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Safe deer hunting season depends on proper preparation

Big game hunters throughout Utah are eagerly awaiting the beginning of the state's general buck deer hunt Oct. 19. Preparations now, in the form of gathering materials and gaining knowledge, are key to a safe big game hunting experience. And, while taking a deer is usually the highlight of any deer hunt, hunters should remember to enjoy all the experiences a hunt provides.

"Enjoy the entire experience of the hunt," stated Lenny Rees, hunter education coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

"Good friends, a good camp, a chance to observe wildlife and the beautiful state we live in are all things deer hunters are fortunate enough to enjoy during their time afield."

Rees offers the following tips for an enjoyable and safe hunting experience.

•Personal preparation. Obtain a deer hunting permit. As of Oct. 3, northern region permits for residents and nonresidents were still available. Permits for the other regions are sold out.

Know the area that is going to be hunted. If possible, scout the area before the hunt.

Put together a survival kit. The kit should include the following.

•A small first aid kit.

•Three ways to make a fire including matches, cigarette lighter, and firestarters.

•Quick energy snack foods.

•A cord or rope.

•A compass.

•A flashlight.

•An extra knife.

•A small pad of paper and a pencil, for leaving information at the last location about yourself and the direction of travel should one become lost.

Firearm preparation. Make sure to have the proper ammunition for the firearm.

Be as familiar as possible with the firearm. Know how to load and unload it, and where the safety is and how to operate it.

•Firearm safety. Never carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle.

•Before shooting, make sure of the target and what's beyond it.

•Vehicle preparation. Make sure the vehicle is in good mechanical condition.

•Carry a shovel, ax, tire chains, jumper cables and a tow chain in the vehicle.

•If mechanical problems are experienced to the vehicle or it becomes snowed in, stay with the vehicle.

•Before leaving on the trip, let someone know where the destination is and when the expected return time will be.

•While in the field, never hunt alone and wear proper safety clothing. This includes 400 square inches of hunter orange on the back, chest and head.

•Field dressing the animal. Use a sharp knife. A sharp knife is safer for field dressing than a dull one.

•Cut away from ones body. Never bring a knife blade towards the body while cutting.

•Physical well-being. Always be aware of ones physical limitations and don't exceed them.

•Be prepared for weather changes by dressing in layers. By doing so, it will allow the body to regulate its temperature by adding or removing clothes as needed.

•Drink plenty of water, regardless of the temperature. "A hunter can become dehydrated, even in cold weather," Rees warned.

•Hypothermia (the loss of body temperature) can occur in temperatures as warm as 50 degrees.

•Be aware of hypothermia signs. The first is stumbling or disorientation.. "When these signs are noticed, sit down immediately and build a fire," Rees suggests. "Make sure to get warm and dry."

•Frostbite. If hunting in cold weather, be aware of frostbite development. White spots on the skin are the first sign. Check the face, feet and hands regularly. It's much easier to notice the first signs of frostbite on the face. If hunting with a companion, watch one another and alert the victim if frostbite appears.

•If lost, don't panic. Sit down and build a fire, even if it isn't cold. "A fire is soothing and will help the hunter to relax and think clearly," explained Rees.

After calming down, try to think a way out of the situation. If the hunter thinks they know the direction they need to travel, use the pad of paper and pencil from the survival kit and leave a note at the location, indicating who the hunter is and the direction of travel.

If a hunter comes across others while trying to find their hunting party, don't be embarrassed to stop them and ask for directions and help.

If unsure about the direction that should be traveled, stay at the camp and build a shelter several hours before sundown, if possible.

Build a smokey fire which can be spotted from the air or build three fires (a distress signal that also can be noticed from the air).

•Alcohol and gunpowder don't mix. Do not handle a firearm if alcohol has been consumed.

Do not give alcohol to someone who's cold. Rather than warming the person, alcohol will actually make them colder.

By preparing in advance for the annual dear hunt, participants will ensure that their experience is safe, yet enjoyable.

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