Be Safe This Roar

NZDA recommends all hunters wear blaze for safety. Photo credit: Gwyn Thurlow

With the Roar approaching, many of you will be planning your annual trip into the backcountry to spend time with your mates and hunt stags. It seems every year at this time though, we hear of a tragic accident where one hunter has mistaken his mate for a deer and serious injury, or death has followed. Tragedies such as this are devastating, and it is particularly sad to realise they could have been avoided if the shooter had followed one vitally important basic rule of firearms safety. ‘Identify your target beyond all doubt.’

This rule appears common-sense and is easily understood. However, in the heat of the moment, it is sometimes unheeded and, alongside other contributing factors, has been the cause of one hunter firing at another thinking he was a deer.

Let’s look closely at this rule. To properly identify a deer, you must see enough of it. You should take the time to see the head, neck and shoulders of the animal all at the same time so positive identification can be achieved. This can often be challenging when hunting in bush environments. If you don’t see enough of the animal, then do not load your rifle.

Always identify your target beyond all doubt so that you are 100% certain it is a deer and not a person. Photo credit: Tom McCowan

Be aware of buck fever, an emotion that can cause loss of control like that of a panic response. Also be aware that peer pressure from a hunting companion can influence your decision making.

Visual illusion is where the brain can trick the eyes into thinking you have seen a deer when you haven’t. This is caused by you not taking the time required to see enough of the animal to positively identify it.

Never fire at sound, shape, colour or movement or any combination of these. Assume it is a human until you prove otherwise.

It is important as you hunt to evaluate yourself. Are you fatigued, feeling frustrated or stressed? These factors can also lead to poor decision making.

Do not use your rifle scope to either search for animals or to identify an animal, as you could inadvertently point your firearm at your mate, endangering them. Use your eyes or binoculars, as these provide a wide field of view unlike a rifle scope, which will restrict your field of vision.

A wise hunter will wear high visibility clothing, especially for early morning and late evening low light conditions. Hi-vis is more likely to be easily seen at some distance in open country and close in when hunting in bush environments. Hi-vis should automatically be associated with a human.

History tells us most hunting incidents occur within the same hunting party, where separating, for whatever reason, can be the beginning of a tragic end. If you do intentionally separate from your hunting companion, make sure you discuss a plan so you and your mate cannot be mistaken for an animal by the other. Do not be tempted to deviate from the plan. If you separate unintentionally, cease hunting until you regain and confirm visual contact.

Even the most experienced hunter has made the fatal mistake of not identifying their target, which has resulted in them pulling the trigger on another person.

Most will say, I thought it would never happen to me, but it can, so do not be complacent and accept it could happen to you.

If you remain aware of all parts of Rule 4, to identify your target beyond all doubt when hunting, it will significantly minimise the possibility of something going wrong. Before leaving on your trip, have a gettogether with your mates and discuss Rule 4 and the other basic rules of firearms safety so everyone is aware and on the same page. Set it up as part of the trip rules and all agree to commit to safety first.

For more detailed information about firearms safety, read through the New Zealand Firearms

Safety Code which can be viewed on the Firearms Safety Authority website on www.

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