Hunting safety course mandatory in Mississippi

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) -  The 10-year-old girl shot by a deer hunter in Desoto National Forest, could be home for Thanksgiving.

Jordan Kelly remains in the hospital, recovering from a punctured lung and other injuries she received when she and her mother were shot while riding horses in Desoto National Forest on Sunday.

Her mom, Rebecca Kelly, was treated and released for a gunshot wound to the leg.

Some South Mississippi hunters are concerned this incident puts all of them in a bad light.  They say the vast majority of people who enjoy hunting are aware of the rules and take safety seriously.

In fact, state law in Mississippi requires a hunting safety course be taken before a hunting license can be issued.

Jimmy Lawrence coordinates the hunter safety courses for the southern district of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

"You always want to control your muzzle. And make sure you know what your target is. Know where your target is, what's beyond your target, what's between you and your target," said Lawrence, reciting one of the key lessons in hunter safety.

Before any hunter gets a license, they must complete the ten hour course.

"Hunter safety is important to keep down the risk of accidents," said Lawrence.

Police tape still cordons off two horse riding trails in the Big Foot area of Desoto; the place where a mother and daughter were shot by a deer hunter.

Lawrence says thankfully, such incidents are few.

"We've had eight incidents in the state this year. Five of them were tree stand related incidents. And three have been firearm incidents. For hundreds of thousands of license holders, that's not a bad number," he said.

"You've got other people's lives in your hands," says hunter Mike Miller.

Miller says that's why all hunters should pay close attention to safety.  He says while hunters must stay safe, responsibility is also required of others who enjoy the same outdoor recreation areas.

"I don't understand why people are out there putting themselves in a situation like that, riding horses on the first couple days of deer season," said Miller.

"Orange vests, all the time. Safety is major," said Gerald Mizell, who's been a deer hunter for 20 years.

He says the tragic shooting in Desoto casts all hunters in an unfavorable light.

"Oh yeah, it does. You're breaking the law like that, it makes it harder for everybody else," he said.

State law requires hunters to wear 500 square inches of florescent orange.

"They do save lives. They do show a lot. You can see them a long ways. And this is hunter orange," said Lawrence, while holding an orange hunter's vest, "This bright orange has saved a lot of people, and it was a good law when we passed it."

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