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PIERRE, S.D.—The opening day of pheasant season is a time to enjoy the outdoors and renew old acquaintances. However, all of the activity and excitement of the hunt shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of safety.

“Hunters can’t let their enthusiasm for opening day cloud their better judgment,” said Curt Robertson, hunter safety program specialist for the S.D. Department of Game, Fish and Parks. “They need to practice safe hunting techniques at all times.”

To that end, Robertson offers a list of Top 10 safety points that hunters should always keep in mind. They include:
• Watch that muzzle! Keep it pointed in a safe direction at all times
• Treat every firearm with the respect due a loaded gun. It might be loaded, even though you think it isn’t.
• Be sure of the target and what is in front of it and beyond it. Know the identifying features of the game you hunt. Know the location of all your hunting partners at all times.
• Keep your finger outside and alongside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot. This is the best way to prevent an accidental discharge.
• Check your barrel and ammunition. Make sure the barrel and action are free of obstructions and carry only the proper ammunition for your firearm.
• Unload firearms when not in use. Leave actions open; carry firearms in cases and unloaded to and from the shooting area. Unload firearms before you enter a vehicle and leave the action open.
• Wear blaze orange hats, shooting glasses and hearing protection. Keep yourself safe as well as others.
• Don’t run, jump or climb with a loaded firearm. Unload firearms before crossing fences or jumping a ditch.
• Stay straight to shoot straight. Shun alcoholic beverages before and during the hunt. Also avoid mind- or behavior-altering medicines or drugs.
• You are responsible! When you discharge a firearm, you are responsible for the results. When in doubt, don’t shoot.

GFP brood counts indicate a near record pheasant population in South Dakota this year. “There are plenty of pheasants out there,” Robertson said, “so be patient and always take the safe shot.”

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