Hunter Safety Hunter Safety
  1. Be SMART

    • The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers the acronym SMART as an overview to the five primary firearm safety rules.

      S–Safe Direction: Keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction at all times.

      M–Make Sure: Ensure you have positively identified your target before firing.

      A–Always Check: Be aware of what is surrounding and behind your target before firing.

      R–Respect Firearms: Always handle your firearm as if it were loaded.

      T–Trigger Caution: Never touch the firearm trigger until you are ready to fire.


    • The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers demonstration of six ways to carry your firearm safely in the online course overview. The trail carry allows you to have a free hand with the firearm slightly under your arm, against your side, while holding the firearm near the bolt and pointing the muzzle down in front of you. The sling carry also allows for a free hand with the sling over your shoulder, the muzzle pointing straight up and one hand holding the sling to ensure the firearm will not slip while hiking. These two carries, as well as the other four--elbow carry, ready carry, cradle carry and shoulder carry--allow for the muzzle of the firearm to be pointed either up or down and away from other hunters.


    • In Pennsylvania, a hunter is required to wear florescent orange clothing on 250 inches of his body for fall hunting and 100 inches of his body for spring hunting. For safety purposes, the more orange you are wearing while hunting, the safer you will be. Smaller amounts of orange lead to a larger chance of another hunter not seeing that you are in his zone of fire when he fires his weapon.


    • Some terrain in Pennsylvania may be extremely rocky, require a steep climb or be so thick in brush that visibility is minimal. The Pennsylvania Game Commission recommends visiting your chosen hunting area in the offseason and ensuring your familiarity with the location before hunting on the land. If possible, review a topographic map of the area. Be prepared for terrain changes during the hunt. Heavy snow or rain can make your trek more difficult and change the difficulty of your expected terrain quickly. Be careful of unregulated, abandoned mine shafts. Many of these shafts are unsteady and could allow for the ground around them to sink quickly. In addition, never seek shelter inside an abandoned mine shaft. These shafts are often decades old, with severely deteriorating materials that can collapse at any time, even under the slightest amount of pressure.

    Dangerous Animals

    • When hunting small game, such as squirrel and rabbit, your weapon and ammunition may often not be strong enough to ensure worst case scenario protection against large game, such as bear. In addition, snakes are often hard to see and in most cases, uninvited guests. Keep aware of all of your surroundings at all times. If you see a bear, snake or other dangerous creature, maneuver around it with as little disturbance as possible.


    • Always check the weather before you leave for your hunting trip and be sure to plan accordingly. Weather in Pennsylvania can go through both extremes of extremely hot to extremely cold. In cold months, a hunter can run the risk of hypothermia and frostbite. In the warmer months, a hunter runs the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Especially in the colder months, the weather can turn for the worse rapidly. Always be prepared with extra water, dry clothing and campfire-making materials.