Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's time for Vt. hunters to see orange

Take the poll to the right and give us your reasons in the comment section. In talking to folks at the Yankee Classic I was supprised at who was for it and who was opposed. I'd love to hear what you think...

From the Rutland Herald

It's time for Vt. hunters to see orange

Dennis Jensen Staff Writer - Published: January 17, 2010

A heavy fog drifted in that morning. It was midway through the firearms deer season in 2006 and I was running a bit late. I quietly made my way through a stand of 20-year-old pine trees And low, thick brush when I detected movement, about 50 yards away.

I stopped and studied the figure. It took a few moments before the object materialized into a man — a man dressed head to toe in camouflage clothing.

I never lifted my rifle to look through the scope. My policy is, unless I can clearly see a deer with my own vision, I won't raise my rifle and risk making the mistake of a lifetime.

I was stunned. He was facing away from me and moving slowly, as if he was stalking a deer. He never saw me, despite the fact that I was wearing a blaze orange hat and vest. I watched him walk away, then made my way to a ground blind in a thick section of woods some 50 yards away.

Perhaps three hours later that morning, the same hunter found his way back to my ground blind. My blaze orange cap, hanging from a nearby limb, gave me away.

I recognized the young man as a nearby resident. We talked for a few minutes and then he was on his way. I sat there stunned, once more. Even his boots were camouflaged.

That image, on that morning, stays fresh in my mind because, to this deer hunter, wearing camouflage clothing during the firearms deer season is not merely a poor decision — it could cost you your life.

I'll take that step farther: Going into the deer woods — or hunting moose, bear or small game, for that matter — without wearing a blaze orange cap and vest could cost you your life.

Here's why: I understand the point of view of some Vermonters who say they don't need to wear a blaze orange (also called hunter orange) hat or vest or both items. From their standpoint, they are safety minded to the point that they would never shoot another human. At least that is what they say.

Even assuming that that is true, why would anyone assume that everyone else in the woods is as safety-minded as you are? The fact is, where the wrong people are concerned, the woods can be a very dangerous place.

Every year, hunters are mistaken for game and shot: some are peppered with bird shot; some are seriously wounded by rifle fire; others are fatalities, carried out of the woods.

No one is immune from hunting mishaps. Even folks wearing blaze orange are occasionally shot. But, the data is in and it is irrefutable: Almost half of Vermont's hunting-related shootings might be prevented if hunters wore hunter orange, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

While 40 states require hunters to wear at least some blaze orange, Vermont does not.

Maine requires deer hunters to wear a blaze orange hat and vest; New York and New Hampshire have no blaze orange law.

Chris Saunders, the hunter education coordinator for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, said the department is clear about its position on wearing blaze-orange clothing while hunting deer, bear, moose, "basically everything but waterfowl hunting, turkey hunting and bow hunting.

"We absolutely, strongly recommend that all hunters, during the firearm deer season, wear at least a blaze orange hat and vest in the field," he said.

Wayne Jones, the sportsman education administrator with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, said that hunters wearing blaze orange clothing are far safer in the woods than those who do not.

Over the past 10 years, more than 20 people were killed when they were mistaken for deer or bear and only one was wearing blaze orange, he said.

"A person with no orange is 12.4 times more likely to be shot than a person who is wearing hunter orange," Jones said.

Vermont had three hunting fatalities in 2005, a staggering statistic for a state with about 80,000 licensed big-game hunters. Those deaths sadly illustrated how "mistakes" are made during deer season as well as in bear, moose, turkey, small game and other seasons.

The two fatalities that occurred during the 2005 firearms deer season might have been avoided if blaze orange had been worn by the victims.

Every year, it seems, a member of the Vermont Legislature comes up with a blaze orange bill. And every year, the bill is dropped like a buck shot in the spine.

Most Statehouse legislators develop a form of "political paralysis" when it comes to any proposal that involves the Vermont deer season.

In truth, they have little or no idea just how popular or unpopular a blaze orange bill might be.

