According to Fort Knox Conservation Office officials, safety is an important part of hunting, and those who properly plan and prepare will greatly improve their chances for a successful and fun hunt.

"We ask that hunters be cognizant of the traits they learned in their basic hunter education class - practice safe hunting [measures], follow the guidelines and be respectful of other hunters," said Gerry LaPlace, a Fort Knox conservation officer. LaPlace said most of the dangers he has seen in the woods haven't come from weapons or wildlife, but from unpreparedness.

"Hunters should check all hunting equipment and ensure that safety items are working and usable," said LaPlace. "Prepare for your cell phone to die -- which is most people's GPS too. Plan for the batteries on your flashlight to go out and pack a charger and extra batteries."

LaPlace also encourages hunters to discuss plans, to include where they're going and when they plan to return, with friends or loved ones before heading out in the woods.

LaPlace said it's important to plan for the worst.

"We don't allow camp fires, but it can get extremely cold out there. If you get stuck, you should have a fire starting kit to stay safe until help arrives," he said.

According to LaPlace, many hunters don't prepare for the physical rigors of the woods.

"Hunters should take a personal inventory before they get out there," he said. "A lot of [hunters] like to go in deep to their hunt site, but it can get hairy out there with some very steep terrain. Many hunters realize that when they're out scouting an area and they prepare to build up their stamina."

He added that the trip out could be a whole different experience than the trip in.

"When you have to carry out a 120 pound deer or even a 90 pound deer; it gets pretty heavy. It can create a lot of stress on the body and could be dangerous to someone with a heart condition," LaPlace said. "Ask for help. Most people in the hunting community will help a fellow hunter without question. Don't get hurt. Call hunt control. We'll assist people with getting their deer out."

LaPlace said that the iSportsman system has become an important means to hunter safety, but hunters who don't use it properly could waste valuable man hours and resources.

The electronic system allows hunters and fishermen to check into and out of the many hunting areas on the Army post and this provides conservation officers with an updated list of hunters in all of the hunting areas.

"The iSportsman system has become our primary means of finding somebody. Typically, when someone doesn't show up at the house, we'll get a call from family or friends to check on them," LaPlace said. "Our immediate concern is their safety."

Neglecting to checkout might leave others out in the cold, said LaPlace.

"[We use] the system to look at the area where they were hunting. That's my starting point. [Their vehicle] becomes a secondary reference point to use figure out where they're at and if they need help," he said. "If you forget to sign out or don't sign out, we get a call from Hunt Control. [We show] that you're still in section five, when you're actually back at the house watching TV."

"Many times we expend personnel and person-hours searching for someone only to find out they're already home."

LaPlace said if everyone follows the rules, prepares and utilizes the resources at their disposal, the result should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.