By Nick Simonson
With the changing of the seasons evident in the recent onset of chilly conditions, hunters look ahead to the North Dakota Firearm Deer Season Opener set for noon on Fri. Nov. 10. With that shift, many deer hunters will trade their bows for their favorite rifles but still occupy the same stands and blinds they utilized for archery hunting in the warmer portion of autumn. Doing so requires special recognition of seasonal requirements under law, and changes in conditions and expectations when using those structures for a safe and successful hunting experience.
Just as when archery deer season began in September, hunters should be aware of important factors when employing treestands of various sorts to get the edge on their quarry during gun season. Staying connected to a stand at all times and knowing everything about its proper use ensures the safest hunt possible.
According to Marilyn Bentz, Executive Director with the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, a majority of hunting accidents involving falls from a treestand occur when hunters are making the transfer from the ladder to the seat, and staying connected to the stand during the climb up and down is just as important – if not more so – as being connected by a harness and tether while seated.
“Our slogan is: stay attached from the time you leave the ground until the time you get back down,” said Bentz, advising that those ascending and descending have some sort of lineman’s belt or safety line they can connect to during the entire climb.
Bentz advises, particularly in colder weather during the latter part of the hunting season when ladder rungs or stand bases can become cold or slippery, that hunters know how to properly enter and exit a stand.
“A lot of accidents occur climbing into or out of a stand, and that typically means you don’t get high enough to step down into the stand,” Bentz stated, “if you slip or the stand tilts, you’re attached and won’t fall below the level of the stand; but if your knees are below the stand, you won’t be able to get back in.”
Ultimately, Bentz puts the obligation on the user of the elevated stand to be responsible for his or her own safety, and to know how to properly use it and secure him or herself. She states it is easy to go back through a fall incident and blame some piece of equipment, or the stand, but ultimately it comes down to the hunter to check and double-check to make sure everything is in order for a safe hunt.
“The best safety device in the stand is you,” Bentz concluded, reinforcing the hunter’s responsibility for safe usage of all treestands, encouraging hunters to review the materials at the NBEF website before the season, including their tutorial at treestandvideo.com.
The switch to firearms season from Nov. 10 to Nov. 26 will also require all hunters in North Dakota – regardless of weapon choice during that time – to wear at least 400 square inches of blaze orange material above the waist in the form of a jacket or vest and hat. This means those elevated hunters will have to don the traditional and readily visible hunting garb to alert others in the immediate area of their presence. This requirement of all hunters during the firearms season is designed to make them more visible to others, but that goal is often hindered by the increased concealment offered by modern portable hunting blinds.
While there is no prerequisite under North Dakota law or hunting regulation, agents of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDG&F) encourage hunters to mark their typically camouflaged blinds with blaze orange fabric or other object to signify their presence within the structure during the firearm hunting season.
“We highly recommend putting a blaze orange coat or hat on top of the blind,” said John Mazur, NDG&F Hunter Education Supervisor, “and we also recommend leaving that up all firearm season to let people know that the blind is there,” he concluded, adding that many blind manufacturers offer an orange fabric tarp that clips right to the existing blind, making the changeover for gun season even easier and more permanent.
Mazur states that as of this year, the NDG&F has never had an incident report of someone being accidentally shot while concealed in a camouflaged deer hunting blind (the department does not receive near miss reports) and added that the extra blaze orange color added to a blind would go a long way in keeping that safety record in place through the coming firearms deer season.
“While it’s more for the shooter, always know what’s in front of or beyond the target before you pull the trigger,” Mazur added as a final word on safety during the firearms deer season for those hunting around concealed blinds or from within them.
For more information on the North Dakota Firearm Deer Season, visit the NDG&F Deer Hunting Page.
(Featured Photo: As with archery season, so with gun season. A ladder that allows a hunter to step down into a stand, and a full body harness secured by a tether to the chosen tree are both part of safe treestand use. NBEF Photo)