Michelle Lombardo, MD, is a resident at Family Practice Milton.

Michelle Lombardo, MD, is a resident at Family Practice Milton.

Many Vermonters are excited for hunting season. Hunting is a great sport helping people explore the outdoors, connect with friends, and continue family traditions. Unfortunately, many accidents and injuries can happen during hunting season. There are a few things all Vermonters can do to stay safe even if you are not hunting.

1. Let others know of your plans.

This is important if you are setting out for a hunting trip or going for a quick afternoon hike in the woods. Let someone know your plans, including where you are going, whom you are going with, and when you will return. If you do not return by the time you said, someone will know to call for help.

2. Dress to be seen.

The National Forest Service suggests that hunters and hikers wear brightly colored clothing, such as a reflective orange vest. Avoid wearing brown, black, or white. These are colors that could easily be confused for deer or other wildlife. If you are hiking with a dog, consider getting a bright vest for him or her as well.

3. Make sure you have a clear target in sight before firing.

Never fire a weapon based on sound or quick movements – this may be a hiker or another hunter. Make sure you can clearly see the animal you are shooting and well past it before firing your weapon to prevent accidental gunshot injuries.

4. Avoid alcohol and other substances that can influence judgment.

Alcohol can affect your body’s senses, judgment, and coordination. You can be at increased risk of hypothermia, the term for becoming dangerously cold. Drinking alcohol while hunting can be very dangerous to yourself and others around you.

5. Be prepared for changes in the weather.

Always dress in layers and pack an extra layer of dry clothing in addition to rain gear. As temperatures drop, any clothes that are damp from rain or sweat will strip away your body’s heat, making you more likely to get hypothermia. Early symptoms of hypothermia include shivering and confusion. Always carry a cell phone or radio to call for help if you get stranded.

6. Carry your gun safely when walking to your hunting post.

Avoid carrying guns horizontally. The safest way to carry a gun is strapped across your back with the barrel pointed up. Have someone hold your gun while you climb into a tree stand. Many accidental gunshot injuries can occur while navigating changing angles and heights.

7. Be familiar with your weapon and surroundings.

Make sure you are familiar with the safety mechanisms, trigger, and how to load the ammunition before going out on a hunting trip. Know the trails and surrounding land near where you are hunting. Take extra care to learn how close you are to neighborhoods or public park.

Last, but not least, enjoy the beautiful scenery, changing colors, and fun wildlife Vermont has to offer! Have a safe and healthy hunting season.

Michelle Lombardo, MD, is a resident at Family Practice Milton. She is interested in women’s health, obstetrics, and palliative care. Outside of medicine, Michelle and her husband Andrew enjoy hiking, waterskiing, swimming, fishing, camping, playing board games, and are sad (but loyal) Buffalo Bills fans.

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