Keep duck shooting safe
The Mountain Safety Council is urging all duck hunters to check their firing zones.
With more than 30,000 licences expected to be issued, many are eagerly anticipating the opening day of the game bird season on Saturday.
Opening day comes around at the same time every year allowing friends and family to get together and enjoy duck-shooting traditions. But because a lot of shooting activity is condensed into the opening weekend and the first two weeks of the season, there are often non-intentional firearms incidents.
Although there were no fatalities last year, it’s no reason to be complacent about safety this year said the Mountain Safety Council’s firearms and hunter safety programme manager, Nicole McKee.
‘‘All incidents can be avoided if firearms users maintain responsible shooting behaviours,’’ she said.
‘‘That means following the seven basic rules of the Firearms Safety Code and using common sense.’’
The key reminder for duck hunters is to check your firing zone before you begin shooting for the day.
Take note of where other maimais, boats, hunters, stock and dogs are located.
‘‘With moving targets such as game birds in flight, it is imperative you’re aware of your field of fire as the pattern of shotgun pellets spreads as you move. Duck-hunting parties need to set their firing zones and stick to their shooting boundaries to keep themselves and their mates safe,’’ McKee said.
Duck hunters should also be prepared for objects (including people and pets) that could suddenly and unexpectedly enter their firing zone. No one should shoot if there is any possibility that pellets could endanger others.
For those enthusiasts who ‘jump shoot’ in the vicinity of dams and ponds, ensure that your firing zone is clear.
Maimais and shooting stands also pose a significant risk as often they are well within shot range of each other.
Having more than one hunter and several firearms in the same maimai can also pose a risk so make sure firearms are unloaded and safe when not in use.
Don’t overcrowd and keep shotguns out of the way so no-one trips over them.
Lastly, the lead up to opening day sees an array of duck-related events and promotions held across the country, but it’s disappointing that some people get caught up with the social aspect of the sport and forget that alcohol and firearms do not mix – EVER.
Resist the urge to load up on alcohol the night before as an early-morning hangover can not only affect your aim but also your judgment.
Contrary to popular belief, that tot of brandy to warm you up on a frosty morning can actually increase your chances of hypothermia.
‘‘It’s no problem to celebrate your successes or reminisce about your misses with a couple of drinks once the guns are all safely stored away,’’ said McKee. ‘‘But if your mate has been drinking and picks up a gun, be a legend and stop them. Save the alcohol for basting your game bird!’’
For more information about firearms and outdoor safety, visit the Mountain Safety Council website www.mountainsafety.org.nz/firearms The firearms safety code: Seven Basic Rules of Safe Firearms Handling
1. Treat all firearms as loaded. Check firearms yourself. Pass or accept only an open or unloaded firearm.
2. Always point firearms in a safe direction. Loaded or unloaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
3. Load a firearm only when ready to fire. Load the magazine only when you reach your shooting area. Load the chamber only when ready to shoot. Completely unload before leaving the shooting area.
4. Identify your target beyond all doubt. Movement, colour, sound and shape can all deceive you. Assume colour, shape, sound, and shape to be human until proven otherwise.
5. Check your firing zone. THINK! What may happen if you miss your target? What might you hit between you and the target or beyond? Do not fire when you know others are in your firing zone.
6. Store firearms and ammunition safely When not in use, lock away the bolt, firearm and ammunition separately. Never leave firearms in a vehicle that is unattended.
7. Avoid alcohol and drugs and firearms. Good judgment is the key to safe use of firearms.
Safety first: Following the seven basic rules of the Firearms Safety Code and using common sense will result in an enjoyable duck shooting season for keen participants.