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The FWC's hunter safety program uses this acronym - S.A.F.E. - to remind hunters to focus on these four major rules to prevent hunting accidents:

Safe Direction – Always point the gun in a safe direction.

Always be sure of your target and what lies beyond.

Finger is outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.

Every firearm must be treated as if it is loaded.

Take an FWC-approved hunter safety course

Find tips about safe firearms handling and shooting range safety.

Got a minute? Check out these short videos for hunter safety tips.

Safe Direction – The no. 1 rule of firearms safety is always point your firearm in a safe direction. Every time you pick up a firearm until you safely put it down, be aware of where the muzzle of your firearm is pointing, and always point it in a safe direction. This is extremely important when getting into and out of a treestand, blind or boat and when you are in or around your vehicle.

When hunting with a partner, it’s best to load and unload your firearms with your back to your partner’s back to ensure guns are pointed in a safe direction. After the hunt is finished, unload your firearm while pointing it in a safe direction before placing it back in your vehicle. Hunters should not have a loaded firearm in a vehicle, including an all-terrain vehicle.

Always be sure of your target and what lies beyond before pulling the trigger. Before shooting, it’s important to 1) properly identify your target as an animal that is legal to take, AND 2) ensure there is nothing beyond the target such as a person, domestic animal, building or roadway. If you aren’t sure of both things, don’t take the shot. Once you pull the trigger, you can’t bring that bullet or shot back.

Finger is outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. This will control when and where the firearm discharges. It’s also important to know how your firearms operate. Be familiar with your firearm’s safety and practice using it – be sure to keep the safety “on” until just before you take a shot. While you should use the safety, never rely on it. Safe, responsible hunters always keep the muzzle of their firearms pointed in a safe direction and their finger off the trigger until they are ready to shoot.

Every firearm must be treated as if it is loaded. All firearms must be treated with the respect due a loaded gun.

Over the years, the dedicated volunteers who teach the FWC’s hunter safety courses have done a remarkable job teaching students to be safe and responsible. Even though few hunting accidents occur, our goal is to prevent them all. This goal can be achieved if hunters follow the S.A.F.E. hunting rules every time they go afield. Safety is the responsibility of every hunter!