FALL RIVER COUNTY, S.D. — As you’re headed out for target practice or to hunt in the upcoming seasons, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks has some safety tips that can help keep you and your friends safe.
“First and foremost, anytime we’re around, you know, a gun range, guns in general, we want to have proper safety equipment. So as you can see today, you know, we both have our ear protection on, we’ve got eye protection on, and that’s crucial. We get two of each and we don’t get to change those,” says South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Conservation Officer Chris Dekker.
As far as eye protection goes, there are plenty of options. Mainly, “we want something that is going to protect your eyes. It’s going to be resistant to anything that may ricochet back and dust particles, anything. If something were to drastically go wrong with your weapon, it’s going to help protect your eyes,” Officer Dekker explained.
In terms of ear protection, Officer Dekker explains that “ear protection comes in varying styles and ranges.” Some are electronic, filtering some sound through, but dampening the sounds associated with firing a gun.
“These ones, what they do is they enhance sound right now, and then as soon as there’s a loud noise, even a snap, it dampens that sound, cuts it down to where it’s not going to hurt our ears.”
Staying safe while heading downrange to set up targets is also an important part of having a successful trip to the gun range.
“First of all, we want to make sure that the range is safe. So if anybody is going down range, the range is cold, which means actions are open, safe doors are on, guns are pointed down range and away from where anybody’s going to be, or they’re still in a case,” explains Officer Dekker.
If you’re going shooting in a group, communication and planning can also help make sure the experience is safe and fun.
“If you’re all going out together, establish ground rules ahead of time,” Officer Dekker adds. “Any time we’re down range, range is cold. Actions open, safety on, guns are unloaded, any of us can call a ceasefire. We can stop shooting at any time if something unsafe happens.”
“You always have to have your head on a swivel. So if we’re out at the gun range and if someone shows up and they’re coming to shoot, maybe they’ve got kids. We’ve got to be cognizant of those kids.”
However, he also explains that kids have often taken safety classes more recently than adults.
“You know, sometimes kids are our safest hunters. When I teach them in HuntSafe, I say, you guys are the safest hunters out there because you just went through a class and you know how to do things the right way.”
When handling firearms, Officer Dekker reminds us to pay constant attention to what we’re doing, and our surroundings.
“You know, there’s a saying complacency kills, and that’s fact. When you get used to something, you get around something, you’re not paying attention to it. That’s when incidences and problems can happen.”
He also suggests bringing first aid equipment, and knowing where safety and medical equipment is locate when visiting a range.
“They’ll have that equipment available in case something bad does happen, because things do happen. Fundamental rules of gun safety do get violated by people. And, you know, we want to make sure that we’re able to help people in an emergency.”