For the 2009-2010 deer hunting season, Georgia reported 45 hunting incidents, 14 of which involved firearms. With the upcoming opening of firearms deer hunting season, hunters are encouraged to review the Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety before heading to the woods.
"Ultimately, each hunter is responsible for keeping themselves and others safe while pursuing deer this hunting season," Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division Hunter Development Program Manager Walter Lane said in a release. "This includes respecting all firearms and being absolutely certain of their target."
The Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety is a safety checklist covered in all hunter education courses and should be reviewed by any hunter who utilizes firearms to hunt. The commandments are:
* Control the direction of the firearm's muzzle. Keep the safety on and fingers off the trigger at all times until ready to shoot.
* Identify the target and what is beyond it before shooting. Know the identifying features of the game hunted and be absolutely certain that what you are aiming at is that game.
* Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
* Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and that only the proper size ammunition is used in the firearm.
* Always unload a firearm when it is not in use, leave the actions open, and carry empty firearms in a case to and from shooting areas.
* Never aim a firearm at anything that you do not intend to shoot. Avoid all horseplay with a firearm.
* Never climb a tree or fence, or jump a ditch or log, with a loaded firearm. Never pull a firearm towards you by the muzzle.
* Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or at water. Make sure backstops are adequate during target practice.
* Store firearms and ammunition separately and beyond the reach of children and careless adults.
* Avoid all alcoholic beverages and drugs before and during shooting.
For more information on firearms safety, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com or contact the Wildlife Resources Division's Hunter Education office at 770-388-0045.
Firearms deer hunting seasons spans through Jan. 1 in the Northern Zone and Jan. 15 in the Southern Zone.
"Regulated hunting is the most cost effective and efficient means of managing the deer herd," Assistant Chief of Game Management for the Wildlife Resources Division John W. Bowers said in a release. "In addition, sportsmen and women provide more than $30 million each year to fund wildlife conservation in the state through license fees and self-imposed excise taxes collected on the purchase of firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and fishing equipment."
More than 1 million acres of public hunting land is available to hunters in Georgia, including more than 100 state-operated wildlife management areas. In addition to traditional hunters, many special hunts are offered, including ladies-only and adult/child hunts. Dates and locations for these hunts, as well as WMA maps, are available in the 2010-2011 Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations guide at www.gohuntgeorgia.com.
During the 2009-2010 firearms deer season, 305,000 licensed hunters harvested more than 398,000 deer in Georgia.
Hunters are allowed a season total of 10 antlerless deer and two antlered deer (one of the two antlered deer must have a minimum of four points, 1 inch or longer, on one side of the antlers).
A valid hunting license is required to hunt deer during firearms season, as is a big game license and a deer harvest record. In most cases, a separate WMA license is required to hunt on a WMA. All deer hunters must wear at least 500 square-inches of fluorescent orange above the waist to legally hunt during firearms season, except on archery-only areas.
Georgia is considered the top destination in the country for non-resident hunters and continues to draw tens of thousands of hunters from across the country each year. The state's quality deer herd and the availability of vast acres of public hunting land serve as the main appeal.
For more information on deer hunting seasons and regulations, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com.