Bowhunting season begins soon, and bird hunting season is not far behind. Bowhunting and using a shotgun for hunting birds require a different skill set than going into the woods with your best single projectile 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 lakefronts 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 shotgun chambers at legal light.
Keep calm and keep your shotgun muzzle under firm control. A shotgun is liable to kick more than a hunting rifle.
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 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.
Know Your Weapon
Pay attention to the type of shell you use. Ensure you use the right gauge shotgun shell and don’t accidentally insert a slug or larger round in the weapon. There’s a difference between what a 20 gauge shotgun and what a 12 gauge shotgun can handle. Different types of shotguns are made for different gauge shells and shotgun slugs. Loading the wrong type of shotgun ammunition can be disastrous. If the ammo disappears into the chamber and you try to load more ammunition into the gun it could explode when you attempt to fire it.
This will obviously destroy your gun and could result in personal injury to yourself and others. Make sure to pay attention to the shell length and the label on the shells to make sure you have the right shot size when loading your weapon. When hunting larger game animals you will want to make sure your gun is working in perfect shape.
The Best Hunting Shotguns
Game hunting style rifles and varmint rifles are not always the most effective guns for hunting certain types of animals. For ducks and other waterfowl, a shotgun is the most sensible option. For hunting other big game animals a shotgun can also be incredibly handy. Here are two examples of some of the best hunting shotguns.
Browning Citori CX
This is a simple yet effective shotgun that won’t distract you with a bunch of confusing features while you’re in the field. The 50/50 point of impact makes this gun ideal for duck hunting. While this gun isn’t the fanciest, you can still tell that it is a quality piece of craftsmanship just by looking at it. The materials are high quality and polished and the grade II walnut is a gorgeous touch.
The Winchester SX4 first looks fantastic. It is a sleek weapon to add to your hunting arsenal that still maintains the charm of the classic and instantly recognizable Winchester model. The SX4 is composed of more synthetic polymers than the previous models, but this makes the gun incredibly lightweight, making it the ideal shotgun to carry around on hunting trips that require a lot of walking.