Some 200,000 hunters will be heading into Utah's back country this weekend for the traditional fall opening of the deer hunt. That's 200,000 individuals armed with high-powered weapons, stalking elusive targets.
Inevitably, with such a large number of hunters actively seeking targets, accidents happen. Casualties, even fatalities, result.Utah's accident and fatality rate during recent deer hunts has been relatively low, according to the Department of Wildlife Resources. More deer season injuries are attributed to poor driving habits, frequently compounded by alcohol, and the poor physical condition of the hunters than to accidental shootings.
Hunter education courses, firearms safety classes for young persons and a strong commitment to educating the public on hunting safety and ethics by the DWR play a part in maintaining that good record.
Common sense among the hunters is the rest of the story.
Other than the obvious wearing of orange safety gear, the rules for having a safe deer hunt are not that different than for any other back country outing, whether it's a weeklong backpacking trip or a simple day hike:
- Tell someone where you are going and what time you plan to return, then stick with the plan. Don't make any radical last-minute changes in the field. Such changes could result in search-and-rescue efforts being directed to the wrong area.
- Prepare for inclement weather, even if the forecast calls for warm and sunny. Utah's weather is notoriously fickle and almost as difficult to predict as where this year's trophy buck will be found.
- Don't overextend yourself physically. If you're a weekend athlete, admit it and plan your hunt around it. Many hunting accidents are traceable to fatigue and persons pushing themselves beyond their physical abilities.
- Be sure of your shot. Remember that deer have four legs, not two, and don't wear orange vests. And they don't moo.