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Delayed harvest causes deer hunting safety concerns

Standing corn is a safety concern this firearms deer hunting season, according to Department of Natural Resources Capt. Mike Hammer.

"The cool summer and wet fall has delayed the corn harvest in many parts of the state," noted Hammer, the DNR Enforcement Division's Education Program coordinator. "That harvest delay could create hunter safety issues during deer drives when the firearms deer season kicks off on Nov. 7."

Deer drives are when a group of hunters walk through a field hoping to flush out deer. Standing crops can cause visibility problems among hunters, creating a safety issue when shooting at running deer.

"The excitement of the hunt can quickly cloud a hunter's judgment and perception," Hammer said. "The hunter momentarily forgets about surroundings - even hunting partners. Many times a victim and shooter know one another, since they're hunting together."

To ensure safety, deer hunters should establish hunting plans that define who will shoot and when during drives. Each hunting party member should have a predetermined zone of fire and always know the locations of others in the hunting party. Visibility between those stationary on deer drives and those driving deer is important.

"Every hunter assumes an incredible responsibility when using a firearm in the field," Hammer emphasized. "It's up to the hunter to make sound shooting decisions. If there's even the slightest hint that something isn't right, don't shoot. There will be other opportunities."

Hammer reminds hunters to hunt defensively, assuming every movement or sound that they hear is another hunter until they can prove unquestionably that it isn't.

Every accident is preventable by following a few basic rules:

•Know the location of your partners and others; know your zones of fire.

•Make your position known to other hunters.

•Be sure of your target and what's beyond it.

•Wear blaze orange clothing in areas open to deer hunting with firearms.

"These rules are not only common sense, they are the law," Hammer said.