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‘Safety First’ top priority as hunters prepare for new deer season

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Deer season ranks as the most popular activity on the sportsmen’s calendar, and in hopes that area hunters have a safe season, today’s column focuses on the outdoors motto of “Safety First.”

The first commandment of outdoors safety is to tell someone where you are going, what you plan on doing, and when you expect to return. The information can be given orally or written in a note. When I talk about fishing or hunting, the words typically go in one of my wife’s ears and out the other so I opt for leaving a note.

A sample note might say, “It is 3:15 p.m., and I’m headed over to Uncle Bill’s farm. I plan on sitting in the tree stand on the big ridge behind the cornfield, and I expect to be home shortly after dark.”

Basic safety also calls for carrying a map and compass as well as a signaling device even if it is as simple as a whistle. Of course, two-way radios and cell phones afford higher-level, communication capabilities.

When possible, hunt with a companion. Too, be sure to check the weather forecast before heading afield and to dress appropriately for forecasted conditions. When hunting the “big woods,” a daypack with items such as a fire starter, survival blanket, water bottle, and snack is a wise option.

Firearm Safety

The first rule of firearm safety is to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times.

A second rule calls for treating every gun as if it is a loaded one. Also, keep the safety on and your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot. When doing such actions as climbing a tree, crossing a fence or jumping a ditch, make sure to first unload the firearm.

When making a decision to shoot, positively identify your target and be conscious of what is in front of that target and what is beyond it. Finally, when a firearm is not in use, be certain it is unloaded and the action is open.

Blaze Orange

Wearing blaze orange is not required by DEC regulations, but statistics indicate that hunters wearing blaze orange are seven times safer than those who are not so clad. In those rare instances of a shot hunter, the individual typically wore no blaze orange.

Even though blaze orange is not required, surveys show that 80 percent of hunters statewide opt to wear some orange.

Researchers have discovered that whitetail deer have no red-sensitive cone cells in their eyes so deer are unable to distinguish red or orange from green or brown. In essence, a hunter’s scent or movement will alert a deer while blaze orange clothing will not.

Tree Stand Safety

Tree-stand hunting ranks as the most popular and most successful strategy employed by area hunters; yet, hunting from a tree stand has its risks.

In fact, a comprehensive study conducted by “Deer and Deer Hunting” magazine reveals that one-third of tree-stand hunters reported having fallen at least once. Some states also actually report higher fatality rates from tree-stand falls than from firearm incidents, and a Marshall University study revealed that two-thirds of falls resulted from hunters who used homemade stands.

The first rule of tree-stand safety is to wear a safety belt or harness at all times.

A variety of easy-to-use, full-body harnesses are available commercially, and purchasing and wearing a quality harness is perhaps the most important safety aspect of tree-stand hunting.

A second safety rule is the three-point one that calls for always having three points of contact to the steps or ladder before moving up or down. The three points of contact could be two arms and one leg or two legs and one arm. A third safety rule calls for taking a friend along when installing or removing stands.

When purchasing a commercial tree stand, make certain the stand has the approval seal of the Treestand Manufacturers Association. Also, carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and familiarize yourself with the stand before taking to the woods. A recommended procedure for commercial stands is to practice installing and removing the stand near ground level. No matter what style of tree stand being used, be sure to carefully inspect all aspects of the stand before use, especially at the beginning of the season.

CALENDAR

Monday: Final day of Columbus Day Weekend Youth Deer Hunt in Northern and Southern Zones.

Friday-Saturday: Hunter Education Course in Brasher Falls (Pre-register at 389-4156).

Saturday: RVGDC-sponsored Ladies Pheasant Hunt at Rensselaer Falls (393-5318).

Saturday: Early Muzzleloading Season in Northern Zone.

Sunday: First portion of Waterfowl Season closes in Northeast Zone.

Oct. 19: Fall Turkey Season closes in Northern Zone.

Oct. 20: Regular Deer Season opens in Northern Zone.

Oct. 20-21: Trapper Education Course in Winthrop (Pre-register at 210-6255).

Oct. 27: Second portion of Waterfowl Season opens in Northeast Zone.

Oct. 27: Regular Canada Goose Season opens in Northeast Goose Hunting Area.

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