Hunting Safety: Exercise caution and be safe out there

West Virginia’s deer gun season began Monday, and the state Division of Natural Resources says it expects a quarter million hunters to take to the woods from now through Dec. 1. That is a lot of folks walking around in need of a few safety reminders — and, by the way, not all the risks are firearm-related.

This is expected to be a good season due to good mast conditions and a healthy and adequate deer population. That may mean plenty of opportunities to practice four basic rules: treat every gun as if it is loaded, only point it at what you plan to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, and always clearly identify your target — and what is beyond — before firing.

Dress for the weather — it is going to colder out there than you think. In fact, before leaving check the weather and let someone else know your plan. Another thought before heading out the door is to do a health assessment, the mind might be willing, but is the body able, this year?

And for non-hunters who enjoy being in the woods this time of year, wear clothing that helps you stand out, rather than blending in with your surroundings; make plenty of noise — especially noises only a human could make, like talking or whistling a tune; and if you are taking your dog out for a hike, keep it on a leash. A dog chasing a deer might find itself in the line of fire.

Of course, there is always a joke or two this time of year about switching out the first letter in “deer camp” for a B, instead. Be smart about it, though. Do not mix alcohol and guns, or operation of any kind of vehicle. And do not fall for the old wives tale that a little liquor will keep you warmer out on that deer stand. It only fools your body into thinking it is warmer, while it also ignores a falling core temperature.

Do not ruin what can be an enjoyable and beneficial season with improper planning and an abandonment of common sense.

And good luck out there, folks.