W.VA. DNR shares safety tips, advice ahead of deer firearm season

Deer firearm season starts Monday, Nov 20
Alexa Griffey met with Sgt. Stephens to learn more about how to have a safe hunting season.
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 8:35 AM EST
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Regional training officer for District 6 explained some safety tips, some things we need to know for the beginning of deer firearm season starts on Monday the 20th.

Sgt. Stephens brought in a variety of firearms including rifles, shotguns and a muzzle loader to explain safe ways to load and unload ammunition.

All of the firearms used in the demonstration are used in the DNR’s Hunter Education Program. This means they are non-functional.

“The firing pins usually are removed and closed, so nothing can be done. So we can take them into schools.”

The first safety tip is how to pick up the firearm.

Sgt. Stephens says it’s important to make sure it’s unloaded and pick it up with the muzzle, the hole at the end of the barrel, facing away from anyone.

“If when we pick up a firearm, we always want to pick it up and make sure it’s unloaded with the action open, no ammunition in it. And the very number one rule that we worry about is the muzzle, the hole at the end of the barrel. We always want to make sure that’s in a safe direction. The reason being is, if the gun happens to go off, as long as that’s in a safe direction, [no one] gets hurt.”

Sgt. Stephens pointed out that you can identify your firearm by looking at the barrel stamp. The same goes for identifying your ammunition. The gauge is stamped on the back.

Sgt. Stephens then pointed out the safety button or hammer, saying that the safety should be in place until you get to your target.

Another important aspect is safety gear. The bright orange helps with visibility. Wearing the bright orange safety gear is required for anyone out hunting.

“…So even if I’m going squirrel hunting, even if I’m going rabbit hunting, if I’m doing any kind of hunting and deer firearm seasons in, I have to be wearing 400 square inches of orange, which is about your adult large size.”

Wearing orange helps not only the person who’s hunting, but also other people. Sgt. Stephens says it’s important to be able to identify humans in the woods. This goes for those hunting, and for those who spend time around the woods.

“Always a good practice to put that orange on if [it’s] firearm season and even if you’re not hunting, because if you’re walking in the woods, you happen to wear the wrong color, they might identify you as wildlife.”

Another safety element Sgt. Stephens talked about was hunting in tree stands. While it’s advantageous to hunt in the trees, it can also pose safety concerns. He says they get calls every year for people who have fallen out of a tree stand.

To help mitigate this issues, wearing the proper safety harness is important.

“If you fall out of a tree from 15-20 feet, and you hit a solid ground, a rock, a twig, and you’re going to get impaled. It causes a lot of injuries, and we end up investigating these types of accidents all the time.”

The Tree Stand Manufacturers Association requires every manufacturer to provide a harness with the purchase of a new stand. If someone has lost their harness, or doesn’t have one, they can be purchased at most sporting goods stores.

Sgt. Stephens says to make sure the harness is certified by the Tree Stand Manufacturers Association (TMA).

Sgt. Stephens says that there are certain rules and regulations violations that they run into every year. He wanted to remind people, “You got to stay 500 feet away from a dwelling before you shoot a gun. You don’t shoot across any public roadway, and you don’t shoot from a motor vehicle.”

He also said that, new this year, hunters have the ability to hunt with an air rifle for deer. It has to be 45 caliber or above.

Sgt. Stephens says that having the different hunting seasons are important as a matter of conservation.

“…If we if we just allow the population to grow and to grow and to grow, it’s going to cause an overcrowding and then these animals are actually going to end up suffering from starvation, from diseases, things that creep in when that population gets too large.”

You can learn more about West Virginia DNR at their website, wvdnr.gov

For the full list of 2023-2024 hunting seasons, dates, and limits, click here

Sgt. Stephens, District 6 regional training officer, shows Alexa Griffey how to safely load and unload a firearm.