If you're an archery hunter, the Division of Wildlife Resources has some simple tips to keep you safe.
RaLynne Takeda, assistant Hunter Education coordinator for the DWR, says archery hunting doesn't involve firearms, but it does present two unique risks. "Every year," she says, "we receive reports of hunters falling from trees or jabbing themselves or other hunters while carrying arrows in their hands."
Another risk is letting an arrow fly without being certain what's behind the target. Arrows, especially carbon arrows, can hit with great force at distances as far as 100 yards from the point of release.
"Hunting is one of the safest and most enjoyable activities you can participate in," she says. "It's easy to reduce both of the risks I mentioned."
Utah's general archery buck deer and archery elk hunts start Aug. 19. Takeda provides the following tips to keep you safe:
Before placing a portable tree stand in a tree, look at the stand's weight rating. Make sure it will support both your weight and the weight of your equipment.
"Hunters sometimes forget to factor in the weight of their equipment," Takeda says. "If the combined weight of your body and the equipment is greater than the weight the stand can support, it could easily collapse, sending you and your equipment to the ground below."
Another risk is falling while you're climbing a tree. Falling from your stand, once you reach it, is also a risk. "Before you start climbing," Takeda says, "attach an approved safety harness, also called a fall arrest system, to yourself and the tree. And keep it attached until your hunt is over and you're on the ground again."
Another risk is trying to carry your equipment with you, as you climb the tree. "Don't do that," Takeda says.
Instead, attach a hauling line to your equipment, leaving plenty of slack in the line. Then, attach your safety harness to the tree and start climbing, holding the hauling line in one hand or tied to your belt. After you're on your stand, use your hauling line to lift your equipment to you.
Takeda also reminds you that it's illegal to build a tree stand on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. "Only portable stands can be used," she says.
Another risk is carrying arrows in your hand, or nocking one in your bow, before you're ready to shoot. Broadheads are extremely sharp.
"Every year," Takeda says, "we receive reports of hunters stabbing themselves, or someone walking near them, while carrying arrows in their hands that should be in a quiver."
Takeda says you should not remove arrows from your quiver until it's time to shoot. "It only takes a few seconds to remove an arrow from a quiver, nock the arrow and shoot it," she says. "The few seconds you'll save, carrying arrows in your hand or nocked in your bow, aren't worth it."
In addition to the safety tips, Takeda and the Division of Wildlife Resources provide advice on preparing for the hunt, safety items to remember while you're afield, and information on how to track animals and care for game meat.
- Equipment checks – make sure the laminations on your bow are not flaking or separating. And make sure the strings on your bow are not fraying. If you have a compound bow, make sure the pulleys and cables are in good shape. Also, make sure your arrow's spline (the stiffness of the arrow's shaft) matches your bow's draw weight. If your bow's draw weight produces more force than your arrow can handle, your arrow will probably fly off target.
- Broadhead sharpening – when you sharpen your broadheads, take your time, and be careful. Your broadheads need to be razor sharp. But make sure you don't cut yourself while sharpening them.
- Practice shooting as much as possible. Use the same broadheads you'll use during the hunt.
- Obtain written permission from private landowners before hunting on their property or using their property to access public land.
- Know the boundaries of limited-entry units and other restricted areas in the area you're going to hunt.
- Take the DWR's Bowhunter Education class. You can learn more about the class, and sign up to take it, at www.wildlife.utah.gov/huntereducation
- Visit the Utah Hunt Planner website at www.wildlife.utah.gov/HuntPlanner
. Once you arrive at the site, you'll find notes from the biologist who manages the unit you're going to hunt, general information about the unit, and safety and weather items. Information about the number of bucks on the unit, compared to the number of does, is also given. You'll also find maps that show the unit's boundaries, which land is public and which is private, and the various types of deer habitat found on the unit.
- Never take a shot at a deer or an elk that is beyond the maximum range you're comfortable shooting. Also, before you release your arrow, make sure of your target and what's beyond it.
After the shot
o Watch the animal and determine the direction it took. Then, go to the spot where you last saw the animal, and find your arrow. If there's blood on it, and if you have a compass, take a bearing on the direction the animal went. Then, wait 30 minutes before tracking it. If you track the animal too soon, you can spook it into running. If you wait at least 30 minutes before tracking it, most of the deer and elk you shoot will be found dead within a reasonable distance of your starting point.
When you track an animal, look for blood not only on the ground but on the brush too. If you begin to lose the animal's trail, tie a piece of biodegradable paper near the last blood spot. Then, search for the animal's trail by walking a circular pattern out from the paper. The paper will serve as a marker that will let you know where you started.
Also, tying paper at the locations of the last three or four blood spots you see, and then standing away from the paper and looking at the paper trail, can help you visualize the direction the animal took.
o Once you've found the animal, check to see if its eyes are open. If they're not, the animal probably isn't dead. If its eyes are open, touch one of the eyes with a long stick. If the animal is still alive, touching one of the eyes with a long stick will keep you out of harm's way. Once the animal is dead, field dress and cool its meat immediately. Temperatures are usually warm during the archery hunt. The warm temperatures can cause the meat to spoil quickly.
Here's some advice about campfires:
Make sure your campfire is completely extinguished before you leave it. Pour water on the fire, stir, more water, stir, until it is cold to the touch. If it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave!
Finally, here are some tips for reducing conflicts with landowners and those who don't hunt:
- Find access points to your hunting area well in advance of the season.
- If access requires crossing private land, you must obtain written permission from the landowner. If you can't obtain written permission, find another access point.
- Before you start hunting, make sure you're well beyond the minimum distances you must maintain from roads and dwellings. If you're going to hunt in Salt Lake County, please remember that the county's hunting restrictions are more restrictive than the rest of Utah. Read the 2017 Utah Big Game Field Regulations Guidebook closely for more information. The free guidebook is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks
- Avoid hunting in areas that a lot of people use. Also, whenever possible, avoid hunting near heavily used trails.
Takeda says most Utahns choose not to hunt. But they support hunting as long as hunters are legal, safe and ethical.
Extended archery areas
If you want to hunt the Cache Laketown, West Cache, Ogden, Wasatch Front or Uintah Basin extended archery areas, please remember the following:
- Before hunting any of these areas, you must complete the DWR's Archery Ethics Course. The free course is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/extendedarchery
- While hunting in an extended archery area, you must carry two items with you: your 2017 general archery buck deer permit and your Archery Ethics Course certificate. If you're a member of the Dedicated Hunter program, you must also carry your Dedicated Hunter certificate of registration.
For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.
Contact: Mark Hadley, DWR Relations with the Public Specialist, 801-538-4737