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November 16, 2010

MADISON -- Gun deer hunters marked the third safest season on record in 2009, but it's no time to rest on their laurels, recreation safety officials say.

"It doesn't matter how safe you have been -- you're only as safe as your next outing," says Tim Lawhern, Wisconsin's hunter education administrator and a lifelong hunter.

Link to Video

The four Rules of Firearm Safety[VIDEO Length 0:33]

Hunters were involved in eight hunting incidents in the 2009 gun deer season, for an incident rate of 1.25 per 100,000 hunters, according to the 2009 Hunting Incident Report (Powerpoint document; opens in another window). One of the incidents was a fatality: A 36-year-old male hunter was killed in Rock County on opening day when he suffered a self-inflicted gunshot while raising his loaded shotgun into his tree stand.

Hunters heading out into the field for the 2010 gun deer season opener can make sure they have a safe and enjoyable hunt by following seven basic safety tips, according to Lawhern, and Recreation Safety Chief Todd Schaller.

  1. Plan your hunt and hunt your plan. - Hunters have to know where they are going to hunt and when they'll be back, and plan for a variety of details in-between. Think about the kind of hunting you'll be doing -- sitting in a tree stand or participating in a deer drive -- and make sure to dress appropriately and bring the proper equipment, food and water, and medicine if you take it. Once you've made that plan, then follow it, and let someone else know it.
  2. Wear proper blaze orange. - At least half of the outer clothing hunters wear above their waist must be blaze orange. A hat, if worn, must be at least half blaze orange. Faded or stained blaze orange clothing is unsafe and may not meet law requirements. Camo-blaze that is 50 percent blaze orange is legal, but is not as visible as solid blaze clothing. All ground blinds used on DNR-controlled lands (does not include Managed Forest Law or Forest Crops Law lands) must display at least 144 square inches of solid blaze orange material visible from all directions around the blind.
  3. Follow safe practices when using a tree stand, including using a full body harness. - Falls from tree stands are the leading cause of injuries during the gun deer season, according to a study of Wisconsin hunters treated at the UW Hospital and published in 2008 in the Wisconsin Medical Journal. A 2010 study at an Ohio hospital confirmed those results. The good news is such falls are easily preventable by wearing a full body harness and following other tree stand safety tips].
  4. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded. - Never assume a firearm is unloaded and never treat it that way, even if you watch as it is unloaded. Make it a habit to treat guns like they are loaded all the time.
  5. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction. - About one-third of all hunting incidents are self inflicted injuries. That means the muzzle was pointed at some part of the hunter's body. A safe direction is a direction where the bullet will travel and harm no one in the event of an unwanted discharge. There are no accidental discharges with firearms, only unwanted discharges.
  6. Be certain of your target and what's beyond it. - Positive target identification is a must. To shoot at something you only think is a legal target is gambling. In the case of human injury, that means gambling with human life. You must be absolutely certain and correct in judgment before deciding to shoot.
  7. Deer drives. - Make sure that everyone involved knows his or her role in a deer drive...then stick to it; do not deviate from it. Plan the drive for safety first and getting a deer second.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Lawhern (608) 266-1317; Todd Schaller (608) 267-2774; Or your regional recreational safety warden

Last Revised: Tuesday, November 16, 2010

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