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Safe deer hunters are never sorry

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges deer hunters to make safety their first priority when Minnesota's firearm deer season opens Nov. 3 by taking the time now to plan for a safe and successful hunt.

There are many considerations to take into account before the opening morning, according to Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Division education program coordinator. "First, are you going to hunt public or private land? If you are hunting public land, plan that there will be other hunters in the area," said Hammer. "Scouting for deer signs and signs of other hunters is important to help determine a set-up location during the early morning hours before the season starts."

Hammer noted knowing the safe zone of fire is especially important.

"Properly identifying your target and who or what's beyond the target is a basic rule of hunting safety," Hammer said. "Hunters must always be aware of surroundings and never shoot at a sound, which could be from another hunter rather than a deer."

Hammer urges hunters to check elevated stands for proper tree attachment before hunting. He also recommends using a fall arrest system when leaving the ground, and using a haul line to raise and lower unloaded firearms.

"Falls from elevated stands are a leading cause of injury for deer hunters," said Hammer

Ground blinds are becoming increasingly popular with deer hunters because they offer protection from the wind, rain and snow. Hammer said it's important to place blaze orange on the outside of such blinds to alert other hunters.

Deer drives also present several potential safety problems. "Plan your deer drive around safety," Hammer said. "Everyone involved should know the plan and stick to the plan."

Hammer offered other safety reminders:

Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

Always control the muzzle, keeping it pointed away others and yourself.

Keep fingers outside the trigger guard until you are absolutely sure it's safe to fire.

Carefully identify your target, ensuring you have a safe backstop before shooting.

Never load or unload firearms around others.

Be sure that the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.

Never climb a tree or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.

Never pull a firearm toward you by the muzzle.

Always ask permission before entering private land

As a guest of the landowner, act accordingly.

Avoid alcoholic beverages or other mood-altering drugs before or while hunting.

Wear plenty of blaze orange; the minimum requirement is a blaze orange cap and blaze orange above the waist

Hammer said hunting safety is everyone's responsibility.

Hunters should refer to the big game hunting section of the 2012 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook for detailed information concerning deer hunting regulations or call DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 for more information.