Bow hunting season begins soon, and bird hunting season is not far behind. Bow hunting and using a shotgun for hunting birds require a different skill set than going into the woods with your best .223 bolt action rifle after deer.
While many of the safety practices followed when using a rifle remain the same, there are some safety requirements specific to bow and bird hunting.
Whenever you hunt any animal with any weapon, always wear brightly colored jackets, preferably hunter orange, to quickly identify yourself to your fellow hunters.
Firearms Safety Basics
Even for bow hunting, many of these firearm essential safety habits apply:
- Never point a loaded weapon at someone else.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to take a shot.
- Before you take your shot, take note of what lies beyond the target in case you miss.
- Wear eye protection
Drawing the String
Analogous to keeping your finger off the trigger of a gun until you are ready to take a shot, never draw your bow until you clearly have the target in range. Wait until you can safely take a shot before pulling back the string.
Always use an arm guard and shooting gloves. You can give yourself a painful injury if your bow string strikes your arm or slides along your fingers or hand.
An armguard also prevents your clothing from snagging the string and ruining your shot.
Check Your Arrows and Carry them Properly
Carry your arrows in a quiver. Before you go hunting, check each arrow carefully for any cracks, warping, or other defects. Make sure your fletching is in good shape too.
Handle Arrowheads with Care
Broadhead arrows are razor sharp. Always remain conscious of how you handle an arrowhead and always wear your shooting gloves.
Bird hunters love their sport as much as anyone else. Before heading out into the marshes and lake fronts in the early morning, don’t forget to take the time pre-season to review proper shotgun safety precautions.
Don’t Chamber Shells Too Early
There is no need to chamber a shell in advance of legal shooting light. It not only is dangerous, but illegal depending on where you hunt.
Wait until all your party has settled into the blind and everyone is ready then load your gun at legal light.
Keep calm and keep your shotgun muzzle under firm control.
When the ducks or other birds start to drop in, maintain situational awareness, and keep your muzzle pointed outside the blind and away from the rest of your party.
Your shooting lane when you are in a blind refers to your firing position. Each hunter gets a lane in front of them at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock position. If you see a bird outside that range, let someone else take the shot. This is not on only a safety issue but a courtesy issue.
If birds tend to favor one side of your blind or the other, rather than be unsafe and shoot outside your lane, take turns on that side of the blind.
More so than deer and other land animal hunting, hunting birds with a shotgun means you can easily clog the gun barrel.
Slogging through mud and marshland increases the likelihood of debris getting into your barrel.
Always check your barrel before loading time in your blind.
Barrels are not the only things that can get fouled with mud or gunk when bird hunting.
Always inspect your shells before loading. A muddy or dirty shell can cause serious misfires or injuries.
Pay attention to the type of shell you use. Ensure you use the right gauge shotgun shell and don’t accidently insert a slug or larger round in the weapon.