By Thursday, the Upper Peninsula's fields and forests will be alive with blaze orange hunting gear and the sound of rifle shots.
The Michigan firearm deer hunting season starts Thursday and continues through Friday, Nov. 30. Wisconsin's rifle season starts on Saturday, Nov. 17.
These hunting seasons are extremely popular, almost like holidays.
With all the hunters and travelers descending on the Dickinson-Iron-Florence-Marinette county area, caution is the word of the season.
Nobody plans hunting accidents, but they happen because too few hunters plan for safety.
Local authorities want both visitors and residents to know some important safety rules.
- Your hunting license and the identification used to purchase it (Michigan driver's license, identification card, or DNR sport card) must be carried with you at all times while hunting.
- All hunters must wear an item of clothing (hat, cap, vest, jacket, or rain gear) in "hunter orange." The outermost garment must be orange.
- Hunting hours are approximately one-half hour before sunrise and last until approximately one-half hour after sunset.
- Safety zones are all areas within 150 yards (450 feet) of an occupied building, house, cabin, barn, or other farm building. You may not hunt in this area or shoot at any animal within this area, unless you have the written permission of the property owner.
- It is illegal to drink alcohol or use intoxicating drugs before hunting.
- Familiarize yourself with the area where you will be hunting.
- Never assume other hunters are acting responsibly.
- If sitting against a rock or tree, make sure it is wider than your shoulders so you are not mistaken for a target.
- Be 100 percent sure of your target before shooting.
Local officials urge all hunters to act responsibly this season. Reacquaint yourself with Michigan's hunting laws and follow these safety tips to prevent a tragedy from happening this year.
Additionally, a safe hunt should have four working parts, experts say.
- Positive safety rules.
- Clear communication.
- A laid-back attitude.
The most accident-prone hunters disregard safety because they think it's a hassle.
That's not true.
In fact, the rules of safe hunting are positive, not restrictive.
They point out smart things to do.
Take, for example, the commandments of safe gun handling:
- Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
- Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it before you shoot.
Each rule is a specific, positive action. Taking these actions - and insisting that all other hunters in the group follow suit - is the first and most important working part of a safe hunt.
Each hunter must understand the lay of the land, what the other hunters will be doing, who will shoot and in which direction. Watches, compasses and sketch maps are useful and sometimes necessary.
A deer drive through standing corn or a cedar swamp is no place for a hunter who wanders off course and into the line of fire.
Communication must continue during the hunt. Hunters cannot guess where the other hunters are - they must know.
The third positive working part of a safe hunting plan is a mellow, mature attitude - and maturity is a function of experience and self-discipline, not age.
One sign of maturity is keeping your cool even when a deer is in sight. Another is self-control. Some people think deer hunting, night life and drinking go together, but hunting season is not a time to run wild.
Stretch your luck too far, and you can find yourself involved in an accident, a lawsuit for damages, or even a felony arrest.
A third sign of maturity is a sense of perspective. Win or lose, you won't take chances to acquire some venison sausage.
Finally, priorities. Don't let your interest in getting a deer cloud your mind. You don't need a deer. You need to get through the experience safely.
The first priority is avoiding a tragedy. Everything else comes in second.
Safety experts also offer the following tips to help hunters avoid a trip to the Emergency Room.
- Allow sufficient time for travel, rest and hunting.
- Be certain others know your whereabouts and when to expect your return.
- Be sure your gun works properly.
- Dress appropriately. Layers of clothing provide better protection than a single, heavy coat. In this manner, a single layer can be removed during the warmer part of the day.
- Be as familiar as possible with the area in which you will hunt. A working compass, map, light and a book of matches wrapped in a plastic bag may be extremely useful should you become lost.
- Recognize your limitations. Avoid excessive fatigue, which can tend to aggravate other medical illnesses.
- Take extra caution when skinning and gutting the deer. Avoid inadvertent stab wounds.
- If you drink alcohol, do so only after the hunting and driving are completed, and then in moderation.
- Be certain your tree stand is in good working order. Avoid tree stand use if tired or after using alcohol.
- Report lost hunters by calling 911.