Hunter Safety Tips – By Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard

With deer hunting season here for bow and firearm rapidly approaching, many sportsmen will take advantage of the opportunity to share time with their friends, relax, and enjoy the outdoors. The hunting season offers much in the way of sportsmanship and camaraderie, but it also poses some obvious inherent dangers. Every year we hear of tragic, fatal accidents that occur because simple precautions and care are not being used. Don’t let what should be an enjoyable and memorable time turn into a tragedy.

Taking a hunter safety course is an excellent idea. Hunter education in Michigan has taught thousands of people safe hunting techniques, firearm handling, and hunter ethics. Hunter safety is required if you were born after January 1, 1960 and you want to purchase any Michigan hunting license, or if you are planning an out-of-state hunting trip. A hunter safety certificate or previous hunting license is required to purchase any Michigan Hunting License. Hunters can be licensed at age 10. A hunter must be at least 12 years old to hunt deer, bear or elk with a firearm. Hunters age 12-13 may hunt deer, bear or elk with a firearm only on private land, including lands enrolled in the Commercial Forest program.

If you have your license, it is a good idea to remind yourself of some simple rules and laws to follow before you go out hunting. These important firearm safety tips will make everyone safer:

1. Before you go on your hunting trip, let a family member or friend know where you are hunting and when you plan on returning. If you plan on hunting on someone else’s land, always be sure to get permission from the property owner and if obtained, make sure they know when you will be there.

2. One of the most important rules is to always treat every firearm as if it is loaded. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction and always keep your finger outside the trigger guard and off the trigger until ready to shoot. Be certain of your target, and what’s beyond it.

3. As far as apparel goes, all firearm hunters must wear a hat, cap, vest, jacket, or other outer garment with “Hunter Orange” covering at least 50% of the surface area. The hunter orange must be visible from all sides. All hunters, including archers, must comply during gun season. Camouflage Hunter Orange is legal provided 50% of the surface area is solid 4. Hunter Orange (Exceptions: waterfowl, crow, and wild Turkey hunters, and bow hunters for deer during open archery season).

5. Hunting from a tree, raised platform or scaffold is legal, but extra caution must be used when climbing up or down. Do not carry a loaded weapon as you climb. Falls are one of the fastest growing injuries to sportsmen and women. It is also illegal to hunt while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These are a few important rules that should help keep your hunting trips safer.

For more information on hunter safety and other seasonal information, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has an abundance of information on their website at


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