By following a few, simple rules, Utah's archery hunters can have a safe experience in the state's backcountry this season.
The state's general archery buck deer hunt begins this weekend on Aug. 21, and the state's general archery elk hunt kicks off Aug. 26.
"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," commented Lenny Rees, hunter education coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "But every year we receive reports of archery hunters injuring themselves."
Rees said 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:
Before climbing a tree, make sure it's large enough to hold the weight.
To avoid falling while climbing the tree, attach a hauling line to the bow, arrows and other equipment and leave them on the ground. After climbing into the tree stand, attach a safety line. Then use a hauling line to lift the gear up.
Rees 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 pointed out. "They are unsightly, too, and a person damages the tree by putting nails in it."
Rees continued, "Keep your arrows in a hooded quiver that covers the broadheads, until you're ready to shoot. 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.
Rees 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.
Do a thorough equipment checks before leaving. 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 equipment is matched, that the arrow's spline (the stiffness of the arrow's shaft) matches the bow's draw weight. If the bow's draw weight produces more force than an arrow is designed to handle, the arrow will probably fly off target.
Be careful to not to get cut while sharpening broadheads. All broadheads should be razor sharp, but take care during the sharpening process.
Archers should practice their shooting as much as possible.
Obtain written permission from private landowners before hunting on their property or using their property to access public land.
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 a hunt will take place.
Never take a shot at a deer or elk that is beyond the maximum, effective range. Also, before releasing an arrow, be sure of of the target and what's beyond it.
After the shot, watch the animal and determine the direction it took. Then go to the spot where the animal was last seen and find the arrow. If there's blood on it, take a reading of the direction the animal went with a compass, 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.
When tracking an animal, look for blood not only on the ground, but the brush too. If the trail becomes lost, tie a piece of biodegradable paper on the last spot seen and then search for the trail, walking a circular pattern out from the paper. The paper will serve as a marker for the starting spot.
Also, tying paper at the locations of the last three or four spots seen, and then standing a distance away and looking at the paper trail, can help hunters visualize the direction the animal last took.
Once the animal has been located, 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. 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.
Rees also advises archery hunters on ways to reduce conflicts with homeowners and people who don't hunt:
Study and confirm access points to hunting areas well in advance.
If access requires crossing private land, ensure written permission is obtained. If written permission cannot be secured, find another access point.
Make sure to be well beyond the minimum distances from roads and dwellings before starting a hunt. Those hunting in Salt Lake County are reminded that the county has more restrictive requirements than the rest of Utah. Read the proclamation closely.
Avoid hunting in high profile areas. When possible, heavily used trails should also be avoided.
"Most people in Utah choose not to hunt, but they support hunting and hunting-related activities as long as hunters are safe, legal and ethical in their conduct while in the field," Rees said. "When that does not happen, public favor can take a turn for the worse."
For more information, contact the Price DWR office.