MN Hunting Schedule and Safety Tips

Hunting season has opened once again, starting on September 1st and extending into the New Year. Kicking things off with early Canadian geese and bear and following up with deer season (Archery – Sept. 14th, special youth – Oct.) in November. A list of all scheduled season start dates can be found on theMinnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) site.

While hunting can be an activity that you look forward to each season with family and friends, it’s important to remember that hunting, by its very nature, is an extremely dangerous activity. Whether done for sport, tradition, or food, hunting requires both skill and vigilance in order to maintain safe conditions. Every year hundreds of hunters sustain injuries. Everything from firearm mishaps and accidental shootings to dangerous a­nimals and unstable terrain can put hunters at risk.

According to the DNR, though there was only one hunting fatality last year, a 64-year old man who was shot by another hunter, a total of twenty incidents occurred in 2012 (ten of which were self-inflicted) and serve as a reminder that when it comes to hunting, safety is paramount.

Safety Course and License

Before heading out on a hunt, it’s a good idea to take a hunter safety course and educate yourself on the potential dangers and safe practices in order to reduce your overall risk.

Here in Minnesota, if you were born after December 31, 1979, you are required to take a hunter education firearms safety course and receive your certificate, in order to purchase a Minnesota firearms hunting license.

Beyond the required course, here are some things to keep in mind when hunting:

Never Hunt Alone

Remember in grade school when they told you to “find a buddy,” this is never more true than when spending time in the wild outdoors of nature. Not only is it a great idea to have a buddy with you when taking a hike or climb but most especially when going hunting. Working together you can help ensure each other’s safety.

If either of you should take a fall, have an accident, or get injured in some way, the other can go for help or provide assistance. It’s also extremely important if traversing rugged or unfamiliar terrain to have a partner to help you navigate your way in and out of the woods.

If you can’t be persuaded to take a friend along for the hunt, be sure to notify others that you will be hunting, in what area, and when you expect to return. That way if something unfortunate does happen, someone will know where to look for you.

Know and Use Proper Gun Handling and Safety Procedures

The importance of following proper gun safety practices cannot be overstated.

Treat your weapon as if it is loaded at all times — regardless of whether it is or not.

Never point a gun at yourself or another person.

Only load your gun when you’re ready to use it.
Keep your gun’s safety on until you are ready to fire.
Your finger should remain outside the trigger guard until ready to fire. Do not carry your gun with your finger resting on its trigger.
Keep your gun’s muzzle pointed safely down towards the ground when not aiming at a target.
If using a tree stand, do not climb up with your gun. Attach a rope to your unloaded rifle and pull it up after you’re securely on
the stand. Reverse this process on your way down.
Take a Moment to Lock in on Your Target

Don’t just shoot at the first sign of game without first surveying the area between you and your target and beyond. By shooting first and questioning later, you put others in potential danger and at the very least, risk an inhumane or ineffective kill.

Hunting is a sport of skill and responsibility — treat it as such. Each time you fire your weapon, be certain that you are taking your very best shot and not endangering others unnecessarily. The best shot is one that kills your target humanely, while allowing for the most meat. Verifying that your target is game and not a non-game animal or another human being is worth the few extra moments that it takes to properly line-up your shot.

Never take a shot, just because you’re afraid of missing it. First, check to be sure that there are no safety risks involved. Occasionally, this may mean giving up a shot or two but it will also help prevent accidents and injuries.

Wear Hunter Orange Gear

During hunting season, things can get confusing, especially if your hunting party happens upon one another unexpectedly. Make sure you’re a visible and identifiable person and not a target. The best way to accomplish this is to always wear hunter or blaze orange. Also, if you plan to hunt until nightfall, be sure to pack a flashlight and spare batteries, as this will easily identify you to other hunters in the dark.

To learn more about Minnesota hunting safety, visit where both youth and adult courses are available.