Dove hunting safety

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An uncle and nephew had planned a dove hunting trip building the hype up for several weeks. The nephew had never been hunting before and this was his first time. In the build-up, the uncle had taken the nephew to shoot skeet a couple of times and went over the basics of how to load and unload the 20-gauge shotgun, how they would be sitting in the field, and what to expect both when the birds are flying and when they are not.

Like many of the hunts now, when they got to the field, they grabbed plates and feasted on pulled pig and barbecue chicken, potatoes and string beans, and a slice of loaf bread. The couple of hundred others that were there hunting did the same. Opening day of dove season is akin to many of the holidays such July 4th with the comradery that occurs.

They went into the field after eating, grabbing their spots along the edge of a sunflower field. The nephew had taken two birds in his first ten shots and the uncle could tell he was proud of his first birds regardless of how many shots it took.

With the uncle sitting slightly to the right of the nephew he noticed two birds coming in about 20 feet high from his nephew’s side. The nephew followed the birds with the muzzle, sweeping from left to right and managed to get off two shots as the birds flew across the front of them. The uncle then stood up to try and take them on the right as they were flying away at this point. Two shots rang out almost simultaneously as one bird dropped.

Then the uncle fell.

I was on my second day of teaching a hunter’s education class when I first told this story. The previous evening we went over the handling of the various forms of firearms used for hunting always emphasizing, even with a ‘dummy’ and unloaded firearm, to always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

This story is a true story, with added details such as the number of birds shot as that was not in the detailed incident report provided nor on the news report from that evening. What was provided was the uncle stood up to shoot while the nephew was still seated when he shot, leaving the uncle in the path of the new and excited hunter’s sweep.

With the many new hunters that will experience their first hunt and the many experienced hunters reacquainting themselves with the hunt after many months of not touching a firearm, we must use these bad-ending stories for the good of others.

Along with learning the firearm functions such as where the safety is located, how to load and unload, what shotgun shells to use and even how to properly hold a firearm, the number one rule must always be taught. Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

Even if someone becomes anxious and has their finger on the trigger when they are not supposed to, or an accidental discharge occurs in another manner, if the muzzle is in a safe direction, no one will be harmed.

Know your surroundings so you know where the safe directions are. Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

And as one fellow instructor often said, you don’t get to call a do over or press reset once that projectile leaves the barrel.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.