While hunting is one of the safest ways to enjoy the outdoors, hunters who don’t wear blaze orange are more at risk. In 2010, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that in the past 20 years, 81 percent of victims in vision-related hunting incidents were not wearing hunter orange clothing. This suggests that wearing blaze orange will decrease your chances of being mistaken for game.
“Ohio’s mandatory hunter orange law was enacted in 1983. Since then, rates of visibility-related shooting incidents have dropped dramatically,” said Jim Wentz, former Ohio wildlife officer and hunter education coordinator.
It’s proven that hunters are safer when wearing blaze orange. Since you can’t control factors such as other hunters, it’s crucial to make your presence known by wearing blaze orange.
“Hunter orange is the best way to distinguish yourself from a game animal,” said Jeff Hopkins, safety education administrator for the Illinois DNR. “Hunters should check with their state to see what the legal requirement is for hunter orange. In Illinois, we don’t allow camouflage orange or orange with patches, it must be simple blaze orange.”
What type and amount of hunter orange works best? Well, decide for yourself. This video puts the various styles and amount of hunter orange side by side, clearly showing what works and what doesn’t.
The differences are obvious. You saw how a plain orange vest isn’t as effective as the combination of a blaze orange jacket and hat. The hat and jacket were noticeable far away, even in dense cover. It’s all about maximizing your presence to other hunters, and minimizing the risk of being misidentified.
Hopkins added, “Non-hunters should hold themselves to the recommended safety requirements as well. If you are in the woods hiking, photographing, walking your dog or whatever you might be doing, you need to be wearing blaze orange.”
Sadly enough, there have been many reports of misidentification resulting in an injury or fatality. It isn’t always a hunter shooting another hunter either. To Hopkins’ point, anyone strolling through the woods or fields during hunting season should be wearing blaze orange to reduce that risk.
“We once had a call about a person who was shot and killed while walking their dog through the woods. The hunter saw movement in the brush and made the terrible decision to fire upon something he hadn’t clearly identified. The hunter shot again when the dog moved, killing it too,” said Hopkins. “Neither the person nor his dog were wearing blaze orange.”
Hearing a tragic story like that reminds us to take precautions and wear blaze orange because it can save a life. This alone should be reason enough to always wear orange when in the woods during hunting season. But what about the person whose main goal is to take an animal? Will hunter orange limit their chances of success? Many hunters are concerned orange will spook their game, such as the white-tailed deer.
“Research confirms that deer possess two types of cones allowing limited color vision. The cone that deer lack is the ‘red’ cone, sensitive to long wavelength colors such as red and orange,” said Brian Murphey, CEO of the Quality Deer Management Association. “This means they cannot distinguish orange from other long wavelength colors such as green or red. Technically, hunters would be disadvantaged wearing blue since it is a short wavelength color, which deer can distinguish.”
Based on what research suggests, blaze orange won’t give you away when deer hunting. If you are concerned about being detected by deer, you should consider other factors such as tree stand position, breaking up your outline, and scent control. Their senses are far better tuned for spotting motion, seeing outlined figures and smelling than seeing blaze orange.
Given that blaze orange is highly unlikely to scare deer away, there is no reason blaze orange shouldn’t be worn. By wearing blaze orange, other hunters will know you are a human, not a game animal.
Wearing blaze orange is one important strategy for staying safe. You can learn more safety tips and ideas from a hunter safety course at www.hunter-ed.com. The course includes more videos such as the blaze orange video above. You’ll learn about tree stand safety, safe zones of fire, ballistics, plus much more to improve your safety in the field. It’s the same material that’s taught in the classroom, and is approved by the state agencies responsible for hunter safety education.