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As fall arrives, there’s a crispness in the air, the colors change, and Idahoans by the thousands will head into our state’s backcountry in pursuit of that trophy elk or those elusive game birds.

Whether you’re hunting in Idaho’s mountains or rangelands, safety is paramount. Not only should all sportsmen and women know and practice safe hunting, but hunters born after Dec. 31, 1974 are required to complete a hunter education course to purchase a license in Idaho.

All members of a hunting party, whether they are actually hunting or not, should know the Cardinal rules of gun safety. As a reminder:

1. Become familiar with your firearm, including how to carry it, load and unload it, and know what to expect when you pull the trigger.

2. Always assume that every gun is loaded and point the muzzle in a safe direction. Never point your gun at or toward another person.

3. Never put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot.

4. Always keep the safety in the “On” position until you intend to shoot.

5. Be sure of your target and what is behind it before pulling the trigger.

Hunters must wear blaze orange when hunting or trapping during any open season, and nonhunters should wear bright colors and avoid wearing white, black, brown, earth-toned greens and animal-colored clothing. Blaze orange vests and hats are advisable for non-hunters.

Some additional key points are listed below. These are no less important than the other safety concerns:

1. Dogs should wear orange vests as well

2. Besides the required hunter education and safety courses, it’s a good idea for at least one person in your hunting party be First Aid and CPR-certified.

3. Every prepared hunter should carry a First Aid kit that includes supplies to treat wounds and hypothermia, emergency food and a water purifier, a compass, signal mirror, whistle, extra batteries and at least one commercially available tourniquet. To that end, you must practice placing a tourniquet before you have to do it in an emergency. Tighten until all bleeding stops and recheck frequently. A second tourniquet may be needed on the same limb.

Common injuries include:

1. Falls (from tree stand) roughly 3,000/year in U.S. and

a. Fractures of small and long bones

2. Shotgun and gunshot wounds from lack of adherence to cardinal rules of safety. These are very different injury patterns and beyond the scope of this article. These claim roughly < 1000 victims/year in the US and Canada of which (International Hunter Education Association).

3. Hypothermia

a. Comfortably cool is a good principle. Do not dress to sweat during tracking or recovering game.

b. Have chemical warmers available as well as means to start a campfire

c. Blood will not clot under conditions of hypothermia

4. Drowning

5. Animal Attacks

As a trauma surgeon, I sometimes don’t see those who suffer tragic results of not being prepared.

These unfortunate victims are seen by the coroner. I see the fortunate ones who are either lucky or prepared. When you venture into Idaho’s backcountry, please … be thoughtful and be sober.

No one expects anything to go wrong when enjoying the beautiful Idaho outdoors. Hunters have a responsibility to themselves and each other. Most of all, enjoy Idaho!

Dr. Mark Shapiro, MD is a Trauma Surgeon at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise.

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