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Course Outline

Responsible hunters practice safe habits until they become second nature.

Practice the four primary rules of firearm safety.

  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
  • Always keep the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • Be sure of your target and beyond.
  • Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
Experienced hunter instructing beginner

If you are handling a firearm in the home, also follow these safety rules.

  • Immediately point the muzzle in a safe direction when you pick up a firearm.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger.
  • Always check to see that the chamber and the magazine are empty.

A hunting incident is any unplanned, uncontrolled action that occurs while using a sporting arm. It can include near misses. The four main causes of hunting incidents are hunter judgment mistakes, safety rule violations, lack of control and practice, and mechanical failure.


Officer speaking with hunters after a hunting incident

There are several ways to carry a gun safely and still have it ready for quick action. Three rules apply to all carrying methods.

  • Muzzle pointed in a safe direction and under control
  • Safety “on” until immediately before you’re ready to shoot
  • Finger outside the trigger guard

Safe carry of a firearm

Six proper field carries hunters can use are trail carry, sling carry, elbow or side carry, two-handed or “ready” carry, cradle carry, and shoulder carry. Do not use the trail carry when you're behind someone. Do not use the elbow carry when someone is in front of you. Do not use the shoulder carry when someone is behind you.


Safe carries, with three hunters in single file

Carry selection is based primarily on muzzle control and terrain. When walking with others, be sure all hunters keep their guns pointing away from their companions.

Safe carries, with three hunters side-by-side
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