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Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2007

MI - 13 reported hunting accidents in the past 9 days

Fewer hunting accidents so far this season

BY SHERI McWHIRTER

GAYLORD -- Alpena resident Fred Baker once came uncomfortably close to being shot while deer hunting: He saw another hunter observe him through a rifle scope as he walked to his natural deer blind.

"I got up there and asked him if that rifle was loaded and he said it was. I thought that was pretty dangerous," Baker said last week as he shopped for a new rifle at a Gaylord sporting goods store.

Such behavior can lead to injury or death in hunting accidents, state officials said. And while no major hunting accidents were reported as of Friday in northwestern Lower Michigan since the Nov. 15 start of the firearms deer season, that's not the case elsewhere.

Hunters were injured in 13 reported accidents during the last nine days, including two fatal shootings -- on Nov. 17 in Montcalm County and in Oceana County on Thanksgiving Day. There were 17 hunting accidents during the entire deer season last year, including three fatalities.

Statistics show most injuries occur when hunters shoot themselves or a hunting partner, often in the foot.

Lt. Jane Gordon is a conservation officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. There are numerous safety tips to remember while hunting, three especially so, she said.

"Watch the muzzle of the gun, keeping it pointed in a safe direction; always treat the gun as if it were loaded; and, know your target and what's beyond," Gordon said. "If everybody did that, we'd have no hunting accidents at all."

Hunter Sam Surre, of Frederic, believes wearing hunter orange is most important, including hats and gloves to draw attention to even small motions from hunters.

"Other hunters will see that in the woods," Surre said, raising his hands to demonstrate holding a rifle.

Surre formerly taught hunter safety classes and said hunters using tree stands also should remember to latch their stands' safety straps, even if it is uncomfortable. Many hunters fall asleep in their tree stands and can tumble to the ground, he said.

"I've fallen asleep lots of times, but I wear a five-point safety harness, so I never fall out," Surre said.

The DNR also recommends hunters keep their finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot, unload firearms when not in use, point guns only at intended targets and avoid drugs and alcohol while hunting.

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