Archery hunts get underway Aug. 17; DWR offers safety tips

An archer takes aim. Archery hunts for bull elk and buck mule deer begin later this month. Photo courtesy of UDWR

Several Utah archery hunts for bull elk and buck mule deer begin Aug. 17. There are several ways archers can prepare for the hunt and stay safe while out in the field, according to a press release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

While archery hunting doesn’t involve firearms, it does present some unique risks that hunters should be aware of.

“Every year, we receive reports of hunters getting injured falling from trees, or jabbing themselves or other hunters while carrying arrows in their hands,” said RaLynne Takeda, hunter education program manager for the DWR.

Safety guidelines

With some knowledge and preparation, it is easy to stay safe while hunting. Here are some general safety tips:

Tree stand safety

Before placing a portable tree stand in a tree, be sure to check the stand’s weight rating. Make sure it will support both your weight and the weight of your equipment.

“Hunters sometimes forget to factor in the weight of their equipment,” Takeda said. “If the combined weight of your body and the equipment is greater than the weight the stand can support, it could easily collapse, sending you and your gear to the ground below.”

Another risk is falling while climbing a tree or falling from the stand once you reach it.

“Before you start climbing, attach a safety harness, also called a fall arrest system, to yourself and the tree,” Takeda said. “Keep it attached until you’re on the ground again.”

Another risk is trying to carry equipment while climbing. This is not a good idea. Instead, attach a haul line to equipment, leaving plenty of slack in the line. Then, attach the safety harness to the tree and start climbing, holding the haul line in one hand or tied to a belt. After on the stand, use the haul line to lift equipment.

Hunters should remember that it is illegal to build a tree stand on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. Only portable stands can be used in those areas.

Don’t leave arrows uncovered

Broadhead arrows are extremely sharp, so it is a risk to carry one in hand or to nock one in a bow before the hunter is ready to shoot. Hunters should not remove arrows from their quiver until it’s time to shoot.

“It only takes a few seconds to remove an arrow from a quiver, nock the arrow and shoot it,” Takeda said. “The few seconds you’ll save by carrying arrows in your hand or nocked on your bow aren’t worth it.”

Know your target

A hunter should never take a shot at a deer or an elk that is beyond his or her “comfortable range” of maximum distance. Archers and all hunters need to be aware not only of the target, but what’s behind it and in the line of fire.

“Arrows, especially carbon arrows, can hit with great force at distances as far as 100 yards from the point of release,” Takeda said. “You must know what is behind your target and make sure to never shoot where a road is in the background.”

“We address and take very seriously any violations that can affect the public’s safety in the field and that detract from the overall quality of the hunting experience,” DWR law enforcement Capt. J Shirley said. “Many of those violations include things like loaded guns in a vehicle, not using a helmet while driving an off-highway vehicle, driving off-road and driving under the influence.”

Preparation tips

There are also some things that archery hunters should know and practice before heading into the field. Here are some basic preparation tips:

Check equipment. Make sure the laminations on the bow are not flaking or separating, and make sure the strings on are not fraying. Those who use compound bows should make sure the pulleys and cables are in good shape. Also, make sure the arrow’s spline (the stiffness of the arrow’s shaft) matches its draw weight. If the draw weight produces more force than the arrow can handle, it could fly off target or even shatter or break upon release.