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The long wait is almost over. For an expected 100,000 deer hunters, the shotgun deer seasons are right around the corner and before they head to the timber, it’s important that everyone go through their gear to make sure everything still fits and still works and takes time to review their hunting safety plan.
“Hunting continues to be a safe activity enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Iowans,” said Jamie Cook, hunter education administrator with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “And part of making hunting safe is creating a plan for each hunt.”
The hunting plan identifies the hunt location, who’s on the hunt and outlines their role, describes how the hunt will unfold and when the hunters are expected to return home. Hunters are encouraged to leave a copy of the plan with someone in the event of an emergency, Cook said. “It’s good to have someone who knows when to expect you home.”
Hunters will also want to check their blaze orange gear to make sure it still fits and that that orange hasn’t faded to the point of being ineffective. The minimum amount of blaze orange required by Iowa law to hunt in the firearm deer season is a 100 percent solid blaze orange vest, but Cook said they encourage hunters to wear blaze orange hats and gloves, too.
“Wear plenty of visible blaze orange,” he said. “The more external blaze orange that’s worn, the better the chance that hunters will be seen in the timber. We’re not hiding from deer during the firearm seasons; we want to be seen by the other hunters.”
He also reminded hunters to not only properly identify the target before shooting, but also what is behind the target and to avoid shooting at running deer. “It’s easy to allow yourself to get caught up in the moment and fixate on the target, but hunters must remember to know what’s in front of and beyond your target,” Cook said. "It’s also a good idea to talk to the landowner or tenant to confirm permission to hunt and to see if anyone else has permission to hunt the same property."
Before setting foot in the timber on opening morning, Cook advised hunters to spend some time sighting in their firearm to get reacquainted with its accuracy and the range that the bullets and slugs can travel, to treat every gun as if it were loaded and to always point the gun in a safe direction.
He said there has been an average of 10 hunting related incidents over the past three deer shotgun seasons with around half involving personal injuries. The most common causes for hunting injuries including fatalities during the shotgun deer season is careless handling of a firearm and shooting at running deer.
“Remember that we hunt with those who we’re closest to, our family and our friends. If there’s any question about taking a shot, don’t pull the trigger, because once you pull the trigger, you can’t call the shot back,” he said. “No deer is worth taking an unsafe shot; another deer will come along. At the end of the day, we all want to get home safely with a little meat for the freezer.”