required, but should you wear it?

Predator hunting is a great challenge for all age levels, so be sure to keep safety your priority. Watch Haley Heath and her son Gunnar and daughter Dakota as they tell you their best tips for your next predator hunt. Remember to have fun and enjoy the outdoors, but be safe!

Have a Conversation with Kids about Firearm Safety

Sasha Landskov

It’s important that children become familiar with the rules of firearm safety.

Watch the Project Childsafe video with shooting champion Julie Golob to find out how to have this important conversation, and encourage your children to sign our Child’s Pledge.

Find more info about Project Childsafe

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Tips For Turkey Safety

Sasha Landskov

By Brad Fitzpatrick

Spring is a great time to chase gobblers, but safety should remain your top priority

The wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, is one of North America’s great conservation success stories. These birds were hunted nearly to extinction at the turn of the twentieth century, but by the early 2,000s their numbers had expanded into the millions and turkey populations were stronger than at any time since the Civil War. Much of funding that helped these birds make such a remarkable comeback came courtesy of hunters and the monies they helped raise through the purchase of licenses and hunter-based conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Today, many hunters spend the spring months looking for mature toms, also known as gobblers, and with so many turkey populations in so many states there’s a good chance that there is an opportunity to hunt these birds close to you. Turkey hunting requires skill, patience, and resilience, but the excitement of the hunt shouldn’t cause you to overlook safety. Here are some tips that will help you stay safe this turkey season.

1. Make Absolutely Certain of Your Target: The use of decoys is common in turkey hunting, and most decoys look very lifelike. In days gone by, the most common decoys were hen decoys, but today more and more hunters are using tom and jake (young toms, identifiable by the longer center feathers in their tail fan) decoys. For this reason it’s extremely important to take the time to identify your target before you shoot. Strutting toms don’t always give you an ample opportunity to shoot, but you must err on the side of caution. If you come upon a strutting bird take the time to be sure that it is a real turkey and not a lifelike decoy, watching for movement and change of position. Identifying your target is also important because in most hunting areas shooting hens is not allowed, so you need to see the beard, coloration, and spurs that identify a tom.

2. Know What’s Beyond Your Target: As you probably learned in your hunter safety course, this is important in all facets of hunting, but particularly important when turkey hunting. The reason is that, unlike other forms of hunting, turkey hunters frequently sit on the ground in full camouflage hidden by dense cover. Each spring there are accidents where one hunter shoots another because there was a turkey (either a real bird or a decoy) positioned between them. If you can’t identify what’s beyond the bird then don’t shoot. It may be tempting to take a quick shot at a tom on the edge of a wood line but you must take the time to identify what is beyond the target.

3. Wear Orange When Moving: Many hunters are keying on movement when turkey hunting, and that can be dangerous. It’s important, then, to minimize your chances that someone else will confuse you for a turkey and accidentally take a shot. For this reason I always wear a vest while walking to and from the field that has hunter orange. Having orange on makes you much more visible and identifiable as a human, so I have a pack with an orange flag that I wear every time I head out (even in total darkness before sunrise). This is especially important when you are exiting the field, too; many successful hunters carry their bird over their shoulder, and this can lead to cases of mistaken identity by other hunters for obvious reasons. I always wrap my turkey in an orange bag or vest when exiting the field to ensure that it will not be mistaken for a live bird by another hunter. If you don’t have an orange vest, don’t worry—you can easily find a hunter orange flag or vest (you probably have some orange garment at home already if you are a deer hunter) and this can be used for identification. Be sure to cover the front and back of your garments, and to further reduce the chances I’ll be identified as a turkey when walking out of the woods I try to avoid walking through dense cover. If you are in the open there’s less chance that another turkey hunter will be confused and will think that you are a bird.

Safety is our top priority every time we go to the field. Turkey hunting is one of the most exciting and challenging of all hunts, but you must be sure that you stay safe. Pay attention to all of the rules outlined in your hunter education course and avoid situations that put you or others at risk.

