State urges hunters to observe safe gun handling

DOVER — A recent accident has the state reminding hunters to observe safe gun handling and hunting practices before, during and after they have gone afield in pursuit of game animals.

The reminder comes after an Oct. 7 incident in which a 32-year-old man apparently shot himself in the foot.

The hunter told Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers when they responded to Milford Memorial Hospital after reports of the shooting that hunting accident near Harrington. The man told investigating officers that the accident happened near Harrington.

He said that while preparing to go deer hunting, he failed to check whether his muzzleloader contained a powder charge and had a bullet in it before putting a live percussion cap in the rifle. Bypassing these precautionary measures, he placed the muzzleloader against his right foot, squeezed the trigger and discharged a .50-caliber round into his foot.

“He told officers he thought the muzzleloader was unloaded, and wanted to fire a cap to be sure the firing nipple was clear in the ignition passage,” said Lt. Carl Winckoski, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police. He also said the injured hunter was in stable condition following emergency hospital treatment.

“The very first thing we teach in every Delaware Hunter Education Course are the four critical rules of gun safety,” said Delaware Hunter Education Coordinator Mark Ostroski. “Never, never for any reason point your firearm — loaded or unloaded — at yourself or another person. That’s the key message of rule number one.”

Mr. Ostroski said the four rules of gun safety are:

• “Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Never point at anything you do not intend to shoot.

• “Treat every firearm as if it were loaded, even when you are sure it is empty.

• “Be absolutely certain of your target and what lies beyond and in front of your target.

• “Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.”

Hunters also should familiarize themselves with state, county and local regulations before choosing their hunting spots. Hunters should consider their surroundings and how far the ammunition they are using can travel. It is illegal in Delaware to discharge a firearm so that a shotgun pellet, slug or bullet lands upon any occupied dwelling, house or residence, or any related barn, stable or other outbuilding.

There also are limitations on who can legally discharge a firearm within 100 yards of an occupied dwelling, house or residence, or any related barn, stable or other outbuilding.

Discharging a firearm within 15 yards of a public road or right-of-way is also illegal. Shooting at a wild fowl or animals in a public roadway or firing across a public roadway is also prohibited.

For information on the Delaware Hunter Education Program, go to

For more information on hunting in Delaware, see the 2016-2017 Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide. The guide is available online and at DNREC’s Dover licensing desk in the Richardson & Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway.

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