Let me preface this by saying that I have endless respect for hunter-safety instructors and the work they do. We all owe them a debt that can never be adequately repaid.

That said, I’ve noticed over the years that we seem to have an unusual number of safety nazis in the ranks of our readers. These are the folks who say that you never, ever do thus and such because it might possibly be unsafe, and if you suggest anything to the contrary, you are a yahoo and a menace.

Now, you never point a gun at another person unless you want to shoot them, and you don’t blast road signs, and you don’t shoot at anything unless you’re absolutely certain what it is. But I’ve been told that you never run with a loaded rifle, and I have done just that, many times, most often to get a second shot into an escaping animal and save it hours or days of agony. I’ve climbed up iffy tree stands, and done all manner of fairly chancy stuff that would not be approved of in hunter safety ed.

Hunting, you see, is inherently risky, as is driving an automobile. Guns are dangerous, and there is always the chance of an accident no matter how careful you are. Bush planes crash, horses will cheerfully kill you the first chance they get, bears can attack you, and you can get lost and die from hypothermia.

Hunting is comprised mainly of gray areas, and the degree to which you navigate them successfully depends on your judgment,  and judgment can’t be taught. There is much in the sport that is intrinsically unsafe, and unless you are willing to accept that, you are not going to have much of a career as a hunter.