Tips for a safe archery hunt; preparation, accident prevention

SALT LAKE CITY – If you’re an archery hunter, you can stay safe during this hunting season by following a few simple rules. Utah’s general archery buck deer and elk hunts kick off Aug. 17.

“Every year, we receive reports of archery hunters injuring themselves,” said Gary Cook, wildlife recreation program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Most injuries are caused by two avoidable practices: Not being safe in tree stands and having arrows out of your quiver when you shouldn’t. Cook offered the following tips to help archery hunters avoid accidents:

  • If you’re going to hunt from a tree stand, make sure it can hold your weight before you start climbing the tree.
  • To lessen the chance that you’ll fall while climbing the tree, leave your bow, arrows and other equipment on the ground, and attach a haul line to them. Also, be sure to use an approved safety harness (also called a fall arrest system) and always secure yourself to the tree as soon as you leave the ground.
  • Use a portable tree stand rather than building one. Permanent tree stands can deteriorate and become unsafe, damage or kill trees and are illegal on Bureau of Land Management lands in Utah.
  • Keep your arrows in a quiver that has a hood covering the broadheads until you’re ready to shoot. One of the most common archery hunting accidents observed by the Utah DWR is archers jabbing themselves or other hunters while carrying arrows in their hand or nocked on their bow.
  • State law requires that arrows be kept in a case while being transported in a vehicle. When you’re outside your vehicle, it’s up to you to protect yourself.

Cook said most Utahns choose not to hunt.
“But they support hunting as long as hunters are legal, safe and ethical,” he said. “When hunters don’t behave that way, how people feel about hunting can take a turn for the worse.”

In addition to accident prevention tips, Cook provided advice on getting prepared for the season, safety items to remember while you’re in the field and information on tracking animals and preserving their meat:

  • Check your equipment. Make sure the laminations on your bow are not flaking or separating and that the strings on your bow are not fraying. If you have a compound bow, make sure the pulleys and cables are in good shape. Also, make sure 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 can handle, your arrow will probably fly off target when you shoot.
  • When you sharpen your broadheads, take your time and be careful. Your broadheads need to be razor-sharp, but make sure you don’t cut yourself while sharpening them.
  • Practice shooting as much as possible.
  • Avoid hunting in popular recreation areas, including near heavily used trails.
  • Find access points to your hunting area well in advance of the season.
  • Obtain written permission from private landowners before hunting on their property or using their property to access public land. If you can’t get permission, find another access point or hunting area.
  • Know the boundaries of limited-entry units and other restricted areas in the area you’re going to hunt.
  • Special regulations exist in extended archery areas. Be aware of and follow them.
  • Before you start hunting, make sure you’re well beyond the minimum distances you must maintain from roads and dwellings.
  • Take the Utah DWR’s bowhunter education class.
  • Never take a shot at a deer or an elk that is beyond the maximum effective range you’re comfortable shooting at. Before releasing your arrow, be aware of your target and what’s beyond it.
  • After shooting, 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 bearing on the direction the animal went.
  • Wait 30 minutes before tracking. If you track an animal too soon, you can spook it into running.  If you wait, most of the deer and elk you shoot will be found dead within a reasonable distance of your starting point.
  • When you track an animal, look for blood not only on the ground but on the brush too. If you begin to lose the animal’s trail, tie a piece of biodegradable paper near the last blood mark. Then search for the animal’s trail by walking a circular pattern out from the paper.  The paper will serve as a marker to let you know where you started. Also, tying paper at the locations of the last three or four spots you see, then standing away from the paper and looking at the trail can help you visualize the direction the animal took.
  • Once you’ve found the animal, check to see if its eyes are open.  If they’re not, the animal probably isn’t dead. If its eyes are open, touch one of the eyes with a long stick. Doing so will keep you out of harm’s way if the animal is still alive.
  • Once the animal is dead, field dress and cool its meat immediately.  It’s usually warm during archery season, and warm temperatures can cause the meat to spoil quickly.

More information on hunting regulations can be found in the free 2013 Big Game Guidebook or by calling the Utah DWR at 801-538-4700.

The Utah DWR also offers numerous resources for fishing enthusiasts, including year-round fishing reports.

Submitted by: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @STGnews


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  • August 15, 2013 at 6:16 am

    This is a solid list of recommendations; especially “Practice shooting as much as possible.” A missed shot is one thing, but with bowhunting the possibility of a maiming shot is very, very real if you aren’t putting the time in before the season begins to become an expert with your bow.

    For the sake of your own experience and the welfare of the animal, practicing again and again *before* the season starts is key – and can’t be stressed enough.

    • DoubleTap August 15, 2013 at 9:10 am

      Your last sentence is really funny. If you are so concerned about the “welfare of the animal”….why are you hunting it to begin with?

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