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Practice these safety tips during deer season


The 44-day Regular Deer Season in the Northern Zone continues through Dec. 8. In light of deer season’s popularity, today’s column takes a look at safety in the woods and deer-hunting regulations.

Basic Safety

The first commandment of outdoors safety is to tell someone where you are going, what you plan on doing, and when you expect to return. The information can be given orally or written in a note. When I talk about fishing or hunting, the words typically go in one of my wife’s ears and out the other so I opt for leaving a note. A sample note might say, “It is 3:15 p.m., and I’m headed over to Uncle Bill’s farm. I plan on sitting in the tree stand on the big ridge behind the cornfield, and I expect to be home shortly after dark.”

Basic safety also calls for carrying a map and compass as well as a signaling device even if it is as simple as a whistle. Of course, two-way radios and cell phones afford higher-level, communication capabilities. When possible, hunt with a companion. Too, be sure to check the weather forecast before heading afield and to dress appropriately for forecasted conditions. When hunting the “big woods,” a daypack with items such as a fire starter, survival blanket, water bottle, and snack is a wise option.

Firearm Safety

The first rule of firearm safety is to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times. A second rule calls for treating every gun as if it is a loaded one. Also, keep the safety on and your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot. When doing such actions as climbing a tree, crossing a fence, or jumping a ditch, make sure to first unload the firearm.

When making a decision to shoot, positively identify your target and be conscious of what is in front of that target and what is beyond it. Finally, when a firearm is not in use, be certain it is unloaded and the action is open.

Blaze Orange

Wearing blaze orange is not required by DEC regulations, but statistics indicate that hunters wearing blaze orange are seven times safer than those who are not so clad. In those rare instances of a shot hunter, the individual typically wore no blaze orange. Even though blaze orange is not required, surveys show that 80 percent of hunters statewide opt to wear some orange.

Researchers have discovered that whitetail deer have no red-sensitive cone cells in their eyes so deer are unable to distinguish red or orange from green or brown. In essence, a hunter’s scent or movement will alert a deer while blaze orange clothing will not.


Hunting hours extend from sunrise to sunset, and hunters will find a sunrise-sunset table on page 80 of the current regulations guide.

When discharging a firearm, it is illegal to do so if the load passes over any part of a public highway. It is also illegal to discharge a firearm within 500 feet of any school, playground, or an occupied factory or church. Too, a firearm may not be discharged within 500 feet of a dwelling, farm building, or structure in occupation or use unless the shooter owns the building, leases it, is an immediate member of the family, an employee, or has the owner’s consent.

Once a hunter kills a deer, regulations require that he or she completely fill in the front of the carcass tag, cut out or mark the month and date on the back of the tag, and sign the tag. The tag does not have to be attached to the carcass while it is being dragged or physically carried from the place of kill to a camp or point where transportation is available. Once at camp or vehicle, the carcass tag should be immediately attached and remain attached until the deer is cut up and prepared for consumption.

Even though regulations require that successful hunters report their harvest within seven days of the kill, some individuals fail to do so, but “Hooks and Antlers” encourages all hunters to faithfully report their takes as the data helps DEC in making future, deer management decisions. A harvest can be reported by phone (1-866-426-3778) or through the web ( All the information needed when reporting a harvest is located on the carcass tag or on a properly completed report panel.

Outdoors Calendar

Friday: Deer hunters may apply for leftover DMPs.

Friday-May 1: Everyone must wear PFD when under way on vessels less than 21 feet.

Nov. 16: Regular Deer Season opens in Southern Zone.

Nov. 19: Public hearing on boat launch facilities at Massena Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Nov. 30: Traditional bass season closes in New York State.

Dec. 8: Regular Deer Season closes in Northern and Southern zones.

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