The opening of dove season brings many new hunter safety course graduates into the field for the first time. Whether you have just completed your hunter safety course or have been hunting for many years, it is helpful to refresh oneself regarding hunter safety.
In many states the mourning dove hunt signals the start of the fall hunting season. For many, it’s a social gathering and an opportunity to introduce new hunters to the sport.
Because of the unique ways to hunt doves and because of the bird itself, there are some specific safety techniques that all mourning dove hunters should employ.
- Check Ammunition: Carefully check your shells before you enter the field. Use only those designed for dove hunting. Make sure your gun is plugged to hold no more than three shells.
- Keep Your Gun Unloaded Until You are in the Field: Do not load your gun until you’ve reached your hunting location on the field. Unload your gun before you leave.
- Know the location of other hunters – if any – on the field and make sure they are aware of your location.
- Identify your safe zone of fire and never shoot outside this zone. Your safe zone of fire is the area where you can safely shoot while taking into consideration the location of other hunters, roads and field boundaries.
- Always shoot skyward. Do not shoot at low-flying birds.
- Protect your eyes: Wear safety glasses or goggles and a cap with a bill to help protect your eyes from falling shot.
- Use Caution Retrieving Downed Birds: When retrieving downed birds, visually mark the location before you leave your shooting location. Be sure other hunters in the area are aware that you are entering the field. Do not attempt to shoot at doves while retrieving a downed bird or when you are away from your shooting location.
- Respect Hunting Field Boundaries: Do not hunt doves outside of the boundaries of the dove field.
- Never shoot a roosting or perching bird. Mourning doves often roost or perch on electrical, telephone, fiber optic or other energy or communication transmission lines. You could be criminally charged for damaging a line in this manner and held responsible for its repair, often costing tens of thousands of dollars.
- Remember the basic rules of firearm safety – which are summarized by the acronym ACTT – also apply to dove hunting, or any other species.
ACTT reminds a hunter about the basic firearm rules:
- Assume every gun is loaded
- Control the muzzle; keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction
- Trigger – keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot
- Target – be sure of your target and what lies beyond
Some states teach a variation of ACTT known as.TAB-K. In the TAB-K formula for firearm safety, “T” means treat every firearm as if it’s loaded. “A” means always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction. “B” means to be certain of your target and what lies beyond and “K” means keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.
The mourning dove season is a great opportunity to introduce a new or young hunter to the sport.
With the dove season starting at a time of the year when warm weather is common, it’s a good chance to introduce a new hunter – young or old – to the sport. Not having to deal with the harsher fall and winter weather of other seasons can make for a much more enjoyable experience.
About the Author
Tim Lawhern is a hunting and firearms safety consultant based in Madison, Wisconsin. Tim is the former Hunter Education Administrator for the Wisconsin DNR, a former President of International Hunter Education Association (IHEA-USA) and Co-Director of the IHEA-USA Hunter Incident Academy.
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