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Hunting safety is important

With many hunting seasons in Mississippi opening in November, it is time to refresh hunters on some basic gun safety rules.

Oxford and Lafayette County residents are fortunate to have local public hunting opportunities available with the Upper Sardis WMA and also Graham Lake WMA. Sardis Lake, during certain parts of the season has plenty of waterfowl opportunities available for local duck hunters.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there are 10 basic rules for safe gun handling:

1. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction

2. Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use

3. Don’t rely on your gun’s safety

4. Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it

5. Use correct ammunition

6. If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle it with care

7. Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting

8. Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting

9. Don’t alter or modify your gun, and have guns serviced regularly

10. Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using

Mississippi residents born after January 1972 are required to complete a hunter education course before purchasing a hunting license. Also, effective July 1, 2000, anyone between 12-16 years old must have a certificate of satisfactory completion of a hunter education course approved by the Department of Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, & Parks before hunting alone in the state.

These free courses offered in Mississippi have helped reduce the number of firearms-related accidents. They are also designed to:

•reduce hunting and tree stand accidents

• teach hunter ethics

• promote wildlife conservation

• teach firearm safety

The closest opportunity for residents in Lafayette County to obtain your hunter education card will be on Nov. 17 at Elvis Presley State Park located in Tupelo from 1-5 p.m. Participants in the class are required to have completed the online portion of the class before attending this class for the final three hours of completion.

For deer hunters in Mississippi, tree stand accidents are the number one cause of injuries. During the 2014-2015 season, there were 12 different accidents reported with seven of them involving tree stands accidents.

Hunting season is a special time to spend with family and friends. Please make sure and respect your gun and those around you.