Probably no opening day is anticipated as much as opening day of the firearms deer season. Close to 700,000 hunters will don their hunter orange (and a few for some bizarre reason won’t) and head to their favorite oak knoll, wooded ridge, swampy hollow or field edge with high hopes of crossing paths with one of Michigan’s majestic white-tailed deer.
Sadly, for some, the season will end in tragedy. Each year a half dozen or more hunting accidents occur in Michigan during the Nov. 15-30 firearms season, some with deadly results. Thing is, most of these “accidents” could have been avoided. Look over the following tips and let’s strive to make the 2013 season the safest on record.
• Always treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
• Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
• Be certain of your target and what’s beyond. Be 100-percent sure of your target’s identity and make sure you have an adequate backstop. Do not shoot at a flat, hard surface or water.
• Keep your finger outside the trigger guard and off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
• Keep the safety ON until you are ready to shoot.
• Don’t run, jump or climb with a loaded firearm. Unload a firearm before you climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch. Pull a firearm toward you by the butt, not the muzzle and be sure you are not pointing it at someone else, even if you are positive the gun is unloaded.
• Unload your firearm before raising and lowering it from an elevated stand.
• Never tie your tote rope to the trigger guard and always raise and lower your gun with the barrel pointing down.
• Avoid alcoholic beverages before and during hunting. Avoid mind- or behavior-altering medicines or drugs.
• All firearm deer hunters on any land during daylight hunting hours must wear a hat, cap, vest, jacket, rainwear or other outer garment of “hunter orange” visible from all sides. All hunters, including archers, must comply during gun season.
• Camouflage hunter orange is legal, provided 50 percent of the surface area is solid hunter orange. (Exceptions: waterfowl, crow and wild turkey hunters, and bow hunters for deer during bow season).
• Always let someone know where you are hunting and when you plan on returning. This information helps conservation officers and others locate you if you get lost.
• Carry your cellphone into the woods. Remember to turn your ringer off or set your phone to vibrate rather than ring. Your cellphone emits a signal that can help rescuers locate you when you are lost. If you have a smartphone, go to the settings and enable your GPS to help searchers find you if you get lost. Make sure before you leave for the woods each day that your phone is fully charged. If you have a smartphone, download a compass and flashlight app – there are many versions of these apps that are free to download in the iPhone App Store or on Google Play for Android.