5 Fundamentals of Safe Hunting

September 2020

By Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Do you know someone who wants to learn how to hunt or target shoot? Whether a friend or family member has become more interested in hunting or just wants to feel more confident at the range, you can share the tips below or review them yourself before heading afield.

Thinking S.A.F.E.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s hunter safety program uses the S.A.F.E. acronym to remind hunters to focus on four major rules of preventing hunting accidents:

  1. Safe direction — Always point the gun in a safe direction.
  2. Always be sure of your target and what lies beyond.
  3. The finger is outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
  4. Every firearm must be treated as if it is loaded.

Loading or Unloading a Firearm Safely

When loading and unloading firearms, always point the muzzle in a safe direction. If it is possible to keep on the safety of the gun while loading and unloading around, it is best to do so. When unloading, remove the magazine, if it has one. Open the action and eject all rounds. Physically and visually check the chamber and magazine to be sure the gun is not loaded.

Safe Firearm Carries

There are several safe ways hunters can carry a firearm, and the carries most appropriate may depend on the circumstance. The elbow or side carry is good to use when no one is in front of you. The sling carry is useful for long walks. And the two-handed or ready carry provides the best control and most safety. Be mindful of the safest way to carry your gun in different circumstances.

Zone of fire

When hunting in a group for species such as quail or rabbit, hunters should first talk about and agree upon the zone of fire each person will cover. A zone of fire is the area in which a hunter can shoot safely. Zones of fire depend on many factors, including the hunter’s shooting ability, the animal being hunted, the lay of the land, and the hunting strategy

Hunters should never swing their gun or shoot outside of their zone of fire. If a bird turns and flies back across the line of hunters, they should not swing on the bird and should hold their fire.

Tree Stand Safety

Carefully inspect your tree stand to make sure it’s safe and has not been damaged. Don’t hang your stand any higher than necessary, and always wear a full-body fall arrest system. When climbing up and down a ladder, always maintain three points of contact with your hands and feet. Always inspect your FAS. Discard it and get a new one if it shows any signs of wear and tear.