Pro Tips to pass your Canadian Firearms Safety CourseRead more
Hunting with Others - Communication is Key
Cindy Stites, Silvercore Training guest contributor – Director of Education – Hunt to Eat
Hunting can be a great way to get away from it all and have some good quality alone time. Many people like to hunt alone, they feel it gives them an opportunity to decompress, enjoy the quiet, and set some intentions for the days ahead.
That being said, going out with a friend or two can be a lot of fun. The comradery that hunting brings is really second to none. Oftentimes, the stories that come from a deer or duck camp focus on the laughs and the friendships made or strengthened, rather than whether or not any animals were taken.
There are some specific scenarios to keep in mind when you are hunting with friends that you don’t necessarily think about while hunting alone. Firearm safety while walking in a group of people and communication with those who are in the field with you, are the top two that come to mind. While hunting alone, you have one person to keep safe, you. When you are with a group of people, the safety of the group is as equally important as your own.
It’s just good practice to always be aware of where the muzzle of your firearm is pointed, but it is a critical practice when you are hunting with others. While walking in a group of other hunters, always know where each person is, and adjust your muzzle direction accordingly. The safest option is generally straight up, having a sling on your rifle or shotgun can help keep the firearm in that upward direction.
Best practice is to not have a round chambered on the walk into your hunting spot, primarily because the safety on your firearm is not fail-proof. Many folks won’t even load their firearm until they are seated. It really comes down to what type of hunting you are doing. Upland bird or spot and stalk hunting differs very much from sitting in a tree stand, so the best safety measures for the type of hunt you are on should be followed accordingly.
While hunting, make sure everyone is aware of the other’s location in the woods or the field, so no shots are fired in the direction of those in your hunting party. If you hear wrestling in the brush, or you see movement that you think could be the animal you are hunting, never take a shot unless you clearly identify your target and what may be behind it. There have been many unfortunate instances where someone has shot a member of their own hunting party, because they weren’t positive of their target.
Communicate a time that you will all leave the area and decide on a meeting place, if you get separated. Stick to the plan, don’t change course and go into a different location that could result in you being in the line of fire of one of your fellow hunters.
I just had a friend of mine have a bad experience on a Montana Mule Deer hunt that she had been looking forward to for the last five months. She was hunting with another woman and this was the first rifle hunt out west for both of them. They were both hunters in their own right back east, but this terrain was challenging and spot and stalk hunting is much different than sitting in a blind or a treestand. The two hunters were being hosted by a local woman showing them the ropes, so they had some loose guidance for this new experience.
They did “rock-paper-scissors” to decide who would shoot first, which is good, but they did not discuss what would happen if the first shooter missed on their first attempt. That unfortunately made for tense moments when the first shooter took it upon themselves to shoot the first three times, all misses, on three different bucks. There was an assumption made by the shooter that she would try until she took the first deer, not simply the first opportunity at a deer. Sadly, they didn’t see any bucks the rest of the hunt, so a miscommunication took an opportunity away from one of the hunters at filling their buck tag.
Having a very specific conversation on who is shooting and in what order is good, but then it is also a good idea to talk about what happens next. That conversation could have prevented this experience going from a “dream hunt” to an uncomfortable few days in the field.
Planning is Key
To make any hunting adventure with friends live up to the expectations you all may have, it’s important to take the time to have detailed conversations and to make a plan that everyone agrees to, before you ever leave the house.
Agree on where you are going, what time you will meet up to get there, where everyone will be hunting, if you are splitting up or staying together, and definitely who will be taking the first shot.
Some of the best memories are made in the field with old and new friends alike, don’t let lackadaisical safety practices or poor planning ruin your next group outing.
Cindy Stites guest contributor Cindy Sites Outdoors