Gary Guida, Education Program interim coordinator for the DNR Enforcement Division, offers these firearms safety tips:
* never load or unload a firearm while in a group of people;
* load only when away from vehicles and at the hunting site;
* unload immediately after the hunt is over, before returning to your vehicle;
* never climb in or out of a deer stand with a loaded gun;
* always use a haul line to raise and lower your unloaded gun;
* check beyond your target before firing your gun.
"Most hunters know the rules for properly handling firearms," Guida said, "but sometimes a hunter pays a big price for taking a shortcut."
Deer hunters urged to be prepared for bad weather
Be prepared. That Scout motto is good advice for deer hunters, especially this year, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. With the Nov. 9 firearms deer hunting opener falling on a relatively late date this year, the possibility of dangerous weather increases.
"Sound safety practices become even more important as the days grow shorter and colder," notes Col. Leo Haseman, DNR Enforcement Division director. "The Halloween snowstorm of 1991 and the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 are reminders of how quickly unexpected dangerous storms can move into Minnesota."
Haseman suggests that hunters dress in layers. Deer hunters should wear plenty of blaze orange, a color that not only prevents shooting accidents, but also aids the search for lost hunters. Haseman says hunters should always leave word about their destinations and expected return time. A lost hunter should stop and prepare to spend the night, gather firewood, and build a fire for warmth and to signal rescuers. Continuing to move can sap strength and make rescue more difficult. Haseman said a basic survival kit, which should be at the top of the gear list for late-fall hunters, can aid survival.
Winter survival kits might include the following:
* a compass
* a map of the area to be hunted
* matches in a waterproof container
* a long-burning candle
* high energy snacks
* a flashlight with fresh batteries
* a lightweight Mylar emergency blanket
* a thermos with coffee or hot cocoa.
A second winter survival kit for the car might include all of the above plus a first aid kit, an enamel cup for melting snow for drinking water, a red antenna flag, and a "call police" sign, all stored in a plastic ice cream bucket that can double as a candle holder or toilet.
Deer hunters need landowners' permission
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is working to get a clear and simple message out to deer hunters: ASK FIRST.
"It's as simple as that," according to Wayne Edgerton, DNR agricultural policy director. "Ask first. When hunters respect the rights of private landowners enough to ask them before entering their land, it builds mutual respect. This will help ensure that there will continue to be recreational opportunities available on private property."
Deer hunters and other outdoor recreationists are reminded by the DNR that new provisions of Minnesota's trespass law are in effect this fall. These provisions, passed during the last session of the Legislature, broaden the trespassing law to include all recreational users.
According to Edgerton, the new provisions change posting requirements, which were relaxed to make it easier for landowners to post their land. Instead of having to post the entire perimeter of their land at 500- or 1,000-foot intervals with "No Trespassing signs, landowners need only post signs at corners and key access points. County sheriffs, deputies and DNR conservation officers will be able to charge violators with either a civil penalty or criminal offense for trespassing. Civil penalties can be as high as $500, with loss of license for a third time offender. The DNR is working closely with county officials to ensure that quick and appropriate response is taken on trespassing complaints.
For a fact sheet that explains the trespass law changes, call the DNR Information Center at (612) 296-6157 in the Twin Cities area, or call toll free 1-800-766-6000.
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