Tips To Get Prepared For This Year’s Rifle Buck Deer Hunt

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Dustin Stettler spots something in the distance through his scope. Wearing proper safety clothing in hunter orange is just one of the ways you should prepare for this year's buck deer hunt. - Division of Wildlife Resources photoDeer hunters are eagerly awaiting the beginning of Utah’s general rifle buck deer hunt on Oct. 18.

Getting prepared now, by gathering materials and gaining knowledge, are some of the keys to having a safe hunt. And while taking a deer is usually the highlight of any deer hunt, remember to enjoy all of the experiences a deer hunt provides.

“Enjoy the entire experience of the hunt,” advises Gary Cook, hunter education coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. “Good friends, a good camp and a chance to see wildlife and the beautiful state we live in are all things you can enjoy during your time afield.”

Cook provides the following tips for an enjoyable and safe hunting experience:

Personal preparation:

  • be familiar with the area you’re going to hunt. If possible, scout the area before the hunt.
  • put a survival kit together. The kit should include:
    1. a small first aid kit;
    2. three ways to make a fire (e.g. matches, a cigarette lighter, firestarters);
    3. quick energy snack foods;
    4. a cord or rope;
    5. a compass;
    6. a flashlight;
    7. an extra knife and;
    8. a small pad of paper and a pencil (so you can leave information at your last location, about yourself and the direction you’re traveling, should you become lost).

Preparing your firearm:

  • be as familiar as possible with your firearm — know how to load and unload it, and where the safety is and how to operate it.
  • make sure the barrel of your firearm doesn’t have any obstructions in it.
  • make sure you have the proper ammunition for your firearm.
  • sight-in your firearm before the hunt.

Firearm safety:

  • controlling your firearm’s muzzle is the most important part of firearm safety. Never let the muzzle of your firearm point at anything you do not intend to shoot, including yourself.
  • never carry a loaded firearm in your vehicle.
  • don’t put your finger on the trigger until your firearm’s sights are on the target.
  • before shooting, make sure of your target and what’s beyond it.

Vehicle preparation:

  • make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition.
  • carry a shovel, ax, tire chains, jumper cables and a tow chain in your vehicle.
  • if you experience mechanical problems with your vehicle or become snowed in, stay with your vehicle — don’t leave it.

Before leaving on your trip:

  • let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.

While in the field:

  • never hunt alone.
  • wear proper safety clothing: 400 square inches of hunter orange on your back, chest and head.

Field dressing your animal:

  • use a sharp knife. A sharp knife is safer than a dull knife.
  • cut away from you – never bring a knife blade towards you while cutting.

Your physical well-being:

  • know your physical limitations, and don’t exceed them.
  • prepare yourself for weather changes by dressing in layers. Dressing in layers allows you to regulate your body temperature by adding or removing clothes as needed.
  • drink plenty of water, no matter how cold it is. “You can become dehydrated, even in cold weather,” Cook says.
  • hypothermia (the loss of body temperature) can occur in temperatures as warm as 50 degrees. Be aware of the signs of hypothermia. Some of the first are violent shivering, stumbling or becoming disoriented. “When you notice these signs, sit down immediately and build a fire,” Cook says. “Get yourself warm and dry.”
  • frostbite. If you’re hunting in cold weather, watch for the signs of frostbite. White spots on your skin are the first sign. Check your face, feet and hands regularly. You’ll notice the first signs of frostbite on your face faster if you’re hunting with a companion who can alert you.

If you get lost:

  • don’t panic. Sit down and build a fire, even if it isn’t cold. “A fire is soothing, and it will help you relax and think clearly,” Cook says.
          After calming down, try to get your bearings and think your way out of the situation. If you think you know which direction you need to travel, use the pad of paper and pencil from your survival kit and leave a note at your location, indicating who you are and the direction you’re traveling. If you come across other hunters, don’t be embarrassed to stop them and ask for directions and help.
          If you’re unsure about the direction you should travel, stay at your camp and build a shelter several hours before sundown, if possible. Build a smoky fire (which can be spotted from the air) or build three fires (a distress signal that also can be spotted from the air).
          Remaining at your camp is usually a good option. “You can live without food and water for several days,” Cook says.

Alcohol and gunpowder don’t mix!

  • do not handle a firearm if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
  • do not give alcohol to someone who’s cold. Instead of warming the person, alcohol will actually make them colder.