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by R. Shannon Smith

Missouri Conservation Agent

Firearms Safety

Statistics show that hunting is a relatively safe sport.  Through the years the number of hunting accidents has declined.  We contribute this decline to hunter education requirements.  However, we still have a few hunting incidents every year in the state of Missouri.  From a law enforcement perspective, a hunting incident occurs when a hunter causes personal injury or death while using a firearm or bow.

We have learned that there are four main causes of hunting incidents.  They are: hunter judgment mistakes, safety rule violations, lack of control, and mechanical failure.

The following safety tips are what we teach students in our Hunter Education Program.


  • Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. “Most Important”
  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded and keep the safety on until ready to fire.
  • Make sure the firearm is unloaded, except when hunting or pre-paring to shoot.
  • Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions
  • Be 100% sure of your target before you pull the trigger.
  • Wear hunter orange clothing. Even when it’s not required by law.
  • Avoid all horseplay.
  • Never climb a tree or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.
  • Never shoot at a flat hard surface or water.
  • Avoid alcohol and other prescription drugs before and while hunting.
  • Store firearms unloaded and locked in a case or cabinet.

By following these safety rules and making sure that everyone one around you are doing the same, the chances of being involved in a firearms related accident greatly reduces.  Responsible hunters practice safe habits until they become second nature.

All hunters get excited when they first see that deer or turkey or hear something coming their way.  That’s why we hunt.  However, try to get into the habit of thinking every noise you hear is another hunter, until you can determine otherwise.