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Dogs can inflict tough love on poor-gun-handling hunters

HUNTING — Abiding by the laws and never putting a loaded gun into a vehicle prevents countless firearms accidents.

Beyond that, a hunter who's around children or animals must be especially vigilant to firearms safety, often beyond the law.

I like the actions-open approach to any dealing with a bird dog in the field, as the photo above shows.

The story below illustrates the consequences of ignoring basic firearms safety, especially around pets.

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) – Police in northern Wyoming say a rifle discharged after a dog apparently stepped on it, injuring a 46-year-old man.

Johnson County Sheriff Steve Kozisek says the bullet struck Richard L. Fipps, of Sheridan, in the arm on Monday.

The injury is not life-threatening but Fipps is being treated in a hospital in Billings.

Kozisek said Fipps and two others were in a remote area trying to move a vehicle that had become stuck. Fipps was standing beside his truck when he told his dog to move from the front seat to the back seat.

The sheriff says a rifle was on the back seat and it discharged toward Fipps.

Read about another incident in which a dog shot its hunting partner.


As hunting seasons peak, keep safety in mind

HUNTING — Bear with me. I'm going to tell you something you probably already know.

But as volunteers at the area rifle sight-in days tell me year after year, you can't believe how many veteran hunters violate the basics of safe gun handling.  I know you're not one of them, but humor me… read this anyway.

Hunter Education Instructors stress several safe gun handling basics in their classes. Knowing that many hunters completed the course a long time ago, it makes sense to revisit the lessons — and share them with your family and hunting buddies.

  • Always control the muzzle of your firearm. As long as the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction, nobody can get hurt in the case of a mishap.
  • Be certain of your target and what is beyond it. A safe hunter never shoots at sound or movement. 
  • Wear hunter orange.  It's required in Washington. Idaho is one of few states where hunter orange is not required.  But it's still a good idea there as well as anywhere else where it's proved to reduce "mistaken for game" hunting accidents while having little or no impact on modern rifle or upland bird hunting success.
  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, whether it's in your hands or someone else's.
  • Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions and that you are carrying only the correct ammunition for your firearm.
  • Never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot.  Carry binoculars to check out the hillside. Never look through your scope at something you cannot identify.
  • Hand your firearm to a friend or slide it under when you cross a fence.
  • Store firearms and ammunition separately and never put a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
  • Alcohol and guns don’t ever belong together.

Please be safe in the field and be strong enough to let your hunting partners know when you think they are putting themselves or others at risk. 

Hunter education course bears the heat

HUNTING — The hot sunshine that sent most folks toward water on Saturday didn't deter a group of dedicated hunter education instructors, their students and a few good hunting dogs from hitting the field near Medical Lake to take their best shot.

Jack Dolan,73, and a stable of helpers and instructors offer the rare course that includes the vital element of live fire under carefully controlled field situations. 

On Saturday, they tested the students and their ability to walk through the field with loaded shotguns to see how they would react to real chukars that flushed in unpredictable directions. The students had to decide in an instant whether to shoot, or not,  while swinging on a flying bird.

  • Would you want to hunt with a student who'd never shot  a firearm in a field situation? 
  • Would you want a heart bypass by a surgeon who'd never dealt with the variables of hemorrhage in a living creature?

Here's a tip of the hat to the crew that's been going the extra mile for hunter safety for 23 years.

Scoot-n-shoot turkey hunting raises issues of ethics, safety

HUNTING — Promotion of a controversial turkey hunting technique that involves hiding or sneaking behind a fanned out gobbler decoy has caught my attention this season.

As you can see in the video above by Mojo Outdoors, this "scoot-n-shoot" method, also known as "fanning," poses major issues with hunter safety as well as ethics.

In today's Outdoors column I write about on these tactics, featuring the viewpoint of five experts in the field, from the International Hunter Education Association to the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Check out the video first and then the reactions from the experts. Then let me know what YOU think.

Should the state enact a rule that prohibits a hunter from being closer than 5 or 10 feet from a turkey decoy while in the act of hunting?

  • To show how the basics of hunter education are deteriorating behind this mentality, the photo with this post shows TV crews and men who call themselves turkey hunting experts setting up an outdoors show filming featuring Miss Kansas shooting from behind a gobbler decoy.

