Iowa's first shotgun deer season opens Dec. 1, and while optimism for a successful hunt is the primary focus, hunters are encouraged to brush up on safe hunting practices.
An estimated 70,000 hunters are expected to take to the timber on Saturday, and Megan Wisecup with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Recreation Safety Program said the tradition is rooted in the experiences of friends and family.
"If you think about who we go hunting with our friends and our family it is important to practice safe hunting techniques to make sure we all get home at the end of the day," Wisecup said.
Hunters' shooting at running deer is the top cause of deer hunting incidents.
"Hunters are urged to not shoot at a running deer. Hunters tend to get fixated on their target and when a deer is running, they forget about their surroundings. Look beyond your target and clearly identify the target before taking the shot," Wisecup said. "You must be certain you have a clear, safe shot. Never point your firearm at anything you do not want to shoot."
That advice can help to prevent self inflicted wounds as well.
"Hunters need to remember the basic firearm handling rules in the field," she said.
Basic firearm rules are always point the muzzle in a safe direction; treat every firearm as though it were loaded; unload the firearm and open the action, especially when crossing obstacles, until you are ready to shoot; keep the barrel clear and choose the proper ammunition.
Wisecup encouraged hunters to wear plenty of blaze orange and to discuss the hunting plan with everyone in the group.
"You want to be seen from all sides in the woods," she said. "It is also important to discuss the hunting plan that will outline the role for each person and where they will be during the hunt. Plan your hunt and hunt your plan. It is critical to communicate with your hunting partners to ensure everyone knows where each other is at all times."
In 2011, there were 19 deer hunting related incidents in Iowa: 13 personal injuries and six property damage. There were no deer hunting fatalities in 2011.