Hunters encouraged to take care while out in the woods

Deer hunters will be pursuing the big bucks this season. (Pioneer file photo)

MECOSTA COUNTY — Nabbing the big buck may be the first thing on many hunters’ minds with firearm season beginning today, but those headed to the woods also should be thinking about safety.

The firearm deer season begins at sunrise on Wednesday, Nov. 15, and lasts until Nov. 30.

Hunting hours begin approximately a half hour before sunrise and last until approximately a half hour after sunset.

Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell encourages hunters to let a family member or friend know where they will be hunting.

“It’s always a good idea to let someone know where you are in case you need assistance,” Purcell said.

When handling firearms, Purcell said all guns should be treated as if they are loaded.

“Use caution and always be careful,” he said.

Hunters also should always know what’s behind their target.

“Know for certain what you are shooting,” Purcell said. “Pay attention to the surroundings and make sure you have a clean shot.”

Hunters can’t hunt in safety zones, which include all areas within 150 yards (450 feet) of an occupied building, house, cabin, barn or other farm building. Hunting in this area or shooting at any animal within this area is not allowed without the written permission of the property owner.

For safety purposes, hunters must wear an item of clothing (hat, cap, vest, jacket or rain gear) which is “hunter orange.” It must be the outermost garment and it must be visible from all sides. If it is camouflage, at least 50 percent of the garment must be orange. This includes archery hunters during firearm season.

Hunters need to wear orange on any property they are hunting on, including state land or private property, Purcell said.

Conservation officers from the Department of Natural Resource encourage hunters to carry their cellphones into the woods. Newer cellphones emit a signal that can help rescuers locate a person if they are lost. Those with a smartphone also can download a compass and flashlight app.

The DNR reminds those hunting from an elevated platform to wear a safety harness. A haul line is recommended to pull an unloaded firearm up to and down from the raised hunting platform.

Hunters should avoid alcoholic beverages before and during hunting. Also avoid mind- or behavior-altering medicines or drugs.

Drivers should be cautious during rifle season, paying extra attention for deer in the roadway, Purcell said.

“More so than bow season, rifle season makes the deer travel faster so the probability for car-deer accidents is higher,” he said. “Residents on the roads should be extremely careful while traveling over the next 15 days.”

Successful hunters who wish to show off their bucks have the chance at area buck poles and contests.

The Big Rapids Pioneer once again has the annual Pioneer Classic 2017 Buck Board contest. A variety of prizes are offered in the archery and firearms categories. To enter, hunters should bring the buck to the Pioneer office, 115 N. Michigan Ave., in Big Rapids, during regular business hours or to Kelly’s Deer Processing, 19077 12 Mile Rd, Big Rapids.

The Evart Masonic Lodge No. 230, located at 301 S. Main St., in Evart, will host a a big buck contest on opening day of firearm deer season, Wednesday, Nov. 15. The contest is organized by the Masonic Lodge and the Evart Chamber of Commerce.

The Irons Tourist Association will host its annual Buck Pole. Hunters can start hanging deer at noon on opening day, Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Skinner Park, located at 5074 W. 10 1/2 Mile Road, in Irons. Winners will be announced at 9 p.m.

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Posted by Emily Grove

Emily is the Pioneer and Herald Review crime and court reporter, covering crime in both Mecosta and Osceola counties. She can be reached by e-mail at emily@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8362.

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