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Doug Leier


With deer gun season getting underway and upland game and waterfowl seasons continuing, it’s a good time for a reminder about hunting safety. Not that there is a bad time for such a reminder. Whether it’s grouse hunting in September or deer hunting in November, the same rules apply and all it takes is one mistake to change a life or lives.

Accidents can happen to anyone, though most of them are preventable.

A misfire that results because a hunter jams the wrong caliber of shell into his or her rifle could be prevented.

Discharge of a firearm inside a vehicle is preventable because firearms are not supposed to have bullets or shells in the chamber when in a vehicle. Yet this is one of the more prevalent hunting violations that game wardens come across.

I could write pages detailing the circumstances of all the preventable accidents that have occurred over the years, but this deer season I’d ask all hunters to simply keep in mind that it can happen … to you.

Always keep safety in mind. It’s more important than a duck, deer or pheasant. It sounds like a serious plea, because it is a serious subject.

We all know (or should know) the basics. Keep your eyes and ears aware of other hunters and groups in and around your area. Keep your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times, even if it’s not loaded, because we know to treat every gun as if it is loaded.

There are some other factors that might not be part of hunter education training that can add to safety in the field.

Deer hunters are required to wear orange while in the woods, cattails and brush. The 400 square inches is the legal minimum requirement, but, for many hunters, more is better. The idea is to make yourself look like a florescent orange beacon on the prairie.

During deer season, people who are hunting something else, especially waterfowl, should consider some type of orange marker or other display to let others know you are in the area. An orange jacket hung on a fence or bush that can be seen from the nearest road will alert others.

And, if you’re in a field situation, have orange handy to put on when retrieving birds or setting out or picking up decoys.

The same thing goes if you’re hunting from a ground or elevated blind. Place something orange somewhere in the vicinity so other hunters are aware of your hideout. The idea is to minimize the risk of not being seen to the greatest extent possible.

Pretty much all of us who hunt know these safety measures. That’s a good start, but knowledge and understanding don’t prevent accidents. That comes from putting that knowledge into action and actions into your standard operating procedure.

Enjoy the rest of whatever seasons remain. And let’s be safe out there.

Doug Leier is a biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.