Experts stress safety at beginning of Massachusetts hunting seasons
Shotguns and bows will replace fishing rods next week as many Vineyarders make the autumn transition to hunting season. Experts say preparation and obeying basic hunting rules will ensure a safe season.
Hunters in Massachusetts have plenty of opportunities to take to the field. Pheasant season opens Saturday, deer archery season begins Monday, and the early duck season kicks off Thursday.
Susan Langlois, Mass Wildlife administrator of hunter education, said that hunting is a safe sport as long as participants follow the basic ten commandments taught as a part of the state's hunter education course.
Those include treating a firearm as though it is always loaded, safe muzzle control, keeping the firearm safety on until ready to shoot, and positively identifying a target. Pheasant and duck hunters following a flying bird also need to be careful not to swing the shotgun outside their safe zone of fire.
The deer checking station at the State Forest will be open during shotgun season. Photo by Sara Piazza
Ms. Langlois said that bow hunting remains a low risk sport. The major risk of injury comes when a hunter is ascending or descending from an elevated tree stand.
She said basic rules include wearing a safety harness and using a rope to raise and lower the bow from the tree stand.
Ms. Langlois said that bow hunting requires a set of unique skills that are acquired through practice. "It does provide a whole other challenge because you do need the animal in an effective range and unless you practice you are not going to know what that effective range is," she said.
She advised hunters to also take the time to practice shooting from a tree stand set a few feet off the ground in order to gain experience shooting from a variety of positions.
At Larry's Tackle in Edgartown, a PSE bow dealer, the transition from fishing to archery hunting has already started. Manager Steve Purcell said one of the biggest problems he sees is that some bow hunters wait until the last minute to begin getting their gear in order.
Modern bows place a great deal of pressure on the bowstring. If the string breaks the result can be catastrophic, he said.
Mr. Purcell said some people buy a new bow and want to get right out in the woods. But even a new set of arrows can alter the way a bow shoots, affecting accuracy. He said responsible hunters take the time to become familiar with their equipment and practice until they can make a good shot. Because the Derby ends Saturday and the six-week bow season begins Monday he thinks some people will only take one day to get ready.
Mr. Purcell advised hunters who are not ready to take the time to get ready. "It's better for the deer," he said.
The Massachusetts Hunter Education Program provides a variety of outdoor education programs and courses. The program is funded from the sale of hunting and sporting licenses, and firearms and archery equipment.
The basic hunter education course is mandatory for first-time hunters or hunting license buyers in Massachusetts. Successful completion of the course also fulfills the legal requirements to apply for a License to Carry Firearms, or a Firearms Identification Card.
For more information on state hunter education programs and hunting regulations, go to: www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/.
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