COLLEGE STATION — It’s opening day and the sun is still a faint glow when the doe is spotted by the anxious hunter. He peers through his scope as she disappears into the brush 75 yards ahead, pausing only to look back over her shoulder as if being followed.
The hunter turns his head slowly to his left as he hears the movement of something easing through the brush. Surely it’s the buck that the doe was looking back at. The hunter again raises his rifle and puts the crosshairs on an opening in the brush. The small opening offers his only shot, and it will have to be a quick one.
Slowly the grey form moves into the clearing, an indistinguishable hulk in the pre-dawn brush. The hunter’s trigger finger inches backward, ever so slowly until . . . wait that’s not a buck, it’s a camo-clad hunter sneaking among the brush. He eases his finger off the trigger and his .270 back to his lap.
A cold chill grips him as he realizes how close he came to making his unannounced comrade an unfortunate statistic.
Hunting, by statistical measures, is a very safe sport. However, each year five to 10 Texans are seriously wounded or killed in a hunting accident, said Dr. Dale Rollins of San Angelo, Extension wildlife specialist.
Some of those are unfortunate cases of mistaken identity as nearly happened above, he added.
Hunters being mistaken for game can be completely avoided with two basic rules of hunting safety. The first is to positively identify the intended target. Never take “sound shots,” he said. Next, practice “defensive hunting.” Wearing some item of blaze orange clothing makes hunters easily identifiable to others. Blaze orange clothing is a requirement only for those on public lands, but it’s a good idea for anyone hunting, especially deer hunters during the gun season.
“Wearing a blaze orange cap and/or vest is very cheap life insurance,” he advised. “We lose one or more hunters each year who could have, and probably would be alive today if they’d been wearing blaze orange.”
The high visibility fabric has been used for more than 20 years in many states, and all have witnessed a visible reduction in hunting accidents of hunters being mistaken for game. Some hunters resist blaze orange as a greater chance of being seen by deer. “We once thought that deer were color blind, and that they couldn’t distinguish colors, only patterns,” Rollins said. “Today we know that deer do have limited color vision, but not to the degree that something like a wild turkey has.”
The way most Texans hunt, from a blind or tripod stand, the deer’s degree of color discernment is a moot issue, according to Rollins. “If nothing else, wear a blaze orange cap and vest while travelling to and from your blind” he suggests. “It might mean the difference as to whether you have the chance to go hunting next year or not.”