Opinion

Keep safety in mind while enjoying state game lands during hunting season

With the start of rifle deer season, it’s important to remind folks to be safe. Being safe in Penn’s Woods is advice that the Pennsylvania Game Commission offers to both hunters and non-hunters. The first tip we offer deals with florescent orange and how it can save your life. By law, any person participating in rifle deer season must wear 250 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange on his or her head, chest and back, visible in a 360 degree arc.

Additionally, if you are on state game lands from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, hunting or not, you must have 250 square inches of daylight florescent orange on your head, chest and back, visible in a 360 degree arc. So if you take your dog for a walk out on Scotia, you must have an orange hat and vest on during this time of year. Furthermore, I would recommend putting an orange vest on your dog, too. The purpose of wearing orange is so that you stand out to hunters. To further mitigate the possibility of a hunting-related shooting incidence, we teach new hunters who take our hunter/trapper education class an acronym called S.M.A.R.T. The “S” stands for Safe Direction: Keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction at all times. The “M” is for Make Sure: positively identify your target, know what it is that you are shooting at. The “A” stands for Always Check: Know what is beyond your target, don’t get “tunnel vision.”

The “R” is for Respect Firearms: Treat all firearms as if they are loaded. Finally, the “T” stands for Trigger Caution: Never touch the trigger until you are ready to shoot the firearm. The S.M.A.R.T. acronym is not just good advice to new hunters, its good advice for any hunter of any skill level. The next tip should look familiar to any Boy Scout, past or present: Always be prepared! All hunters can make errors but it’s how you deal with those errors that can make a difference. Be prepared for any situation that may come up. Though you may know your hunting woods like the back of your hand, carry a GPS, or better yet, a map and compass. Additionally, carry a backpack with a small first aid kit, a bottle of water and some type of protein bar. Finally, try to have a hunting partner. If you prefer to hunt alone, that’s fine, just make sure you tell someone what your hunting plan is before you head out. A hunting plan can be as simple as knowing when you are leaving, when you are coming back and where you will be.

State game lands are unique in that they were purchased by hunters for the purpose of providing good healthy habitat for wildlife. The Pennsylvania Game Commission and hunters encourage the non-hunting public to enjoy game lands.

Just understand that there are some regulations that apply to game lands that may not apply to other public parks or forests. It is your responsibility to know what the regulations are before you do any type of recreation on any public land.

Mike Steingraber is a wildlife conservation officer for the PA Game Commission.

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