Deer hunters are, as always, urged to keep safety in mind at all times. There are also some new and recent rule changes to keep in mind when heading to that favorite deer haunt this gun season.
Hunting in Wisconsin continues to get safer. The DNR reports that firearm hunting incidents in 2011 followed the downward trend, coming in below the 10-year average of 32 incidents.
Wisconsin's hunter education certification program is mandatory for all hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1973. Individuals applying for a hunter's license this year would have to be at least 39 years old to be exempt from this requirement.
The exempt status shouldn't stop older hunters from taking the course though and many do. The program certainly seems to have made hunting a much safer pursuit.
The year before hunter education courses began, 1966, the hunting incident rate was 44 injuries for every 100,000 hunters.
Currently, the DNR reports that Wisconsin has a fatality rate per 100,000 hunters of 0.28 percent when considering a 10-year period.
Hunters should always follow these four basic rules of firearm safety, or TABK:
Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
Be certain of your target and what is beyond it.
Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
Those hunting parties that engage in deer drives are urged to carefully plan them out beforehand. Drivers and standers need to know where others are positioned and in what direction they can safely shoot.
Always be 100 percent of any target and what's beyond. A bullet fired from a modern rifle can travel well over a mile.
Conservation Warden Jon King, who heads the DNR Hunter Education Program, offers these tips for drives:
Review the four firearm safety principles.
Reconfirm you have positively identified your target.
Reconfirm you have a safe backstop for your bullet.
Review and stick to your hunting plan. Make sure all in the hunting party follow it.
Tree stands also pose safety risks for hunters. King has tips for tree stand safety:
Always use a full-body harness and tether yourself to the tree.
Always unload your firearm while climbing into or out of the stand.
Use a rope or line to raise and lower your unloaded firearm.
During the ascent or descent: maintain three points of contact - two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
New rule changes
Trail cameras: Trail-cams can be left overnight on DNR-owned public hunting lands but the owner must have their DNR customer ID on the camera's exterior. The DNR warns that cameras are left at the owner's risk.
Note: As always, tree stands and ground blinds, except blinds used for waterfowl hunting, must be removed from DNR lands at the close of hunting hours each day.
Crossbows legal: Hunters can now use crossbows during any gun deer season, including the regular gun season and the muzzleloader season, under the authority of their gun deer license and gun deer carcass tags. Crossbows cannot be used for "group hunting," which allows a hunter during the regular gun deer season to shoot a deer for another hunter as long as they are within voice contact without aid of devices such as radios or phones.
Note: Archery licenses still allow hunting only with a bow and arrow, with certain exceptions. Hunters 65 or older and qualified disabled hunters may use a crossbow to fill their archery deer carcass tags.
Coyotes: Coyotes are legal game statewide during the deer gun season. Note that coyote hunting hours during the deer gun season are the same as those for deer. A license that authorizes hunting small game is required unless you are hunting land you own or reside on.
Since wolves occupy much of the same range as coyotes, the DNR cautions hunters to be sure of their target.
Buck-only DMUs: In most cases, hunters cannot hunt antlerless deer in six deer management units. Antlerless deer carcass tags are not valid in units 7, 29B, 34, 35, 36, and 39 in far northern Wisconsin.
There are some exceptions in these DMUs for Armed Forces members, youth ages 10-17 and certain disabled-hunting permit holders.
No baiting in four new counties: The discovery of chronic wasting disease in Washburn County means baiting and feeding deer are illegal in Burnett, Barron, Washburn and Polk counties in northwestern Wisconsin.
Recent rule changes
Archers can hunt: A 2011 rule change allows archers to hunt with bow and arrow during the gun deer season. Bow hunters must comply with blaze orange clothing requirements during gun seasons.
Firearm rules: Firearms no longer need to be cased while in a vehicle, but long guns must be unloaded when in any vehicle, and in or on a moving vehicle.
Handguns can be transported uncased and loaded, but cannot be concealed unless the person is authorized to possess a concealed weapon.
It is still illegal to shoot a firearm or bow and arrow from a vehicle, with exceptions for disabled hunters complying with conditions of a disabled hunting permit.
The 2012 hunting regulations pamphlet is available at any DNR office or license vendor and online at dnr.wi.gov. Type "deer" into the search and keywords field and scroll down for the regulations link.
Legal shooting hours for the gun deer season are 30 minutes before sunrise to 20 minutes after sunset.
The following shooting hours for the 2012 season apply to all of Oneida County and all but the most eastern portion of Vilas County:
Saturday, Nov. 17: 6:31 a.m.- 4:45 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 18: 6:33 a.m.-4:44 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 19: 6:34 a.m.-4:43 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 20: 6:35 a.m.-4:42 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 21: 6:37 a.m.-4:41 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 22: 6:38 a.m.-4:41 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 23: 6:39 a.m.-4:40 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 24: 6:40 a.m.-4:39 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 25: 6:42 a.m.-4:39 p.m.
Hunters hunting another area should consult the 2012 hunting regulations pamphlet to make the proper adjustments to the times.
The DNR also offers an app for Android phones that will tell you the legal shooting hours for your area. It's called the "Sunrise-Sunset" app.
Once loaded all you need to do it tap on the app to learn immediately the legal times of the day to shoot at your location.
Using a GPS system, the app tells you to the second the opening and closing time for various hunting seasons for your current location. The app is 99 cents.
If you have a QR code reader on your phone, you can read the code at this link:
The app can also be loaded at the Android Market. Search for "Sunrise-Sunset by the WI DNR."
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com
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