I recently got a note from a thoughtful hunter whose safety suggestion bears repeating. He expressed concern about the alternative-methods portion of firearms deer season Dec. 15 through 25.
This replaces the old muzzleloader portion. In addition to allowing the use of muzzle-loading rifles and pistols, the new alternative methods portion allows hunting with center-fire pistols or revolvers, air-powered guns, longbows, crossbows and atlatls. Like the old muzzleloader season, the alternative methods portion permits archers to hunt without wearing hunter-orange clothing.
Exempting archers from wearing hunter orange during the muzzleloader season recognized a couple of facts. One is that archers must get much closer to deer before shooting, and wearing camouflage clothing helps them do that. Probably the more important fact was that muzzleloader season never drew more than a tiny fraction of the number of hunters who took part in the November portion of firearms deer season. The chances of a muzzleloader hunter encountering an archer in the field were very slim.
The hunter who contacted me expressed concern that this situation might change if the liberalization of hunting methods brings more gun hunters out in December. He worries that hunters who are new to the December season won’t realize that camouflaged archers might be hunting nearby, resulting in more accidents.
“I was taught … to always make sure of your target before pulling that trigger,” he said. “But also, and just as importantly, to know what is beyond and to the either side of your target.” He noted that following that rule is more difficult if other hunters aren’t wearing hunter orange.
Of course, this is a problem that turkey hunters deal with every spring because Missouri has no hunter-orange requirement for turkey hunting. The dramatic reduction in spring turkey-hunting accidents over the past 20 years has been achieved by raising awareness of hunting safety and encouraging spring turkey hunters to voluntarily wear orange when entering or leaving the woods or moving between calling locations. There is no reason why this can’t work for the alternative methods portion, too.
If you are a deer hunter, talk this up among your friends, whether they are archers or gun hunters. Firearms hunters need to be keenly aware of the possibility that camouflaged hunters will share their little corner of the woods during the alternative methods portion. Archery deer hunters need to remember some things that turkey hunters already know.
1. Wearing hunter orange when entering and leaving the woods is excellent health insurance.
2. Hanging an orange vest or other cloth on or near your tree stand alerts other hunters to your presence without attracting the attention of deer.
3. Research at the University of Georgia proved that deer are red-green color blind. Since they see orange as simply a shade of gray, wearing orange does not make you any more visible to deer. Hunter-orange camouflage isn’t legal for other portions of the firearms deer season, but since archers are exempt from the hunter-orange requirement during the alternative methods portion, orange camo is the perfect compromise. It allows archers to break up their outline while alerting gun hunters.
Finally, remember that any hunt that ends safely is a good hunt!