But they are savvy enough to know that taking on any issue involving deer hunting can be politically dangerous. In the end, they would rather ignore an issue that would clearly save lives than invoke the wrath of the few and the loud.

Like plenty of Vermonters, I don't like having Big Brother telling me what I can and cannot do. But there are times — and this is one of them — when a life-saving law is in the public interest.

It's time Vermont caught up with 40 other states in this country. A blaze orange law would save lives. That's good enough for me.


  1. We should also have an no alcohol while hunting law and yet that never passes either....

    1. That one is just ridiculous. They legislate alcohol and motor vehicles, but not alcohol with loaded guns and shooting???
      Vermont needs to wake up!

  2. I go back and fourth on this, Eric. In the end I have to say I wouldn't support an orange bill, but much of that stems from my personal philosophies that there are already too many laws.
    I also see that orange laws teach hunters to look for orange. Hikers, wood cutters, and other outdoors enthusiasts would then be put in greater peril. They do nothing to promote what ultimately causes fatalities, poor decision making.
    I also feel that here, in Vermont, it is easy to look at some of our hunting-related fatalities and see how they were related to illegal activity, even if charges were never pressed. The tractor incident in St. Albans, the two boys in Addison who were on posted property, another case where the shooter was rumored to be found in possession of an illegal substance...
    Let me ask a rhetorical question. IN the Milton case a few years ago, after the shooter pulled the trigger he said "whatever it is, it is down now." I will admit orange probably would have saved that man's life, but shouldn't we work on the core of that thinking? Is the next step making it illegal to wear blue and red during turkey season? You get the idea ...
    Would a more practical approach also be stricter penalties for anybody involved in such an incident? But alas I run out of time...
    Kyle Scanlon
    Outdoors Magazine

  3. As a hunter safety instructor i would highly recommend a hunter orange bill for everyone . If this is not approved i think we should atleast have one during the youth season. Saving one life would make this BILL IMPORTANT

  4. Eric: I have been teaching H-E for over 40 years and I have always preached Hunter Orange.
    I think making it a law is a wise move, I too, have seen more and more people dressed in camo, and I dont like that trend

  5. The interesting thing about the bill currently in the Vermont Senate,(and a reason I believe it stands a chance of passage) is it does not require any legislator to actually take a stand on this issue. It puts the discussion into the hands of the F&W Board. A group of Vermont hunters with varied backgrounds and philosophies. Who better to decide whether or not a rule is necessary, and if so what the perameters should be?
    Brian Ames

  6. A bill requiring orange would have many pluses and no minuses - a no-brainer. Getting shot accidentally would be one of the worst things imaginable, but shooting someone else by mistake certainly comes in a close second. Mandatory orange won't eliminate stupidity and lack of responsibility, but if it saves even one life it makes sense.
    Eric Bye, Editor, Muzzle Blasts magazine (National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association)

  7. As an HE Instructor, I feel that Hunter Orange makes hunters lazy -- if it ain't orange it must be o.k. to shoot--kind of attitude. We emphasize in our classes that if you are not 200% sure of what you're seeing, do not shoot. I have seen many "stump deer" who actually move their heads and chew their cuds, but I have never shot one!
    I have hunted in Maine and have been shocked at the blatant disregard for "identifying your target" and the presumption that seeing orange is the only information needed "not to shoot."I did not feel safe and we left an area we knew to get away from the "threat" of other hunters. I am sorry for the man who was tragically shot (note: the shooter was from a Hunter Orange required state), but that doesn't mean that Hunter Orange should be made into law.
    I have participated in deer drives with a dozen or more sitters and drivers all in woodland colors or camo and no one has ever been "mistaken for game." (a rotten term anyway).
    By and large the game has changed throughout the state -- there are people in the woods walking, horseback riding, hiking, cutting wood,etc. during hunting season with no awareness of hunting or what's going on around them. The hunters who are there are more likely to not have had time to scout the area and are impatient to get game. Some of this is because the hunters are getting squeezed into a smaller areas because of development or posting and anytime there is more density of people there is increased risk.
    I am against mandatory orange, but if it passes it needs to be required of anyone "recreating" or "working" outdoors during the fall, not just hunters.
    I'm tired of a few careless people ruining it for everybody.

