With the exception of local ordinances, hunting rules rarely change. A lot of the same rules that apply to hunting also apply to target practice. It is a good idea to periodically review gun safety rules to keep them fresh in your memory.

Treat every gun as if it were loaded

If everyone followed this rule, the amount of accidental shootings would drastically decrease. By following this rule, and making a habit out of it, you’d never put your finger on the trigger until it was time to do so. You also need to remember that your gun’s mechanical safety could malfunction. Therefore, even though you want to keep your safety engaged until you’re ready to shoot, the back of your mind needs to be aware that the safety could fail. In other words, treat it as if it were loaded. 

Never point your gun (or bow) at anything you don’t intend to shoot

Plain and simple, you just don’t point your gun or bow at anything unless you intend to kill it. This starts at home and in the sporting goods store when you ask to see a rifle or shot gun. When you need to see how the gun feels in your shoulder pocket, look for a clear path without any bystanders, and then bring the muzzle up to the ceiling.

Always know what is behind your target 

This is called situational awareness. Before you shoot, make sure there is nothing else behind your deer, turkey, etc. The last thing you want to do is send a projectile into a backyard where little kids are playing.

Practice with your gun (or bow) prior to hunting

You need to know how the gun actually shoots before you ever use it for hunting, so take that gun to the nearest shooting range or a remote part of the woods or desert to practice before you head out for a hunt.

Know how to properly clear a malfunction

I’ve seen firsthand what happens to someone who doesn’t clear a gun properly. It can be very dangerous, and you want to do it the right way so you don’t put yourself or anyone else in danger. As a general rule of thumb, you need to keep the gun pointed in a safe direction and wait between 30 and 60 seconds before you open the action. If it was a hang-fire, it could take that long before the powder sends the projectile out of the barrel.

Use proper protection

I know plenty of hunters who believe their eyes and ears are indestructible. They thought that they needed to hear the deer in the woods to know that it was there. Well, now they can’t hear the deer anymore at all because of too many loud bangs in their ears. There is always an option for safety. After you “hear” the deer, plug your ears so you don’t damage yourself. 

Know the local rules and regulations, and stay updated

Finally, each state has varying rules when it comes to what you’re supposed to wear during a hunt, how many animals you can take and what you can use to kill them. The best idea is to stay as current as possible on this type of info, so you never find yourself an accidental criminal.

Editor’s Note: Joshua Gillem is a guest contributor who currently serves as the editor for Gun Carrier.