Staying safe in the woods with arrival of archery season


Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife assistant Mark Bash gets ready to weigh a buck at the Marquette deer check station.

Travis Nelson

Archery season for deer hunting is officially underway as of the beginning of October. There are tips and reminders that hunters should be aware of when trying to get the big one.

In Baraga County over this past weekend, a hunter mistook his partner for a deer and ended up hitting them in the shoulder with a crossbow bolt and the victim was later pronounced dead at the hospital. This could’ve been prevented, Sgt. Mark Leadman said, by following the basic protocols of safety.

“The number one thing is the basics of hunter safety, identify your target, know what you’re shooting at and don’t aim your firearm or bow at anything you don’t intend to kill,” Leadman said.

Previously, with a combo tag, hunters were only able to do three or four points on one side, but now with relaxed laws, antlerless deer can be shot during archery season. The Baraga County case isn’t new in Michigan, especially at night when it’s dark, and the biggest thing in bow season is knowing what you’re shooting, Leadman said.

“Now with the availability of antlerless deer being taken in the archery season, I think that’s what made this accident happen. He just thought it was a deer not having to look for antlers,” Leadman said.

It’s important to let others know where you’re going, and to communicate where hunting partners are when away from each other, Leadman said, but it all comes back to the biggest safety issue.

“It’s good to know where they are, but it comes down to knowing what you’re shooting at though. Identifying your target is probably the number one issue in the state for fatalities. They see brown or movement and they shoot at it, that’s not what any hunter should be doing.”

It’s not only important to follow the proper steps once you’re out in the blind, but also on the legal side of things. Having the proper tag is pretty easy nowadays, Leadman said, but the hardest part for hunters at the beginning of the season is not knowing if they want to buy the single or the combination tag. This decision is tough because if you go out hunting on the first day then you kill something, you’re probably done for the whole year, Leadman said.

A problem that tends to arise at the end of the year is when hunters don’t buy tags until after they shoot deer, and thousands of dollars are racked up instead of simply paying for the tag.

“Tagging is a concern for people who don’t buy one and try to cheat the system. We had quite a few cases last year where people shot a deer, went to the store and bought the tag after the fact,” Leadman said. “That’s a big no no and really when you think about it, paying $20 for a tag or shooting a deer, which is a minimum $1,000 restitution if it’s an antler deer it’s $2,000 minimum restitution and then fines and costs are on top of that.”

Simple things such as following safety protocols and having proper tags can save not only a lot of money, but in some cases it saves lives. Preparing to hunt the right way is what makes the season safe and enjoyable, especially in the U.P.