Outdoors: Safety first for firearm deer season

Wearing at least 400 square inches of blaze orange on the head, back and chest will help keep hunters safe in the field this deer season.

Saturday kicks off the popular November firearm deer season, and keeping everyone safe is a top priority as there will be hunters of all ages in the field until Nov. 19. Be on the lookout for other hunters while in the field, use common sense and keep safety first and foremost.

Below is a list of some safety tips to keep in mind before hitting the field.

» Plan your hunt before you go — Always let someone know where you will be hunting and when you plan to return, then stick to your plan. In the event of an accident, hunters with a plan can be located easier by those you gave your hunt plan to.

» Dress properly — If cold weather is in the forecast, dress properly with layers and bring plenty of snacks and water for the hunt. Be sure to carry first aid supplies in your day pack and vehicle.

» Always wear blaze orange — Firearm and archery deer hunters are required to wear at least 400 square inches of blaze orange on his or her head, chest and back during the firearm season.

» Always maintain muzzle control — Never allow the muzzle of a firearm or an arrow knocked in a bow to be pointed at something that you do not intend to shoot.

» Know your target and what lies beyond that target — Be sure there are not buildings, vehicles, roadways or livestock behind the deer you intend to shoot and never shoot at sky-lined deer.

» Know your shot — Know the effective range that you are comfortable shooting and only place shots at vital organs on deer presenting a quartering or broad-side shot.

» Always use a full-body harness when hunting from a tree stand — More than 85 percent of accidents happen when entering, exiting, climbing or descending from a stand. Be sure the equipment you are using is in good condition. Avoid hunting from heights greater than 15 feet and maintain a short tether to the tree and use a haul line to raise and lower equipment. Always stay attached to the tree when climbing up to and down from the stand.

» If you do fall with a harness, use the three R’s — Rescue, relief and recovery. This includes knowing how to get back onto your stand from the harness and how to keep yourself safe in the harness and relieve pressure from the leg straps on the harness. Relieving pressure involves having an extra strap and hooks to latch the strap to your harness allowing the hunter to stand on the strap to relieve pressure. Many harnesses have a repelling system to allow a hunter to descend from the tree after a fall, getting them safely to the ground. Don’t panic and have a plan in place in case of a fall.

» Hunters should never go onto private property without the owner’s permission — Not only is this trespassing, but safety should be considered. Hunters won’t know who else may be in the field or where other people, buildings or livestock are located.

» Checking in deer — Any deer harvested during the firearm season must be checked in at a deer check station before any processing takes place. Hunters should locate a check station online that they intend to use before the start of the firearm season. For a list of check stations see OutdoorNebraska.org and click on the hunting section.

Firearm deer hunters and archers harvesting deer during the firearm season must deliver their deer to a check station no later than 1 p.m. on the day following the close of the season.

There are plenty of permits remaining in several hunting units but some units have sold out. To view a list of available permits, go to outdoornebraska.org, click on buy a permit, then remaining permits. Permits may be purchased at that site or at Game and Parks permitting offices. Call Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers toll-free at 800-742-7627 to report game law violations.

Public hunting lands

The Game and Parks website is a great resource for hunters looking for any information regarding deer hunting including the 2017 Big Game Guide and 2017 Public Access Atlas for help finding public hunting lands and private lands open to public access.

People using the state’s wildlife management areas and open fields and water areas should be aware of the presence of hunters on those areas during all hunting seasons, but especially for the November firearm deer season, when several thousand hunters will be in the field across Nebraska.

Upland bird hunters, anglers, bird watchers, horseback riders, hikers, wildlife viewers and anyone else using public areas are encouraged to use common courtesy by being aware of hunters using the area for everyone’s safety. Everyone utilizing these areas should make themselves as visible as possible by wearing blaze orange even when not hunting.

Deer hides for veterans

Remember to help a veteran this deer season by taking the hides of deer, antelope and elk with the head and legs removed to the Elks Lodge No. 985 at 502 Easy St. in North Platte. The hides will be made into specially designed leather gloves for veterans in wheelchairs. The Veterans Leather Program provides leather gloves for vets, lending protection to their hands during movement.

Every part of the tanned hides is used by veterans for other projects like key chains, wallets, belts and more from remaining pieces of the leather. The tanned leather is used for recreational and occupational therapy for our vets as a way to pass time between visits from friends and family, as well as providing a form of relief for vets by keeping minds active and providing exercise for injured and unused muscles.

Be sure to thank a veteran today for their service to our country and for the freedoms that we have today.

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