With hunting season in full swing, parents have been taking aim to ask me if there are any safety guidelines that I might give for older children who want to join their parents in this activity.  Well, let me see if I can fire off a few pieces of advice.

Thanks to hunter safety programs, the number of injuries to humans that occur from hunting are far less than those that occur from essentially all other sports.  For example, football causes 500 times more human injuries than hunting.  Even ping pong has twice the number of reported injuries than hunting.  That being said, we don’t want even one hunting injury to occur so here are some safety tips:

  • Children under 15 who want to shoot should have a state hunting license, take a hunter safety course, always be accompanied by an adult – preferably one who is certified in hunter safety
  • Children under 12 should not be allowed to handle a firearm.
  • Never leave a child alone in the woods when you are hunting.
  • You and your child should wear florescent orange to reduce the chance of an accident

Older children who shoot under adult supervision need to observe 4 key rules.

(1) Always point the firearm in a safe direction and never at anything you are unwilling to destroy;

(2) Always keep the finger off the trigger until ready to shoot;

(3) Always keep the firearm unloaded with the ammunition stored separately until you are in the hunting area and ready to shoot.

(4) Be sure of your target—and that means what might be beyond or behind that target.

Finally, if your children are not going hunting but encounter a gun in someone else’s home when they are unsupervised (and estimates are that guns are in more than one-third of all U.S. households) teach them to stop what they’re doing, don’t touch the gun, leave the area, and tell an adult. And if you are keeping a gun in your home, please avoid what I just described from happening by keeping all guns locked away when not in use for hunting, with the ammunition also locked and stored separately.

Hopefully tips like this will be the safety bullets you need to trigger a safe hunting season for you and your older child.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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