Stay safe, wear orange during hunting season
Utah’s big hunting season is upon us. Elk hunts are now going on and the general rifle buck deer hunt begins Saturday, Oct. 18. The deer hunt is the state’s most popular hunt, according to Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources.
Hunters share many of Utah’s lands with non-hunting hikers, so safety awareness is paramount.
"There will be a lot of people in the mountains," said Rod Backus, retail manager at Park City Gun Club. Hunting is taking place all over the state, he said. "There’s not one designated area that I find people are going to at this time."
Here are some tips, for hunters and non-hunters alike, to help stay safe this fall.
Hikers and cyclists:
If the Sundance Film Festival is the time to wear black, October is the time to wear orange.
During the next couple months, leave those dark, earth-toned clothes in the closet and be a little bolder with your wardrobe selections. Orange might not be "your color," but it is undoubtedly the smartest one to wear.
"If you’re hiking during the rifle deer hunt, wear clothing that’s hunter orange in color," says Mark Hadley, public information officer at DWR.
"It’s easy to find inexpensive hunter orange vests this time of year," he says. "Places such as Walmart have them. Wearing one will help you stand out in the woods."
If you’re concerned with where to hike, Hadley says to stick to "popular trails near urban areas. These areas aren’t as popular with hunters."
"I wouldn’t get off trail too much," Backus agreed. "I’d stay on designated trails rather than cutting your own paths through the woods during this time of year."
Around Park City
Hunting is illegal within the Park City limits. Canyons Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley also do not allow hunting and Bob Radke, trails manager at Basin Recreation, said "as far as I know, there is no hunting on the properties we hold title to."
That doesn’t mean those areas are necessarily free of hunting, because people can accidently wander into areas they shouldn’t.
Cheryl Fox, executive director at Summit Land Conservancy, agrees that people should "wear something loud, wear your flair." The reason, she said, is that "people are not always clear on where boundaries are, between lands where hunting is permitted and lands where hunting is not permitted."
"I would advise this even in Round Valley," she said. Much of the land in Round Valley is owned by Park City but some portions have not yet been annexed into the city limits, where hunting is illegal. In the meantime, people using the trails there need to be especially vigilant.
"The annexation is not complete yet and there are a lot of people who grew up hunting in Round Valley many years ago and are not clear that that’s just not a good idea anymore," Fox said.
Charlie Sturgis, executive director at Mountain Trails Foundation, said he has received reports of people hunting near the Armstrong trail just north of Park City Mountain Resort.
Last year, the Park City Police Department received reports of people hunting in the mountains near Daly Avenue and Empire Canyon, at the south end of Old Town.
In other words, never assume that you’re in an area completely free of hunting — wear bright colors, wherever you are in the outdoors.
Preparation is key, in a myriad of ways. The DWR advises hunters to scout out ahead of time to get familiar with the lands where they will be hunting.
"Scouting before the hunt is absolutely vital," said Kirk Smith, hunter education coordinator at DWR. "You need to know the current conditions and how deer are responding to those conditions. The better you know the area, the better chance you’ll have of taking a buck."
Preparation also includes putting together an emergency survival kit (flashlight, compass, snacks, matches, etc.) and knowing your firearm inside and out. Pay a visit to a shooting range and make sure your rifle is properly sighted.
Backus said hunters need to be aware of their background before taking any shot.
"If you miss the target you’re shooting at, being aware of where your bullet is going to end up before you pull the trigger is, I think, the biggest thing that people overlook. They’ll take a shot uphill at an animal or at an animal with no backstop behind it, so if they miss the animal their bullet flight can continue on into an area they don’t know where it’s going."
"I do not think any shot’s an acceptable shot where you do not know where your bullet is going to end up if you miss your target," he added.
Hunters who are covering a lot of terrain also need awareness of where exactly they’re at.
"There’s a lot of private property up in this area," Backus said, "and a lot of people end up hunting on land that they shouldn’t be hunting on and they need to make sure they’re within the designated hunting boundaries of their tags."
For more information about hunting in Utah, including regulations and safety information, visit wildlife.utah.gov.
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