Originally created 09/17/96

Safety should be a primary target of young hunters



Before teens pick up their guns, hop into their trucks and head for the field, they must know a few things about hunting.

For starters, they must complete a hunter-education course before they can buy hunting licenses. Courses teach about gun safety, hunting laws and how to avoid accidents.

"Believe it or not, hunting is a safe sport," said Sgt. Howard Hensley of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The main way to be safe is to not play around while hunting, he said. He suggests that teens also become familiar with their firearms and practice with targets to lower the risk of getting hurt in the woods.

Last year, there were 82 hunting accidents in Georgia, with five fatalities. Most of the wounds (54) were self-inflicted. There were 43 hunters injured, and two deaths, in tree-stand accidents.

Mike Wilcox, 16, has spent almost his whole life hunting. The Evans High School junior advises would-be hunters to know gun safety, have a sense of direction and be responsible.

First-time hunters should start off with dove hunting and go with a veteran hunter, Sgt. Hensley said. After that, try squirrel and rabbit hunting, then deer.

"You get to shoot the gun a lot, and you can enjoy yourself," he said of dove hunting.