By Peter Kennedy
Safety while shooting is a subject very close to my heart. I can speak from first-hand experience, having attended countless accidents by virtue of my occupation.
where people have either been seriously injured or killed while pursuing the hunting sports. Now before the anti’s start waving banners and banging drums, I can assure you that very few of these incidents have involved a firearm as the direct cause of any resulting injury or death. The fact is that the majority of these incidents have occurred as the result of motor vehicle accidents at night during a routine spotlighting session where participants have either been complacent, intoxicated or unfamiliar with their surroundings.
The unfortunate thing is that many of these accidents could have been prevented if a few safety measures were implemented. Believe me, it is a difficult and emotional task, having to attend a home address to inform family members that a love one has been injured or killed as the result of an accident. Such incidents not only affect loved ones. The direct flow on, often affects those emergency personnel who attend and process the accident scene, particularly in small country communities.
Spotlighting or lamping from a motor vehicle is perhaps one of the most dangerous methods in which to hunt feral game. Spotlighting from moving vehicles has been deemed so dangerous in fact that the practice has been outlawed in many European countries and more surprisingly some States of the USA. In Australia, spotlighting more often than not involves handling firearms and shooting from the tray of a utility. There are numerous potential hazards when combining darkness, motor vehicles and firearms. Here is some tough advice that may prevent you from experiencing the unthinkable, while enjoying the success and opportunities that spotlighting from a vehicle can provide for the safety conscious shooter.
The greatest risk to any shooter is consuming alcohol prior to or during a hunting outing. It goes without saying that alcohol, motor vehicles and firearms don’t mix. Alcohol is a depressant drug which actively impairs judgement and reactive capabilities of the human brain and central nervous system. Sure all people process alcohol at different metabolic rates however the risk of injury or death increases tenfold if alcohol is consumed prior to handling firearms or driving a motor vehicle. It is perhaps pertinent to remind people that even though you may be consuming alcohol and shooting on private property, should things go pear shaped, legal repercussions certainly exist. If you’re out bush and settle in for a few beers around the campfire, leave the firearms locked away and vehicles parked. Is it really worth risking your life and perhaps the life of others for a few moments of what may seem like a good idea at the time?
As Australians, we all love our utes. By default the tray of a utility has become a favoured platform for the spotlighting shooter, given the elevated shooting position and ability to cover large swathes of country over
a couple of hours. My experience is that the tray of
a ute poses numerous risks to the shooter and light operator, who are actively trying to hold on to a rifle, spotlight and the headboard of the ute while the vehicle is in motion. Perhaps the saddest incident I have heard of was that of a young boy being thrown from the back of a ute while his father set about chasing pigs across crop stubble at high speed, without consideration for those trying to hang on in the tray. All I can say is that the trip ended in tragedy, when
a cool head and some forethought may have prevented the inevitable. In saying this, at the recent Australian Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Expo (ASHOE) in Tamworth, I stumbled across some new kit that
I personally thought was one of the best ideas to hit the spotlighting scene to date. This product, manufactured by “Eagleye Hunting Gear”, is known as the “Blackbelt”. Essentially the Blackbelt is a, H harness which fits over the wearer’s shoulders and torso, adjustable to all body types buckled at the waist. The Blackbelt is then secured to the headboard or roll bar of a utility utilising a safety buckle and strap which can be released in seconds in the event of an emergency. This innovative idea is designed amongst other options, to support and prevent shooters or spot lighter’s from falling in or out of the ute’s tray with any sudden vehicle movements, leaving hands free to safely secure firearms etc. This idea impressed me so much, that
I have since purchased a couple for my kids and don’t allow them on the back of the ute without wearing a Blackbelt. I have little doubt that this seatbelt like product is capable of preventing or at least reducing the risks in a scenario similar to that given above. The Blackbelt is available at all good retailers or on-line. Any firearm stored in the back of a ute should not be loaded until the shooter has safely identified his or her target. Remember firearms are sensitive to sudden ovement, which in turn can trigger an unintentional discharge
if handled and stored in a loaded, operational condition. Never get on or off a vehicle with a loaded firearm.
The driver of a motor vehicle is responsible for everyone’s safety during a spotlighting trip. It is essential that the driver be confident in his or her driving ability and have adequate knowledge of the hunting area. Melon holes and tree stumps hidden in long grass have been the undoing of many a good hunting trip. Knowledge of paddocks, obstacles and the lay of the land is recommended for anyone choosing to drive for a hunting party. Remember that things look awfully different at night and it doesn’t take long for panic to set in should the driver lose their bearings or get stuck on or in some unseen obstacle. Try to make your driving as smooth as possible, choosing tracks clear of tree branches and other overhead obstacle, giving consideration to those on the back.
This article is not written with the intention of preaching what in essence should be common sense. Unfortunately I have witnessed to many such incidents that at times
I think common sense
has gone out the window. All I am asking is to give some consideration to the safety of yourself and others. The anti-shooting community is just looking for an excuse to ban spotlighting in Australia. Let’s be sensible about the way we do things, so we can all enjoy spotlight shooting well into the future.
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