Firearm seasons for deer are open across the Midwest. For many of us, this is the most exciting time of the year. Crowds are filling restaurants in rural towns. Hotels are full of pickup trucks towing trailers loaded with ATVs. Strangers are talking to strangers at the gas station, as long as they are wearing camo or displaying the customary blaze orange cap on their dash. Families and friends are coming together for annual traditions and to make new memories. Freezers are being filled with healthy, protein rich venison.
With all the reasons to celebrate firearms deer season, incidents and accidents will occur altering the future of lives in bad ways. Hunters will fall from treestands, becoming crippled or worse. Fights will occur over property lines. Firearms will accidentally discharge and targets will be mistaken. Laws will be broken with tickets being issued. Events like these and others like them happen every year. In almost every instance, they were avoidable.
The Michigan Department of Natural Recourses recently released a list titled, “Top 10 best hunting practices for firearm deer.” This is their take on how to avoid violations and mistakes.
“Most of the violations that conservation officers encounter during firearm deer season are simple mistakes people make when they get caught up in the excitement of the hunt or forget to put safety first,” said F/Lt. Jason Wicklund, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “We want people to be safe, so they have a good story to tell friends and family about their successful hunt.”
I’m going to list Michigan’s Top 10 best hunting practices for firearm deer in the order they appeared followed by my take on each.
1. Properly tag your deer
With the advent of apps and online licensing, the old process of wrapping a paper tag around your deer’s leg is becoming a thing of the past. Each state seems to be a little different. I suggest you look up your state’s laws on tagging before you head into the field this year. Chances are, if you haven’t reviewed these lately, they’ve changed.
2. Know your firearm and how it functions
Sitting in your deer stand isn’t the place to figure out whether your safety is on or not. You need to be proficient with a firearm before you enter the field with it. Spending time at the shooting range doesn’t just make you more accurate, it makes you more comfortable and familiar with your firearm. Learn how it works and know how to handle it.
- Know your target and what’s beyond it
People are mistaken for deer every year. Adrenaline makes humans act crazy. Calm down and be 100 percent sure of what you are shooting at and what’s beyond it. For example, a buck is standing atop a hilltop or ridge. He’s broadside and you have the shot, but you can’t take it because you can’t be for sure of what is on the other side of the rise. You might think you know, but again, you can’t be sure. Another hunter could have moved in or a vehicle could be passing by. You must have visual confirmation of where your bullet will go if you miss the deer.
4. Respect landowner rights
Don’t trespass. Even if it’s by accident, you’re still in violation and screwing up another hunter’s valuable time. Before you go onto a property, be sure to know the boundaries. Mapping apps, like onX, solve this problem and are an invaluable tool for hunters. They also tell you who owns the land around you, so if you shoot a deer and it runs on a neighboring property, you can contact the landowner for permission to retrieve your game, which is something you must legally do before going on their property.
5. Share public land
It belongs to all of us. Treat our public lands and those who use them with respect. If someone beat you to your spot, move on. It’s just as much their spot as yours. Offer a proper distance from others.
6. Leave the land better than you found it
Whether it’s public land or private land, pick up trash if you see it. Don’t do anything like rutting up wet fields or knocking down trees. Be a good steward. You are only borrowing this land from future generations.
7. Wear hunter orange
In most states, this is a law and for good reason. Scientists say deer are colorblind. Humans are not. Deer don’t see the orange. Other hunters do. Hunter Orange may save your life.
8. Know and follow baiting regulations
Walmart selling pallets of deer corn doesn’t make it legal for hunting. In many Midwestern states, most of the gimmicky attractants found for sale in sporting goods stores aren’t legal for hunting. It’s like they’re setting you up, but if you illegally use the stuff they sell you, the conservation officer isn’t going to write them a ticket. Read the regulations for your state and follow them.
9. Hunt in-season, during legal hours
I argue you can only hunt in-season, during legal hours, because if you are killing game outside of those windows, you’re a poacher. Not a hunter. The two are not mutually exclusive. Don’t poach. Know when legal shooting time begins and ends.
10. Be respectful to other hunters
The Golden Rule – Treat others the way you would like to be treated. It makes sense in the deer woods, too.
Overall, I believe Michigan did a good job with their Top 10 list with one glaring omission – wear a safety harness if hunting from an elevated position. I would have certainly added that right at the top. I hope you take these best practices to enjoy a safe and successful deer season.
See you down trail…
Pic: Follow these Top 10 tips for a safe and enjoyable firearms deer season.