  8. I wear orange when I'm moving and keep my hat out to wave as a flag. I hang it on a limb when I can except during turkey season. I've seen other in brown chamois shirts and full camo out in the woods. I DO NOT support our government making more choices for us.
    Massachusetts now has a law requiring daycare providers to brush childrens' teeth after meals. What will they regulate next? What the h$ll could possibly next?
    Not wearing orange has been a tragic choice for some, but it has been THEIR choice! Let's keep it that way!

  9. Annon 1:18 - the feeling that if orange is mandatory anything not orange is assumed to be potential game sounds like common sense. However the stats from states that go from voluntary to mandatory shows no statistical up tick in non-hunters or hunters (illegally) not wearing orange being shot. Bottom line - total number of sight related shootings go down and total numbers of folks not wearing orange does not go up.
    The idea of forcing non-hunters to wear orange for all practical and political reasons would be impossible. I know of no state that has even tried this.

  10. Annon 10:45
    "Not wearing orange has been a tragic choice for some, but it has been THEIR choice! Let's keep it that way!" I call this the Darwin solution - it is their problem not mine. Unfortunately the shooter has a big problem as dose everyone connected to the shooter and the shot.
    A classic example is what happened to two friends of mine. Both were hunting several miles off the road in northern Maine. Neither knew the other was there and they were not hunting together. Hunter A hears a shot (which was a surprise because he thought he was alone. He sees a big buck running toward him thru an open wet area. He raises his rifle and starts to swing on the deer, just as he is pressing the trigger he sees a flash of orange and pulls up. Opposite him and beyond the deer he sees hunter B also pulling up. No shots and no injuries. They talk and thank each other for not shooting. Both tell me that they feel one or both would have been shot if they were not wearing orange because neither saw the other until swinging on the deer. Both are very experienced, quality hunters. I'm convinced if it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone.
    I think there is a lesson to be learned from this. Yes I wear orange, but what if something like this happened and the other guy was not - we both pay.
    How about the increase use in como hunting blinds. Even with a standing deer - can you or will you see that blind before shooting?
    We all know deer don't see orange. They see movement. So the primary reason not to wear orange has got to be ethetics. I'm all for doing what you prefer, but not when it can have such a profound negative consequence on others. Having the burden of knowing you killed or injured someone for the rest of your life trumps the whole "nanny state" argument.

  11. To me, this one is a lot like the seatbelt laws. If it's law, I'll shut up and follow it. If not, I'll have no part of it.

    In my case, I didn't like the idea of "nanny government". A seatbelt, like hunter orange, statistically saves lives. But what about those exceptions.

    I wrecked a car once, my own fault, by slinging it airborne into a tree about six feet off the ground. In the course of the accident, I was thrown from the driver's seat into the passenger side. The driver's side was completely crushed. I would have died.

    Out here in CA, I tend to hunt high and distant, which gives me a pretty good view of the open ground where most of the other hunters tend to move. I have watched, time and again, as hunters raise their scopes to glass that unidentified object that stands out... particularly orange, red, or white objects. It's a little frightening to realize that, should you draw visual attention, someone is very likely to put their crosshairs on you.

    I suppose that, statistically, that's not a great reason for not wearing orange... just like my driving experience isn't the best reason for not wearing a seatbelt. But it makes you think... shouldn't we have the option of making that choice for ourselves?

  12. Here are the stats from New York State compiled over a 10 yr period from 1992-2001:
    120,000 hunters did not wear orange (legal in the Adirondacks) - 18 were killed when mistaken for big game
    580,000 hunters who wore orange (required in the rest of the state) - 0 were mistaken for big game and killed.

    Orange isn't a cure all - but it goes a long way.

  13. The results of my snap poll with 45 votes was 2/3 in favor of mandatory orange during rifle deer season and 1/3 opposed.

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