Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   



Hunting FAQ

Is it Safe?

“Safety First!” is a popular adage used in hunter education. Thanks to the hunter education program and safety regulations (such as the use of blaze orange on public lands), hunting incidents dropped to one to two fatalities and 20 injuries per year in the last decade, down from an average of 30 fatalities and 80 injuries per year in the 1960s. In 2020, there were 24 accidents with only one fatality.

The 10 Commandments of Shooting and Hunting Safety have been the centerpiece of hunter education coursework since the 1940s; the National Rifle Association and the State of New York passed the first mandatory hunter education safety program in the nation in 1949. Today, all states and Canadian provinces, and many other countries, require hunter education. Certification is reciprocal because of national standards adopted through the International Hunter Education Association (ihea-usa.org).

10 Commandments of Hunting and Shooting Safety

1. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
2. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
3. Be sure of the target, what’s in front and behind.
4. Unload firearms when no longer hunting.
5. Handle firearms carefully; use two hands with long firearms.
6. Know your “safe zone of fire” and stick to it.
7. Control your emotions when it comes to safety.
8. Wear ear and eye protection, especially at the range.
9. Avoid alcohol and mood-altering drugs before and during the hunt.
10. Be mindful of added conditions that require safety awareness.

Is It Legal?

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As Texas peace officers, game wardens enforce laws designed to keep recreationists and the public safe, ensure fair chase and fair share, protect habitats and water, conserve wildlife populations and apprehend poachers, as well as many other responsibilities. Their main duty is to educate users in the safe, responsible and knowledgeable use of the Texas outdoors.

The most common citation written in Texas is having no proof of hunter education certification — easily remedied by simply taking the course to void the ticket. Ninety-five percent of hunter education graduates rate their experience as “satisfactory” or “very satisfactory,” with comments such as “I learned more than expected — more than just safety!”

Courses are provided year-round and in three convenient formats – 1) classroom, 2) internet plus field course and 3) internet-only (for ages 17 and above). The field course is the most popular since it involves going through a mock hunter skills trail, participating in an open discussion about hunting ethics with peers and practicing live-fire skills such as small-bore rifle, shotgun or air gun.

The other citations most written in Texas include:

• Over the daily bag limit on dove
• No hunting license or failure to show
• Untagged white-tailed deer
• No “plug” in pump/semiautomatic shotguns (migratory birds)
• Failure to complete white-tailed deer harvest log
• Hunting or possession of game in closed season
• Tagging of illegal buck (under 13-inch spread)
• Illegally hunting over bait (migratory birds)

Is It Ethical?

“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”
— Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac

Hunter education instructors often tell their students that “Ethics are caught, not taught.”

The tricky thing about hunting’s unwritten laws (or any ethics) is that they represent moral codes and discussions that may be difficult to corral because of differing backgrounds, beliefs, religions, cultures, nationalities, etc. Hunters generally know what is basically wrong or right, but there are enough gray areas to promote a healthy discussion of the correct course of action for a hunter presented with a dilemma.

“Most people want to be good, and most hunters want to be honorable and ethical,” says author Michael Sabbeth. “For them, honoring the animal, the land, the hunting culture and themselves are sources of pride and self-respect. But to be an honorable hunter, wanting is not enough. Doing good, doing what’s right, is the result of several complex thoughts, actions and character traits.”

Sabbeth recounts examples of kids standing up to others when they throw rocks at a bull snake or trespass during a hunt.

“What kind of friends did this hunter have?” Sabbeth asks. “Friends that wanted him to break the law; that wanted him to risk having his firearm confiscated; that wanted him at risk fines and perhaps lose his hunting privileges. Maybe they’re friends but they cannot logically be considered friends that care about his best interests. At that moment, at least, they were not good friends.”

Sabbeth goes on to say that we shouldn’t give others the power to influence us about right and wrong. Right and wrong are not determined by the number of believers. Whether one person disagrees with you or whether 100 million people disagree with you has nothing to do with whether you are right or wrong. Either facts support your ideas and actions, or they do not. Numbers are irrelevant; character and honor are all that matter.

More Hunters Ed!

  • 50 Years of Hunter Education in Texas
  • Texas R3 Strategic Plan
  • By the Numbers
  • Hunting 101s
  • Get Ready
  • Get Set
  • Go!
  • The Thrill of Hunting Dove
  • Dove Hunting By the Numbers
  • Mentors
  • Recipe: Venison
  • Recipe: Pulled Pork
  • Recipe: Jalapeno Dove Poppers

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