Following a recent incident in which a hunter accidentally shot himself in the foot with a muzzleloader before starting to deer hunt, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police and the Delaware Hunter Education Program remind hunters to observe safe gun handling and hunting practices before, during and after they have gone afield in pursuit of game animals.
Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers on Oct. 7 responded to Milford Memorial Hospital, where a 32-year-old downstate man was treated following a hunting accident near Harrington. The man told investigating officers that while preparing to go deer hunting, he failed to check whether his muzzleloader contained a powder charge and had a bullet in it before putting a live percussion cap in the rifle. Bypassing these precautionary measures, he placed the muzzleloader against his right foot, squeezed the trigger, and discharged a .50-caliber round into his foot.
“He told officers he thought the muzzleloader was unloaded, and wanted to fire a cap to be sure the firing nipple was clear in the ignition passage,” said Lt. Carl Winckoski, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police. He also noted the injured hunter was in stable condition following emergency hospital treatment.
“The very first thing we teach in every Delaware Hunter Education Course are the four critical rules of gun safety,” said Delaware Hunter Education Coordinator Mark Ostroski. “Never, never for any reason point your firearm – loaded or unloaded – at yourself or another person. That’s the key message of rule number one.”
Ostroski stressed all four rules of gun safety, reiterating the first: ALWAYS keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Never point at anything you do not intend to shoot;Treat every firearm as if it were loaded, even when you are sure it is empty;Be absolutely certain of your target and what lies beyond and in front of your target; and Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police also advise hunters to become familiar with state, county and local regulations before choosing their hunting spots, and share a reminder to hunters to always be observant of their surroundings and take appropriate safety precautions. Hunters should always consider their surroundings and how far the ammunition they are using can travel, since it is illegal in Delaware to discharge a firearm so that a shotgun pellet, slug or bullet lands upon any occupied dwelling, house or residence, or any related barn, stable or other outbuilding.
In addition, only the owner or occupant or a person with specific permission from the owner or occupant can legally discharge a firearm within 100 yards of an occupied dwelling, house or residence, or any related barn, stable or other outbuilding. (NOTE: The statewide safety zone for archery deer hunting, including crossbows, is 50 yards.) Within this safety zone, it is illegal for anyone other than the owner or occupant to hunt, trap, pursue, disturb or otherwise chase any wild animal or bird without advance permission of the owner or occupant.
Discharging a firearm while on or within 15 yards of a public road or right-of-way is also illegal in Delaware, unless it is an area controlled by DNREC, the Department of Agriculture or the U.S. Department of the Interior and designated as an area open to hunting or trapping. Shooting at a wild fowl or animals in a public roadway or firing across a public roadway is also prohibited.
Upstate hunters should also note that New Castle County has its own ordinances, including a 200-yard firearm safety zone from homes, structures and camps north of I-295 and I-95 in which firearms may not be discharged, and a 100-yard firearm safety zone south of I-295 and I-95. (NOTE: A 50-yard safety zone for archery deer hunting, including crossbows, is in effect for all of New Castle County.) For more information, please check New Castle County laws and code.
For information on the Delaware Hunter Education Program, click Hunter Education. More information on muzzleloader hunting safety can be found at this website.
For more information on hunting in Delaware, click on 2016-2017 Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide. The guide also is available in printed form at DNREC’s Dover licensing desk in the Richardson & Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, and from license agents throughout the state. For information about Sunday deer hunting in Delaware, which is allowed for the first time on five Sundays during the 2016/17 hunting season due to a recent change in state law, please visit Sunday deer hunting.
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