Gun Safety and Antler-Point Restrictions: The Hunting Scene Is Ever Changing

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With the recent events of V.P. Dick Cheney’s hunting trip, the importance of gun safety is once again, coming to the forefront of many people’s minds.

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Some people view Harry Whittington being shot as an accident, and something that is bound to happen after numerous hunting trips are made, others view it as carelessness and a big mistake by V.P. Dick Cheney. Those with the second viewpoint, feel the need to increase gun safety and hunting regulations.

There are several standards that are set in regards to gun safety including:

  • Handle all guns as if they were loaded.
  • Keep the trigger finger straight until the firearm is located on the target.
  • Confirm the target and the line of fire before discharging the weapon.

Although the list for gun safety seems simple, the benefits of following those standards would eliminate many injuries or killings that occur in a given year. On the other hand, hunting has its own set of rules including:

  • Communication is essential. If hunting in a group, tell the other members that an animal is going to be retrieved. The group should stop, wait for the hunter to get back in line after retrieving the animal, and then the hunt can continue.
  • Only shoot in one’s range of motion. Never turn around to shoot because someone else may be hunting or retrieving an animal and may be mistaken as an animal.
  • Hunting education. Classes are required in 49 states and many of the Canadian provinces.
  • Wear bright orange. Clothing is important to make oneself stand out and not be mistaken for the hunted animal.
  • Safety comes before shooting any game. Go home empty handed before risking someone’s safety or life.

Despite the ongoing controversy whether the hunting incident was an accident or a matter of not following proper hunting and gun safety regulations, the National Safety Council indicates that in the last 30 years, hunting accidents have decreased dramatically, while the number of hunters has increased. On average, there are only 7 injuries per 100,000 participants. Although all injuries are alarming, hunting is one of the safest outdoor activities. By regularly practicing safe hunting and firearms use, the number of injuries and deaths caused by this sport can continue to decline.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, that’s not the only thing in hunting that has changed. From 1996 to 2005, deer hunting among women in Missouri has increased by 6%. The reason men hunt is primarily in the hopes of bringing home a trophy animal and the mere sport of it. However, women hunt as a way to associate with friends and family or for food. As a result, women are more likely to hunt does for their tender meat.

Harvesting does is what is needed to help control the overpopulation of deer. At High Mountain Whitetails, we take this process one step farther through our hunting preserves. We realize that by allowing bucks to reach their full maturity and maximum genetic potential and limiting the number of hunts on our land each year, we increase the chances of a successful hunt and help preserve the deer population.

In an effort to keep hunters from shooting bucks prematurely, the state of Missouri set up a temporary antler-point restriction rules. As of 2004, the antler-point restriction rules only covered 29 counties of northwestern and central Missouri. Statewide hunting regulations require that a buck have antlers at least three inches long to be considered “antlered”.

The “antlered” process normally takes place at about 1.5 years of age. However, with the antler-point restriction, particular counties require that the bucks have at least four points on one side before being able to be hunted. This takes place usually after the buck is 2.5 years of age.

Although this has not decreased the overall number of deer being hunted, it has decreased the number of young bucks that are hunted and increased the number of does that are hunted. This antler-point harvest regulation has protected the 1.5 to 2.5 year old deer that are the one’s who frequently reproduce. In essence, the antler-point restriction rules have been effective in controlling the deer population.

Because of the some of the deer that were protected last year survived and harvested again this year, more deer above 2.5 years of age are in the antler-point restricted areas. These kind of results have made hunters in northern Missouri interested in seeing regulations like this enforced around the state. However, many believe that the popularity of this regulation will not be seen in the same light in southern Missouri where deer are less abundant.

The goal of the restrictions is to enhance the hunting opportunities while controlling the deer population. After all, if too many bucks are hunted early on in their lives, fewer deer will be bred thus continuing to decrease the deer population. However, by enforcing antler-point restriction rules, more deer can breed and the hunting experience will be even better as better quality, mature bucks are available.

About High Mountain Whitetails    

High Mountain Whitetails offers a full-class Hunting experience on Hunting Preserves and Game Ranches nestled in the heart of the Ozarks. To learn more about Russell Cook’s Guided Hunting Trips or Deer Breeding go to http://www.highmtnwhitetails.com.

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