John Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hunter safety involves ancillaries and accouterments

It used to be that teaching hunting safety focused entirely on showing young hunters the proper handling of firearms. And while Hunter Safety Education taught through the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is still a vital (and mandatory) component (part of which is now available online, streamlining the process:, click the “Education and Administration” link), older hunters need safety education also.

Not so much with the firearms but with the accouterments. Scarcely a hunting season goes by that another of my acquaintances doesn’t wind up hobbled, on crutches or worse after having fallen out of a tree. If there’s no fool like an old fool, that old fool is never a bigger fool than when he’s loose in the woods with a tree stand and a gun.

Pre-season may be worse than the actual hunting season itself. That’s when hunters are scouting, checking their old tree stands after they haven’t been climbed in since the year before. Steps loosen, in the case of homemade tree stands, wasps have often claimed the abandoned sites in the interim for their ownselves and hunters have aged another year.

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Not a good mix. Too often the result is another hunter on crutches whose exit from the tree stand was not as planned or scheduled.

The tragedy last weekend when a local hunter was killed in an ATV accident provides a grim reminder of the danger from those vehicles that can be such fun for old or young.

The problem is that they are heavy and they are powerful. Forget either, and accidents happen.

Lee Burks was alone when he was involved in the ATV accident that claimed his life, so no one knows exactly what happened. What is known is that the accident occurred while he was unloading the ATV from his pickup. There is just no time when an ATV rider can let his guard down.

The increasing deer population of the last half century has opened the sport for more people to enjoy than ever before, but when the enjoyment turns to tragedy, we stop and ask ourselves what was the rush?