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Have a successful and safe hunting season


With the nine-day gun deer season beginning this Saturday morning, thousands of hunters across the state will take part in the annual tradition.

For many, it is an opportunity to put meat in their freezer and perhaps a trophy on their wall. For many more, it is a chance to reconnect with family and friends, renew traditions, and share stories of elusive bucks and hunting camp mishaps.

Few things connect people in rural Wisconsin, more than the tradition of the annual gun deer season. From church pews to the local watering hole, blaze orange can be seen wherever you go.

As hunters make their preparations to head out into the woods, it is essential to remember that a successful hunt is a safe hunt. Safety should be the priority for hunters before, during and after the hunt.

The DNR estimates about 580,000 hunters are expected to take part in this year’s gun deer season, a record number. Last year, hunters in Wisconsin, registered 219,715 deer (106,038 bucks, 113,675 antlerless deer and two unknowns) in the nine-day gun deer season, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

The outlook for this season should be good for hunters, with the state estimating a population of nearly two million whitetail deer.

Regardless of the number of deer or hunters, the true measure of success in hunting season, is that everyone comes home safe.

Safety needs to be a priority for hunters before, during and after the hunt. According to the DNR, in 1966, the state hunting incident rate was 44 injuries for every 100,000 hunters. In large part to the mandatory hunter education classes, that rate has dropped steadily for years, with 10.6 incidents per 100,000 participants in 1985, 4.8 in 1995, and about 0.5 in 2018. Last year’s gun deer season went on record as the safest one on record, with just three non-fatal gunshot injuries.

Gun safety is only one part of ensuring the hunt is a safe one. Other factors include weather conditions during the hunt, the condition of equipment, such as tree stands, and the physical health of hunters.

While there is little that can be done to impact the weather, it is important to be prepared for Wisconsin’s constantly changing weather conditions. This goes for dressing when heading out into the woods and for driving to the hunting shack.

Before you go out in the woods, check your equipment and repair or replace any damaged parts. If using a tree stand, be sure to wear the appropriate safety harness and make sure your gun is unloaded, before you attempt to bring it up to your stand.

Perhaps the most important part of ensuring a safe hunt, is to know your physical limits. Walking miles back into the woods and climbing into tree stands are not routine activities for most people, and the unfamiliar strain can lead to injury. Be sure to let people know where you are hunting and have designated check in times so they know if they should come looking for you.

When you bag your deer, have a plan on how you will haul it out of the woods, without putting yourself into cardiac arrest.

The annual gun deer season is an important time of year for both hunters and non-hunters in the state, providing an important economic boost to rural areas and bringing a sense of excitement, as people celebrate and share in other hunters’ success.

While not every hunter will have success in bringing home the big one this year, with a small amount of effort, every hunter can come home safe to share the stories of missed shots, Korbel and cribbage in the hunting shack. Members of the Courier Sentinel editorial board include publisher Carol O’Leary, general manager Kris O’Leary and Star News editor Brian Wilson.