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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) hunter safety program wants all hunters to think S.A.F.E. The FWC’s hunter safety program uses this acronym to remind hunters to focus on these four major rules of preventing 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.

Safe DirectionAlways pointing your firearm in a safe direction is the No. 1 rule of firearms safety. Responsible gun owners must be aware of where their gun is pointing at all times. This rule is especially important when you are in and around your vehicle. Just about every year, a Florida hunter injures either themselves or another close friend or loved one by not following this rule. No hunter should ever have a loaded firearm in a vehicle – including an all-terrain vehicle. When hunting with a partner, it’s best to load and unload your firearms with your back to your partner’s back. This way both of you know you are not pointing a gun at each other. After the hunt is finished, unload your firearm while pointing it in a safe direction before placing it back in your vehicle.

Pointing your firearm in a safe direction is also extremely important when getting into and out of a treestand, blind or boat. Every time you pick up a firearm until you safely put it down, be aware of where the firearm is pointing, and always point it in a safe direction.

Always be sure of your target and what lies beyond before pulling the trigger. Bullets from rifles and shot from shotguns always have the right of way. Before shooting, it’s important to be sure your target is properly identified as an animal that is legal to take and that there is not anything beyond the target that you are not willing to destroy. If you cannot be absolutely sure of both of these things, don’t take the shot. Once you pull the trigger, you can never bring that bullet or shot back.

Finger is outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. Firearms never go off “by themselves.” Keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot helps control when and where the firearm discharges. Safe, responsible hunters know how their firearms operate. They are very familiar with firearms safety and practice it – keeping the safety of their firearm on until just before they take a shot. And even though they use the safety, they never rely on it. Safe, responsible hunters keep their firearms pointed in a safe direction and keep their finger off the trigger until they are ready to shoot.

Every firearm must be treated as if it is loaded. Firearms are not toys and can be very dangerous if not handled properly. All firearms must be treated with the respect due a loaded gun.

For the past several years, there have been between 12 and 20 hunting accidents each year in Florida. Almost every one of these hunting accidents could have been prevented if the shooter would have followed one of the S.A.F.E. hunting rules above.

Over the years, the dedicated volunteers who teach the FWC’s Hunter Safety program have done a remarkable job teaching young hunters to be safe and responsible. Even though very few hunting accidents occur, there is no excuse for any. Accidental hunting injuries can be prevented by hunters accepting responsibility, following the safety rules and taking the necessary actions to hunt safely.

Every time you go afield, remember and follow the S.A.F.E. hunting rules. Safety is the responsibility of every hunter. Safe hunting is NO accident!