Thu09182014

Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

   20140901MetroCastweb

Firearms deer season is in; Be safe, be ethical and courteous

Although I was not in the deer woods on opening morning with a deer gun in hand, I heard the distant shots as we waited for a few ducks to grace us with their presence. The shooting picked up for deer hunters (and apparently some duck hunters very close to our position) as the tempo of gunfire also picked up.

It was a great day to be afield. The woods were wet, making it easy to sneak along. It was overcast, not too hot, but not too cold. The deer were actively seeking a mate, too. Bucks are chasing does with thick necks, and spoiling for war with other bucks. With all that excitement, it is a good time to run a few reminders by all of us who love to hunt.

Be Safe
First of all, we need to be safe. We all now have to wear blaze orange while in the woods. It must be a hat or upper body clothing that is visible for 360 degrees and measures at least 100 square inches. Hats and clothing may NOT be camo blaze orange. The regulations do state that you can have a bill, or brim color or design, other than solid blaze orange. (See page 18 of the regulation book.) If you use a pop-up blind or ground blind, you need the same blaze orange OUTSIDE of the blind, according to the passage.

Do keep in mind gun safety. Don’t shoot into the bushes where you hear or think you see something, but are not 100% sure it is a deer. Remember, it is bucks-only until Saturday, anyway. You better make sure you are shooting at something with visible antlers. AND, be sure you have a good backstop behind the deer to stop your buckshot or slugs. Don’t shoot skylined deer, no matter how big. We have had a few accidents in our county in the past few years including one fatality that I know of, and the others, thankfully, were not fatal. Let’s clean up our record and have no accidents.

Be considerate of your fellow citizens
Keep in mind our fellow citizens that don’t hunt. I am proud that I am a hunter. I don’t shy away from that fact, either. But, I don’t leave deer carcasses along the road, in dumpsters or in plain sight for others to see. I don’t drive around with blood dripping down my tailgate, either. It is a great idea to stop and check your deer at a check station, brag about it some, share your story with others, show some kids what you got and so on. Let’s just not be gross about it and turn off the rest of our neighbors by our behavior. Remember, we have a lot of transplants from Northern Virginia who view hunters in a different light. This a great time of year to get them on our side, share our tradition and prove the media wrong about hunters and gun owners.

And the landowner
Ethics is something that can be controversial. Everyone has a different take on what is wrong, right or acceptable. Personally, I don’t like to crowd people in the woods. If someone is already hunting a piece of property, I will wait my turn and hunt elsewhere. It is also a good idea to touch base with the landowner often and let them know what you have observed on their property. Look out for them. Clean up any mess you see whether it is a fallen tree, a hole in a road or even trash that you did not dump on the land. Offer to help them keep the place up. Don’t drive through wet fields leaving ruts. Avoid using ATVs unless specifically authorized by the landowner, and don’t leave a trail where you have been, either.

Take the landowner a piece of your harvested deer or ducks. If they don’t know how to cook it, make a meal and deliver it. They might enjoy the meat, and you might make a friend.

Last, with land getting in shorter supply, competition for hunting spots has really become cutthroat. Some out-of-town hunters are willing to pay a lot of money to come here and hunt. They are squeezing local hunters out.

It would be a good idea to do all of the above to keep your spot. Also,  landowner/hunter relations need to be superb to have a place to hunt each year. I have heard of and experienced A LOT of trespassing issues the past few years. It seems some people will do whatever they can to get a deer, even if it means crossing lines, poaching and so on.

Remember, you cannot hunt on another’s land without permission, even if it is not POSTED. You must get permission. Perhaps you feel that since the landowner does not live on the land, you can sneak in. I doubt it. There are too many of us decent hunters and citizens who will report you.

We have all learned how to use trail cameras. We also have a  K-9 officer right here in our county. His dog is topnotch, and many cases have been made against trespassers who tried to say they were not on the land only to have the dog backtrail them to their hunting location and then back to their vehicle. If you trespass, it is only a matter of time before you are caught.

Those hunters using dogs needing to be retrieved may go on private land to retrieve those dogs, but may NOT drive a vehicle down private roads, driveways etc. They must walk unless they get permission. They may NOT take a firearm with them, either. So, keep in mind, hunters looking for their dogs can come on your place to get them, but they must do so with the intention to get their dogs quickly, and without a vehicle or firearm. They must also identify themselves if they are asked.

Hunters who say they are tracking a deer may do so only on lands where they have permission to hunt or search. You may not go on land to get a wounded animal without permission. (See page 18 of the regulations.)

With the lack of land to hunt, those of us who do things correctly are only too ready to report those who lie, cheat and steal. We have an image to uphold and a tradition we cherish. Let’s hunt safely this season! Enjoy the woods.

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