Tips For A Safe Archery Hunt

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Tips For A Safe Archery HuntStay safe this year by following a few, simple rules.

Utah’s general archery buck deer hunt and the state’s general archery elk hunt kick off Aug. 16.

“Every year we receive reports of archery hunters injuring themselves,” says Gary Cook, hunter education coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Two practices lead to most of the accidents: being unsafe in tree stands or having arrows out of your quiver when you shouldn’t.

Cook provides the following advice to help you avoid these accidents:

  • Tree stands: Before you climb a tree, make sure it’s large enough to hold your weight. To lessen the chance that you’ll fall while climbing the tree, attach a hauling line to your bow, arrows and other equipment, and leave them on the ground. After you’ve climbed into your tree stand, attach your safety harness. Then use your hauling line to lift your gear to you. Cook also recommends using a portable tree stand, rather than building a “permanent” one. “Permanent tree stands can deteriorate and become unsafe,” he says. “They’re unsightly, too. And you can damage the tree by putting nails in it.”
  • “Until you’re ready to shoot, keep your arrows in a hooded quiver that covers the broadheads,” Cook says. “One of the most common accidents we see is archers jabbing themselves or other hunters while carrying arrows in their hand that should be in their quiver.” State law requires that arrows be in a case while the arrows are in or on a vehicle. When you’re outside your vehicle, it’s up to you to protect yourself.

More tips

In addition to the safety tips, Cook provides tips on getting prepared for the season, safety items to remember while you’re in the field and tips on tracking animals and preserving their meat.

  • Preparation
    • Equipment checks: Make sure the laminations on your bow are not flaking or separating and that the strings on your bow are not fraying. And if you have a compound bow, make sure the pulleys and cables are in good working order. Also, make sure that your equipment is matched, that your arrow’s spline (the stiffness of the arrow’s shaft) matches your bow’s draw weight. If your bow’s draw weight produces more force than your arrow can handle, your arrow will probably fly off target when you shoot.
    • Broadhead sharpening: Sharpen your broadheads carefully. Your broadheads should be razor sharp, but don’t cut yourself while sharpening them.
    • Practice your shooting as much as possible.
    • Obtain written permission from private landowners before hunting on their property or using their property to access public land.
    • Know the boundaries of limited-entry units and other restricted areas in the area you’ll be hunting.
  • Never take a shot at a deer or elk that is beyond the maximum, effective range you’re comfortable shooting at. Also, before releasing your arrow, make sure of your target and what’s beyond it.
  • After the shot
    • Watch the animal and determine the direction it took. Then go to the spot where you last saw the animal and find your arrow. If there’s blood on it, and if you have a compass, take a reading of the direction the animal went. Then wait 30 minutes before tracking it. If you track the animal too soon, you can spook it into running. If you wait 30 minutes before tracking it, you’ll find most of the deer and elk you shoot dead within a reasonable distance of your starting point. 
    • When you track an animal, look for blood not only on the ground but on the brush too. If you begin to lose the animal’s trail, tie a piece of biodegradable paper near the last blood spot. Then search for the animal’s trail by walking a circular pattern out from the paper. The paper will serve as a marker and will let you know where you started. Also, tying paper at the locations of the last three or four spots you see, and then stand away from the paper and looking at the paper trail, can help you visualize the direction the animal took.
    • Once you’ve found the animal, check to see if its eyes are open. If they’re not, the animal probably isn’t dead. If its eyes are open, touch one of the eyes with a long stick. That will keep you out of harm’s way if the animal is still alive. Once the animal is dead, field dress and cool its meat immediately. It’s usually warm during the archery hunt, and the warm temperatures can cause the meat to spoil quickly.

Cook also provides tips for reducing conflicts with homeowners and those who don’t hunt:

  • Find access points to your hunting area well in advance of the season.
  • If access requires crossing private land, you must obtain written permission from the landowner. If you can’t obtain written permission, find another access point.
  • Before you start hunting, make sure you’re well beyond the minimum distances you must maintain from roads and dwellings. If you’re going to hunt in Salt Lake County, please remember that the county’s hunting restrictions are more restrictive than the rest of Utah. Read the 2008 Big Game Guidebook closely for more information.
  • Avoid hunting in areas that a lot of people use. Also, whenever possible, avoid hunting near heavily used trails.

“Most of the people in Utah choose not to hunt. But they support hunting as long as hunters are safe, legal and ethical,” Cook says. “When hunters don’t behave that way, the way people feel about hunting can take a turn for the worse.”

Extended archery areas

If you want to hunt the Wasatch Front, Ogden, Unitah Basin or Sanpete Valley extended archery areas, please remember the following:

  • Before hunting any of these areas, you must complete the DWR’s Extended Archery Ethics Course. The free course is available online at
  • While hunting in an extended archery area, you must carry two items with you: your 2008 statewide general archery buck deer permit and your Extended Archery Ethics Course certificate. If you’re a member of the Dedicated Hunter program, you must also carry your Dedicated Hunter certificate of registration.

For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.