FORT STEWART Ga. - Since 1959, public hunting on Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield has been considered a hunter's paradise because the installation is home to over 350 species of wildlife. As directed by Army regulation 420-4, the installation provides an abundance of outdoor space for hunting enthusiasts. Although the installation maintains a good safety record, hunting safety remains critical for Soldiers, Family Members and civilians who choose to hunt on the installation.

"Simply put, Safety is important because you are carrying a firearm," Safety Specialist, Chris McCormick, said. "Folks can get careless with firearms and unfortunately we do see some accidents at various locations."

"Hunter safety is a priority on Stewart-Hunter because it helps prevent hunting and shooting accidents," Conservation Law Enforcement Branch Chief, Greg Harvey, said. "It also improves hunter behavior and compliance with federal and state hunting laws and regulations." He added that responsible, ethical behavior and personal involvement are both essential to the survival of hunting.

According to McCormick, situational awareness means when you are hunting in the woods, you must clearly identify your target before shooting. "When you hear that animal moving, you must identify your target and make sure that when you pull the trigger, you are pulling the trigger on your prey."

In addition, sportsmen should never transport a loaded firearm. He explained that hunters leave too much room for error simply by transporting a loaded firearm.

In addition to basic firearm safety, Wildlife Biologist Justin Chafin explained that hunters are required to wear 500 square inches of hunter orange on their chest, making themselves clearly visible when they are in the woods. He added, to never hunt from the road and simply by familiarizing yourself with the regulation will help keep you and other sportsmen safe.

"Like driving a vehicle, before you get in it you want to learn how it operates and its potential dangers and handling a firearm is no different, Chafin explained.

The installation offers a wealth of resources designed for sportsman to stay safe while enjoying their outdoor experience. The pass and permit office on Stewart (912-435-8033) and Hunter (912-315-5163), along with the Web site is a great place to start prior to hunting on the installation.

Additional hunting safety tips include:
• Treat every gun as if loaded.
• Be sure of your target and beyond.
• Always point your gun in a safe direction.
• Never put "too much" trust in the safety mechanism.
• Never transport a loaded firearm.
• Never climb with a weapon. Pull your gun or bow up from the ground after you are in your tree stand and then load.
• Always tell someone where you are hunting.