WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) said understanding hunter safety is vital after a juvenile was injured in a hunting accident in Washington County.

The juvenile was climbing a tree stand on private property Monday when his rifle discharged, resulting in what law enforcement described as non-life-threatening injuries.

The TWRA said practicing hunter safety can make the difference between a safe hunt and a tragedy.

“Safety is always going to be paramount,” said TWRA Outreach and Education Coordinator Matthew Cameron. “We want folks to enjoy the great outdoors, but we want them to enjoy it safely.”

Cameron said the individual who was injured was out of hunting season based on the gun being used. Deer season opens for Tennessee gun hunters on Saturday, but it has been open for archery and muzzleloaders since Nov. 5.

Cameron said climbing into a tree stand can be especially dangerous if not following the proper safety procedures.

In a tree stand, not only is the hunter many feet off the ground, but climbing up the stand while holding a gun can lead to trouble with the direction of the gun.

“If you’ve got [the gun] pointed in a safe direction at all times, if you do have that accidental discharge, hopefully, it’s going to go in the ground or in a safe direction,” Cameron said.

Cameron said the gun should always be pointed away from other individuals and yourself.

He added keeping the gun unloaded before entering a tree stand and using a towline to haul the gun up the stand can prevent accidental discharges.

Cameron said many hunting accidents occur because of thrill of the hunt. He said to remember safety training if an animal that could be shot suddenly appears.

“A lot of times people get in a hurry. They see an animal they want to shoot and they move too quickly,” Cameron said. “They just kind of loose that train of thought and how to grab that gun safely and point it in a safe direction.”

Preventing hunting accidents starts with education, and an East Tennessee group is committed to teaching safety from a young age. East Tennessee Youth Outdoors leader Jeremiah Trowbridge said his organization teaches young hunters the value of hunting safety with the Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety.

“We do our best to make sure those youth have those rules embedded into their mind, and it’s always on the forefront when they’re taking part in the outdoor activities,” Trowbridge said.

The organization leads youth turkey hunts in the spring, which do not use tree stands, but Trowbridge said he recommends all hunters use safety harnesses to prevent falls.

“Just like we would use in a construction site. If you fall, it’ll grab you so you don’t hit the ground,” Trowbridge said.

Trowbridge added hunters should make sure the gun’s safety is on at all times when not firing the weapon.

He also said hunters should know the mechanics of their guns, including how to break them down and clean them.

Hunters are also required by state law to wear at least 500 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing so they can easily be identified by other hunters.

“Soon as I put that fluorescent orange on, I stand out like a sore thumb,” Cameron said.

Hunter education courses are available for free on Tennessee’s website, and Trowbridge said re-educating yourself can be valuable.

“There’s really no such thing as an accident. Everything is preventable,” Trowbridge said. “You follow those guidelines, you should never have an issue.”

In addition to a hunting license, proof of completing a state-endorsed hunter education class is required to hunt in Tennessee. TWRA said since the introduction of hunter safety classes in the 1970s, hunting accidents have fallen dramatically.