Beat the rush: hunter education classes have openings

HUNTING — Spring and summer are the best times to get youths enrolled in hunter education courses that are pre-requisites for obtaining a hunting license.

Idaho reports openings are available in upcoming classes, unlike fall, when procrastinators vie for limited space in crowded classes.

Check on available classes in your areas online:

Sad story about dads taking daughters hunting

HUNTING — Normally we're uplifted by parents who take their kids hunting.

Not this time.

No one was injured, physically at least, but a Western Washington hunting incident described by this weekend story in the Olympian might be one of the grimmest stories I've read about parental responsibility and the sport of hunting.

Read on.

Smart hunters in blaze orange stand out in the crowd

HUNTING — Washington’s main deer hunting season opens Saturday, three days after Idaho hunters got the head start.

You can tell the difference between hunters from the two states. Washington hunters must wear fluorescent orange clothing during the modern rifle big-game seasons. Most Idaho hunters wear camouflage.

Growing up in Montana, where blaze-orange clothing has been required since I started hunting as a grade-schooler, I’m comfortable being highly visible to other hunters while being nearly invisible to big game.

Orange camo clothing is highly efficient. I’ve verified that during plenty of close encounters with unwitting deer and elk.

The first lesson my dad gave me is still the best and most basic advice for getting close to big-game, and it works regardless of whether you’re wearing blaze orange:

A hunter should be seen and not heard – and always strive to be still and downwind.

Hunter orange clothing works in more ways than one

HUNTER SAFETY — Wearing fluorescent orange clothing already was a requirement for hunters in Montana when I passed my hunter education course and bought my first hunting license in the 1960s.

I know some guys think only scaredy cats wear hunter orange, especially in Idaho and Oregon, where sportsmen don't have the courage to enact minimum hunter orange requirements for modern firearms seasons.

Although Idaho's statewide hunting accident rate is low, more than 70 percent of recorded incidents are caused by hunters mistaking other hunters for game animals.

Hunter orange clothing requirements virtually eliminate mistaken for game shooting accidents.

And the impact on modern-firearms big-game hunting is nil, something that was confirmed to me again last week as I sat on a stand during the late whitetail buck hunt.

I was wearing a fluorescent orange fleece jacket with a camouflage pattern. A whitetail doe came out of the woods and angled through a slight opening in the woods to within 25 yards just upwind of where I sat leaning against a tree. At one point she looked right at me before twitching her tail, nibbling the brush and taking her sweet time walking on past.

I've lost track of how many times I've had the same experience with deer, elk and antelope.

Hunters who can hold still and take advantage of the wind have nothing to fear from hunter orange clothing, but a lot of life to gain if a foolish hunter is in the area.

Veteran officer offers field safety tips to turkey hunters

HUNTING — With spring turkey hunting seasons in full swing around the Inland Northwest, it's worth pausing a moment to hear out Larry Case, a Virginia conservation officer for three decades as well as an addicted turkey hunter, has see it all over the years, from inside a blind and behind a badge.
"No groaning or eye rolling, please: Hunter safety is serious business," he says. 
"Let's start with the most basic rule in hunter safety; if all hunters observed this rule, all the time, we would have virtually no "hunter mistaken for game" incidents. If you ever had a Hunter Education course you should have this first one memorized…"
Read on for his eight timely tips on "Safety In the Turkey Woods."

Gun powder needed for hunter education

HUNTING — Hunters education classes can use any gun powder that might be sitting unneeded in shops or basements of the region's hunters and reloaders.

"We do a powder burning demonstration for our classes to demonstrate the different burn rates for rifle, shotgun, pistol and black powder," said Paul Weekley, one of the certified instructors for the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.

The powders keep forever, so if people have some they're not using, these classes are a worthy cause.

Bring it to the Big Horn Show, which closes today at 5 p.m. at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.

Or contact the council office, (509) 487-8552.

Hunter ed classes filling at Big Horn Show

HUNTING — This year's hunter education classes offered by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council were filling fast at the sign-up table at the Big Horn Outdoor Recreation Show on Saturday.

Classes in May were full by Saturday morning and April probably filled before the day was over.  

But there was still plenty of room to fill in classes set for other months. 

The show ends this afternoon.