Upland bird hunters Brett Sowders and Tony Strobl hit the deck. Bullets from a distant deer hunter’s rifle whizzed overhead. Scared to get up, they stayed pinned to the ground until the shooting was over.
“We saw the deer hunter in the distance, there’s no way he didn’t see us,” said Sowders. “Apparently he failed to see what was beyond his target.”
This scenario indicates that the shooter failed to obey several safe hunting rules. One, he didn’t clearly see what was beyond his target. Since he missed, the bullets traveled directly over two hunters’ heads. Two, Sowders said the hunter was shooting straight into the sun, which limited what he could clearly see. Three, the shooter wasn’t within his safe zone-of-fire. If he had been, the bullets never would have reached Sowders and Strobl because the hunter would have had them in clear sight before he shot.
The hunter’s third violation proves that staying within the safe zone-of-fire is critical in safe hunting. Here’s what to watch for.
A safe zone-of-fire, which is the area or zone where a hunter can shoot safely, spans about 45 degrees directly in front of each hunter. To visualize your safe zone-of-fire, focus on a distant object straight ahead. Now, hold your thumbs out at your sides. Then, slowly draw your thumbs in front of you. When each thumb is in focus, without moving your eyes, you have set the boundaries of your safe zone-of-fire. It’s important to never shoot outside of your safe zone-of-fire. This is because our peripheral vision limits what we can see clearly. If you can’t immediately see that an area is clear and safe, then it’s outside of your safe zone-of-fire.
What happens when you add the rush and excitement of flushing birds or seeing a deer? A whole new element kicks in, called target fixation. Target fixation will cause you to focus on your target, making a good shot, although not in the case of the deer hunter. It could also cause you to lose sight of your shooting zone, potentially losing track of people, buildings or roadways in the distance, and even make you lose sight of other hunters. Surely this happened with the deer hunter who shot toward Sowders and Strobl. The hunter fixated on hitting his target, traveled outside his safe zone-of-fire, and failed to identify the pair of hunters in the background. What can we learn from the deer hunter? Don’t let target fixation override your sense of safety, and stay within your safe zone-of-fire.
The hunter safety courses at www.hunter-ed.com include videos that cover these safety concerns with professional actors and fun, up-to-date scenarios that enhance learning. “Safe Zones-of-Fire” and “After the Shot” cover the importance of obeying safe zones-of-fire and how to deal with target fixation. The course also includes videos covering blaze orange, safe gun carries, ballistics, plus much more to improve your safety in the field. Plus, it’s the same material that’s taught in the classroom and is approved by the state agencies responsible for hunter safety education. Check out the video below to learn more.