Hunting season is in full swing, and 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. Let me see if I can fire off a few pieces of advice.
Thanks to hunter safety programs, the number of injuries that occur from hunting is far less than those that occur from nearly all other sports. Football, for example, causes 500 times more injuries than hunting. Even ping pong has twice the number of reported injuries as hunting does. That being said, we don’t want even one hunting injury to occur, so here are some safety tips:
- First, children under 15 who want to shoot should have a state hunting license, take a hunter safety course, and always be accompanied by an adult – preferably one who is certified in hunter safety. Children under 12 should really not be allowed to handle a firearm. And no child should be left alone in the woods when you are hunting.
- Wearing fluorescent orange and having your child wear it, while not required, is strongly recommended to reduce the chance of an accident or being mistaken for an animal.
- Older children who do shoot under adult supervision need to observe three key rules: always point the firearm in a safe direction and never at anything you do not want to destroy. Always keep the finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. And always keep the firearm unloaded with the ammunition stored separately when not in use or until you are in the hunting area and ready to shoot. A fourth point is to also be sure of your target, but also 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 statistics estimate that guns are in more than one third of all US 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 with trigger locks on those guns when not in use. Ammunition should be 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 child.
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. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.