Instructor's firearm experience holds lessons for all

22nd April 2021|3 min

It was supposed to be a social evening of possum shooting on his Marlborough property, but a very close call taught Nine Scott a valuable firearms safety lesson that has been “stuck in the back of my mind for a long time”.  

As this year’s duck shooting Opening Weekend looms on May 1, Scott, a NZ Mountain Safety Council firearms safety instructor, hopes a near-miss experience will encourage hunters to think about firearms safety and their firing zones before heading out this year.   

Scott and two of his mates decided to go out possum shooting on dusk one day in February almost a decade ago.  

We headed out together at night it was a bit late as it was summer.” 
After a while the group had a few possums, so they decided to change tactic to rabbits.  

Not long after, one of the shooters caught sight of a rabbit nearby. 
 

He was getting ready to shoot then the rabbit took off, but he followed it through and let the trigger go.  

“Then we heard a ‘
clunk’.” 

He had shot his own car, Scott said. 
 

“He had a nice ‘22-sized dent in his passenger door.”
 

“The story is that he shot his car which was about 25metres behind the rabbit that was obscured by bush behind it, but of course the moral of the story is it 
could’ve been a person.

"... but of course the moral of the story is it could've been a person"

“If you’re not familiar with your layout, especially at night, and you have a shot at something that’s moving, you need to know what’s in your field,” he said.  

Hunting at night creates a range of unique environmental conditions and risks meaning night hunters are more susceptible to serious firearm accidents including misidentified target incidents. 
 

“This 
incident happened before I became an instructor and it’s something that has stuck in the back of my mind for a long time. . . It had potential to be a nightmare,” Scott said. 

“Since then, I always make sure that anybody who is not familiar with the area has a daytime walk through to understand the layout."
 

Scott urges hunters this duck shooting season to know their surroundings 
and firing zone’s before heading out.  

“One thing I found out that it’s not just thinking about where the bullet lands if you miss, but also the realisation that bullets can actually go through animals and be landing in places that are totally out of your control.
 

“Those things should be seriously considered before you pull that trigger,” he said.

Nine Scott’s key learnings: 
  • Hunters should think beyond the pulling the trigger and consider what may happen if the shot misses and where will the bullet land. 
  • Be familiar with surroundings before pulling the trigger.

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Some safety reminders from MSC

The same considerations are required for duck shooting, at an even more considered level. The below points are key components of the 5th step of the Firearms Safety Rules 'Check your Firing Zone':  

  • Never fire when companions are ahead of you, especially when you have lost sight of them.  
  • Never shoot when stock, human activity or buildings are in the area. 
  • It is unsafe to shoot at a target on the skyline. Remember that many hunting areas have rural and urban developments close by. 
  • Night shooting is dangerous, especially if using telescopic sights, so only shoot at night if you are certain it is safe to do so. Spotlights light up only a small part of the firing zone and the projectile’s range. It is forbidden to shoot during the hours of darkness in any state forest, forest park or national park. 
  • Use extra care when shooting at a moving target, particularly with telescopic sights, because your field of view is limited and changes rapidly. There is a greater danger of someone moving into your firing zone without you noticing. 
  • When shooting near thick bush or scrub you may not be able to see your whole firing zone. 
  • A charge of shot from a shotgun has a widespread, particularly at longer ranges. 
  • Ricochets can be caused by any flat or hard surfaces – rocks, snow, trees and even water. Be especially careful in rocky river beds

Continue your learning

If you have stories or tips to help other hunters stay safe this duck shooting season, we would love to use it to help others. Get in touch with Rebekah.Wilson@mountainsafety.org.nz.