ATV and Side-by-Side Vehicle Safety in the Outdoors

Sasha Landskov

ATVs and Side-by-Side (SxS) vehicles are common place in hunting camps, whether you’re after whitetail or mule deer, turkeys or mallards, elk or antelope. Matter of fact, many hunters use them year-round for scouting, food plotting and recreational riding. These tough and versatile off-road vehicles help outdoorsmen reach remote areas and favorite hunting spots while carrying in gear and hauling out game.

But just like unloading your gun before crossing a fence or never aiming at something you don’t intend to shoot, there are some basic safety lessons to be learned before mounting an ATV or getting into an SxS vehicle.

There are many things to consider when talking ATV safety. One of the best ways to learn is through an ATV safety course, like the one taught by Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA), a not-for-profit trade association whose primary goal is to promote the safe and responsible use of ATVs.  The SVIA (800-887-2887) offers a free online e-course and information about their riding classes. The riding classes will show you basic riding techniques as well as teach you about the proper riding gear and the difference between vehicle types and sizes.

Additionally, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA) offers more information and detailed recommendations (like always wear a seat belt and never drive a SxS unless you’re 16 or older with a valid driver’s license), along with a free, interactive multimedia e-course.

You might not think you need to strap on your helmet for every outing, but you’d be wrong. Safety should always come first. Proper riding gear always includes:

  • Helmet (with a Department of Transportation approved sticker)
  • Eye protection
  • Gloves (consider weather conditions, comfort and protection)
  • Long pants and long sleeves
  • Over-the-ankle boots (for support and protection)

Choosing Your Vehicle

he proper gear is a good start, and picking the right ATV or SxS vehicle is another important step. Today’s ATVs range in size, from entry level ATVs with 50-125cc engines up to “big bore” machines with 700cc motors. Be sure to try different levels (within your age range) and consider where and how you plan to ride. While you might think you need the biggest ATV on the market, there’s a good chance you can cover most terrain on a range of vehicles. Check with a local dealership or find a Yamaha demo ride to see which fits you best.

Another question to ask yourself these days: Need more than one seat?

This has become an increasingly important consideration the past few years as Yamaha’s lineup of SxS vehicles has opened up another option for exploring the outdoors.

Traditional ATVs are specifically designed for a single rider only. You should never allow a passenger on a traditional ATV. SxS vehicles are designed specifically for two or more with an automotive-type cab and operation functions (bucket seats, safety belts, steering wheel and foot peddles for throttle and braking).

ATVs are “rider active vehicles” which means you participate in the proper operation of the machine by moving around and shifting your weight, depending on the circumstances and terrain. These movements are best learned under the supervision of an SVIA instructor.

SxS vehicles are very off-road capable, and the automotive-like cab can be confidence-inspriring, but drivers should always drive within their experience level and take particular care in off-road situations.

Responsible Riding While Hunting

Once you are up to speed on proper riding techniques and safety gear, you are ready to insert this experience into your hunting trip. Responsible riding and ethical hunting will help guarantee you get the most out of your outdoor experience while taking care of the outdoors and promoting a positive image also we can all continue to enjoy these sports in the future. Always learn and follow the hunting laws and restrictions in your area, and consider some of these tips for responsible riding while hunting:

Always unload and properly store your firearm before operating your ATV or SxS vehicle. And NEVER hunt from your vehicle.

Learn and follow riding regulations including sound levels, safety gear requirements, age limits and safety course recommendations and requirements. Refer to on-product labels and your owner’s manual for detailed instructions and warnings on proper and safe operation of the vehicles.

Watch for and be considerate of others in the area including private property owners and other hunters.

When on public land, use up-to-date trail maps to assure you only ride in permitted areas and on designated open trails.

Inspect and clean your vehicle to remove seeds, weeds and other vegetation and prevent the transfer of non-native invasive species to other areas.

Follow your vehicle manufacturers recommended maintenance schedule and regularly check for any fluid leaks or problems that might negatively impact the environment or your vehicles performance.

Set a positive example, especially when riding with younger or less experienced riders.

Taking an ATV or SXS hunting can be both extremely helpful and a lot of fun. Even if you never take a shot, your ride out and back can be a blast. To learn more, check out Yamaha Outdoors Tip of the Week online.