This article appears in November Family magazine.

Autumn marks the beginning of many hunting seasons, but whether you’re aiming for Canadian goose or wild turkey, black bear or white-tailed deer, all hunters need to keep safety in mind. As they say: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

“Before the start of every hunting season, it’s good to review state hunting regulations, check your equipment, review safe gun handling when afield and remember that the hunt’s not over until guns are unloaded and safely stored,” said Bill Brassard, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

A five-year report from the U.S. Department of the Interior shows that 40 percent of the population 16 and older participated in wildlife-related activities in 2016, including hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. While hunting participation dropped by about 2 million participants from 2011 to 2016, it still remained strong at 11.5 million hunters.

Hunting is a safe activity as long as safety is part of the conversation and all hunters understand proper precautions and responsible use of firearms, Brassard said.

Gun safety

Safety comes first, said Gregg Powers, spokesman for Ducks Unlimited. To avoid hunting incidents, always follow these four basic gun safety rules.

“Treat every gun as if it is loaded. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, and always be sure of your target and what is beyond,” Powers said.

For many people hunting is a rich and multigenerational tradition, but young hunters need to be trained to build their confidence, said Mitch Strobl of Hunter-Ed.com.

“Being around firearms can be intimidating. The first thing a young hunter needs is to take a hunter safety course to learn all they need to know to have the confidence to enjoy hunting,” Strobl said.

General tips

To make the experience safe and enjoyable, take all variables into account. Be sure to dress for the weather, and bring all needed gear plus food and water.

“Know the weather. Be prepared for the experience,” Strobl said. Carry a first-aid kit and be familiar with the area you want to hunt. Never go hunting without telling someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.

Wearing blaze orange is not required in all 50 states but is usually advisable and recommended, Strobl said. Know what the state guidelines are. A flash of flourescent orange can be mistaken for the red of turkey feathers, Strobl said.

Falls

In addition to gunshot wounds, falls from tree stands continue to be a common hunting accident, said Kimberly Patil, injury prevention and outreach coordinator with the adult trauma program at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Hunters should choose tree stands carefully, and use a fall arrest system or harness when climbing in or out of a tree. Keeping three points of contact while climbing in or out of a tree stand — two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times — can also prevent falls, Patil said.