Editorials represent the institutional view of the newspaper. They are written and edited by the editorial staff, which operates separately from the news department. Editorial writers are not involved in newsroom operations.

Editorial: Hunting is a great Southern tradition. Let’s keep it safe

Youth deer draw hunts to be conducted this fall (copy)

Hunting and fishing during the holidays is time-honored tradition in South Carolina, one we want to see continue with the utmost safety in mind.

However many accidental hunting deaths occur in South Carolina this year, it will be too many.

Two 9-year-olds have been killed in five weeks, including a boy accidentally shot by his father on Thanksgiving Day in Orangeburg County and a girl — and her father — accidentally shot on New Year’s Day in Colleton County. Like many hunting accidents, these are doubly tragic because they involve family members and occurred during the holidays.

Fortunately, fatal hunting accidents have been declining for years, as have accidental gun deaths in general. But it still stands that if they’re accidents, they probably could have been avoided. Freak hunting accidents do occur — deer hunters fall from stands, dogs step on triggers, wounded deer gore hunters — but most involving guns can be avoided.

Hunting and fishing during the holidays is a time-honored tradition in South Carolina, one we want to see continue with the utmost safety in mind.

So treat all guns as if they’re loaded. Never point one at something you don’t intend to kill. And keep your finger off the trigger until then.

Adults have to take responsibility for children. That’s a mighty burden when it comes to hunting and deciding how young is too young. In South Carolina, you don’t need a hunting license if you’re younger than 16, but those 15 and under may hunt — or be taken hunting.

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Certainly, anyone carrying a gun or even tagging along on a hunt must be well-schooled in gun safety. That’s especially true for younger, less experienced hunters.

They need to learn to keep guns unloaded until they are in the field; use the safety when walking or climbing with a gun; release the safety only when they’re ready to shoot; and not to pull the trigger until they can clearly identify what they’re shooting at.

Apparently, the father and daughter killed near Walterboro were mistaken for deer. Four other hunters were walking through the woods, trying to “drive” some deer when Kim Drawdy, 30, and his 9-year-old daughter Lauren were shot on the final day of deer season, authorities said.

Wearing blaze orange, which doesn’t typically occur in nature, offers some protection against being confused with prey.

In Orangeburg County, 9-year-old Colton Williams of Williston was fatally shot by his father while rabbit hunting on Thanksgiving. What, if anything, might have prevented that accident hasn’t been disclosed, but it will be something that will haunt his father forever. Though the family received an outpouring of support — more than $15,000 for funeral expenses was raised, and the boy’s organs were harvested to help save the lives of three other children — comfort comes hard amid such a tragedy.

Last year, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources logged 16 hunting accidents, 11 involving firearms. Undoubtedly, there were more that went unreported. Two accidents involving firearms were fatal, spokesman David Lucas told The Post and Courier. Another hunter was killed in a fall from a tree stand.

These latest, especially tragic, deaths should serve as a strong reminder for all hunters to brush up on their safety skills and redouble efforts to keep youngsters out of harm’s way. Hunting requires heightened senses, patience and vigilance — the same skills that will help save lives in the field. Hunters and their children should bond over those skills first.

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