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Friday is opening day

DNR shares safety tips for hunters


With hundreds of thousands of hunters gearing up for opening day of Michigan’s deer firearm season, caution is critical.

Drivers are reminded to watch for deer as they travel. Statistics show higher deer/vehicle collisions in November, especially from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 9 p.m.

Hunters have their own set of safety tips, which include:

-Clearly identifying the target. No deer or other game is worth the risk of injuring or killing anyone. Michigan Department of Natural Resources incident reports are rife with cases in which shooters thought they saw or heard the quarry only to be surprised that the “target” was another hunter or a hiker. Hunters in 2012, and again last year, mistook other hunters for raccoons. In another incident last year, a hunter told authorities he thought the hunter he shot was a squirrel.

-Knowing with certainty that no one is in the extended line of fire. Bullets and slugs from flat-shooting, high-powered rifles and modern shotguns or muzzleloaders can travel long distances beyond a target. One 2018 hunter death occurred on public land when the shooter missed a deer along a power line and was unaware of another hunter sitting in the woods just beyond.

-Knowing the firearm. Many hunters only handle their weapon, or a borrowed weapon, a few days each year. Lack of familiarity with safeties and triggers is a leading cause of accidental firings and self-inflicted injuries. Hunters should double- and triple-check that the safety is in the safe position, keep fingers off the trigger until ready to shoot and double-check that the gun is unloaded before storing it.

-Unloading a gun before lifting it up into a tree stand. Never tie a cord around the trigger guard, as several Michigan hunters did, according to DNR incident reports.

-Always pointing the muzzle in a safe direction, even if the gun isn’t loaded. Assume every gun is loaded.

-Not using the scope as binoculars. Doing so could lead to pointing a loaded gun at something or someone.

-Putting the gun down before crossing a fence or obstacle. Several incidents in recent years showed this led to injury or death.

-Not trespassing on private land. Hunters also need permission to go onto private land to track or find a wounded animal.

-Wearing plenty of hunter orange. Michigan is among a majority of states that requires hunters (with exceptions for archers and turkey or waterfowl hunters) to wear at least one piece of “hunter orange,” the highly visible, bright material. Hunters can comply by wearing only a hunting cap. In many hunting accidents reported by the state, shooters told authorities they didn’t see the hunter they shot. It’s best to assume that other hunters aren’t as careful.

-Making sure a closed, camouflaged blind is visible. Several Michigan hunters were injured or killed when struck by a bullet while sitting in a well-concealed blind. The DNR recommends hanging a hunter-orange vest or hat or both on a nearby tree or on the blind itself.

-Carrying a fully charged cellphone. In the event of a firearms accident or any health problem, hunters are advised to make sure they can make a call for help, especially when hunting alone. Its best for hunters to tell others where they will be and when they should return.

Sources: Michigan DNR; International Hunter Safety Association


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