Loading your firearm is not something you want to do wrong. Do you know all the steps? Watch the video for a quick refresher!

Here’s the rundown:

  1. Always treat your firearm as if it’s loaded, and point the muzzle in a safe direction.

  2. If your firearm has a safety, turn it to the safe position.

  3. Inspect the barrel for any obstructions.

  4. Load the right gauge or caliber ammunition for your gun.

  5. Close the action and activate the safety if you were not able to previously.

  6. Then, enjoy your hunt!

It’s important that you never even carry the wrong ammunition, as you could accidentally put the wrong ammunition in your firearm, causing a dangerous (and possibly deadly!) obstruction. For example, a 20-gauge shotshell will fit into a 12-gauge shotgun, and then become stuck in the barrel. If you then tried to put a 12-gauge shotshell in your shotgun and fired it, your shotgun could explode, causing serious injury to you and any hunting partners.

When hunting with companions, you want to bring home game and keep everyone safe. That’s why it’s important that you know your safe zone-of-fire.

Your safe zone-of-fire spans about 45 degrees directly in front of you. If a flushed bird flies into your zone, it’s time to shoot—but as soon as the bird crosses into another hunter’s zone, hold your fire!

You can identify your safe zone-of-fire by staring straight at something in the distance, extending your arms straight out to either side of your body, making fists with your thumbs held up, and gradually bringing your arms inward until both of your thumbs are in focus without moving your eyes. That span represents the outer edges of your safe zone-of-fire. Easy!

You keep your firearm in top condition … until you stumble in the mud. How can you quickly clear the gunk out of your gun barrel and get back on the hunt?

  1. First, get to safe footing.
  2. Open the action and unload your gun.
  3. Remove the barrel according to manufacturer’s guidelines.
  4. Pull the portable cleaning rod out of your hunting kit, and use it to push the mud or other debris out of the barrel from the breech end.
  5. Flip your rod around and use the other end to polish your barrel with a cloth.

Now that your barrel is clear, reassemble your firearm and get back to the hunt!

Remember, certain carry positions provide better protection against brush and other debris that could clog your barrel. Make sure you are carrying your firearm in a way that is safe for you, your companions, and the terrain.

How Do I Find a Place to Hunt?

First, do your research at your state agency’s website, looking for public lands, also known as Wildlife Management Areas. Federal lands are also available, if you buy the appropriate permit.

If you are new to hunting or the area, you can try hunting with a guide. Use sites like www.outfittersrating.com, www.wheretohunt.org, and www.hunter-ed.com/places-to-hunt to find trustworthy and reliable guides who can, well, guide your hunt.

Another increasingly common option is to purchase a hunting lease. A hunting lease is an agreement between a private landowner and a hunter (or group of hunters) that lays down the rules and times for hunting on that land. A lease has some advantages, in that it can limit the number of hunters on one piece of land, may result in bigger game, and may offer other perks, like semi-permanent campsites and facilities. However, leases can get expensive and hard to find, and these areas are not always well-managed.

Arguably the best-case scenario for any hunter is private property. The good old days of hunting on a handshake are gone in many states, but there’s still no replacement for purchasing your own property or knowing someone who will allow you access to their land. If you take this approach, please know that “free access” is anything but free. Be ready to offer to help with managing the property, with fencing, maintenance, anything you can do to pitch in to the overall quality of the property. The property owner will appreciate the gesture.

Remember, be a respectful hunter, no matter where you hunt. If using private property, let the owner know when and where you will be hunting. When on public land, keep a watchful eye out for other hunters, don’t intrude upon another’s hunting spot, and leave the public property as you found it (don’t litter!).

There is private land next to my house. Can I hunt there if I contact the owner?

Maybe. You will have to ask permission from the landowner. When contacting a landowner, wear street clothes (not hunting gear), don’t bring a crowd, and make contact well before hunting season. Be polite, even if permission is denied: Your courtesy may affect the outcome of future requests.

In some states, written permission may be required. Be sure to check the regulations before you talk to a landowner.