SALEM, Ore.— With the major fall hunting season beginning Saturday, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials are encouraging hunters to carefully review hunter safety guidelines before entering the field.
While a majority of Oregon hunters are safe and enjoy a memorable experience, incidents still can happen. Last year, Oregon had five hunting incidents, none fatal, but several causing serious injury.
Following these simple guidelines can help prevent an incident from occurring this hunting season:
* Keep your firearm’s muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
* Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
* Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
* Be sure of your target and what is in front of it and beyond it.
* Wear blaze orange.
Since mandatory hunter education for anyone under 18 began in the 1960s, overall hunting incidents in the state have dropped dramatically—from 90+ incidents per year to less than 10. The last fatal hunting incident in Oregon was in Crook County in 2004. Thanks to over 700 volunteer hunter education instructors located throughout the state, an estimated 6,500 students take hunter education each year and receive their hunter education certificate.
After clearly identifying your target, and before taking the shot, hunters need to ask themselves: where could the bullet go if it misses the intended target?
“Think very carefully before you pull that trigger, because once you do, there is no going back,” said Chris Willard, ODFW Hunter Education Coordinator
Bryan Nelson, Grant County Area Hunter Education Coordinator, says muzzle control is one of the most important hunter safety commandments. “I tell my students, you better always have muzzle control if you’re handling a gun,” he said. “If you can’t do that you have no business handling a gun.”
To help avoid being mistaken for game, hunters are encouraged to wear blaze orange. While wearing blaze orange is not a requirement under Oregon’s hunting laws, many refuse to hunt with people who won’t wear it.
“Wear blaze orange—a hat at least, but a hat and vest is better,” says Dan Cottom, Tillamook County’s Hunter Education Area Coordinator. “Deer and elk won’t see you—they will see orange as gray—but other hunters will see you.”
Incidents involving non-hunters are rare, but there are steps hikers, bird-watchers and other non-hunters in the outdoors can take to be safer:
* Wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing: This way, hunters will be able to see you. Avoid wearing earth-tones.
* Make noise: Alert hunters to your presence by talking, singing or whistling.
* Make your presence known: If you hear someone shooting, let the hunters know you are in the area by raising your voice.
* Be aware of hunting seasons: The peak of hunting season is October through January but hunting is open all year for some animals in some areas. Hunters could be in state and national forests, Bureau of Land Management land, wilderness areas, state-managed wildlife areas, some federal refuges and on private lands.
Below are dates of some of the major fall hunting seasons in Oregon.
- Oct. 4-17, Oct. 25-Nov. 7 – Western Oregon general deer rifle season in Cascades.
- Oct. 4- Nov. 7 – Western Oregon general deer season on Coast. Last year, more than 94,000 hunters participated in a Westside deer rifle hunt (Cascades or Coast).
- Oct. 4 - The majority of controlled (limited entry) deer hunting in eastern Oregon also begins Saturday. Last year, more than 54,000 hunters participated in eastside deer hunting.
- Oct. 11 – Opening of waterfowl (duck and goose) hunting seasons in most areas and chukar, quail, Hungarian partridge season on eastside of state.
- Oct. 18– Opening of pheasant hunting season.
- Oct. 18-24 – Cascade elk season. Last year, more than 18,000 hunters participated.
- Nov. 15-18 – Coast elk season. Last year, nearly 25,000 hunters participated.
Oct. 29-Nov. 2, Nov. 8-16 – General Rocky Mountain bull elk (Columbia Basin area including Mt. Hood); most controlled (limited entry) elk hunting in eastern Oregon begins Oct. 29 and continues through the end of the year. Last year, nearly 34,000 hunters participated in general or controlled Rocky Mountain elk hunting.
The ODFW Recreation Report at www.dfw.state.or.us/RR/, updated every Thursday, lists which hunting seasons are open in specific areas.