Archery Hunting and Safety Tips

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By following a few, simple rules, Utah's archery hunters can enjoy a safe experience in the state's backcountry this season.

The state's general archery buck deer hunt begins Aug. 18, while the state's general archery elk hunt kicks off Aug. 23.

"There's only been one recorded death of an archery hunter in the state's history, so it's a very safe hunt that way, but every year we have instances where hunters injure themselves," says Mark Bearnson, hunter education coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Bearnson says most of the accidents happen because hunters are unsafe in tree stands, or they have arrows out of their quiver when they shouldn't. He provides the following advice to help hunters avoid these accidents:

1) tree stands - before climbing a tree, make sure it's large enough to hold your weight. To avoid falling while climbing the tree, attach a hauling line to your bow, arrows and other equipment and leave them on the ground. After climbing into your tree stand, attach your safety line. Then use your hauling line to lift your gear to you.

Bearnson also recommends using a portable tree stand, rather than constructing a "permanent" one. "Permanent tree stands have a tendency to deteriorate and, over time, become unsafe," he says. "They are unsightly, too, and a person damages the tree by putting nails in it."

2) "Keep your arrows in a hooded quiver that covers the broadheads, until you're ready to shoot," Bearnson says. "Archers jabbing themselves or hunters walking close to them, while carrying arrows in their hand that should be in their quiver, is one of the most common accidents during the archery hunts."

State law requires that arrows be cased while in or on a vehicle. While outside the vehicle, it's up to hunters to protect themselves.

Bearnson also provides archery hunters tips on getting prepared for the season, safety items to remember while in the field and tips on tracking animals and preserving meat.

1) preparation -

a. equipment checks - make sure laminations are not flaking or separating, that strings are not fraying and that the pulleys and cables on compound bows are in good working order. Also, be sure your equipment is matched, that your arrow's spline (the stiffness of the arrow's shaft) matches your bow's draw weight. If your bow's draw weight produces more force than your arrow is designed to handle, your arrow will probably fly off target.

b. broadhead sharpening - be careful to not cut yourself while sharpening broadheads. Your broadheads should be razor sharp but don't cut yourself in the process.

c. practice your shooting as much as possible.

d. obtain written permission from private landowners, before hunting on their property.

e. obtain a general statewide archery buck deer permit and/or a general archery elk permit, and know the boundaries of limited entry units and other restricted areas in the area where you'll be hunting.

2) never take a shot at a deer or elk that is beyond your maximum, effective range. Also, before releasing your arrow, be sure of your target and what's beyond it.

3) after the shot -

a. watch the animal and determine the direction it took. Then go to the spot where you last saw the animal and find your arrow. If there's blood on it, and if you have a compass, take a reading of the direction the animal went. Then wait 30 minutes before tracking it. Hunters who track an animal too soon can spook it into running. Most deer and elk that are shot will be found dead by the hunter at a reasonable distance, if the hunter waits 30 minutes before tracking it.

b. when tracking an animal, look for blood not only on the ground but the brush, too. If you begin to lose the trail tie a piece of biodegradable paper on the last spot you see and then search for the trail, walking a circular pattern out from the paper. The paper will serve as a marker, letting you know where you started from.

Also, tying paper at the locations of the last three or four spots you see, and then standing a distance away and looking at the paper trail, can help you visualize the direction the animal last took.

c. once you've located your animal, make sure it's dead by seeing if its eyes are open. If they're not, the animal probably isn't dead. If they are, touch one of the eyes with a long stick that will keep you out of harm's way. Once the animal is dead, field dress and cool the meat immediately. The warm weather that usually accompanies the archery hunt can cause meat to spoil quickly.