Deer hunting fatality is grim reminder

Wearing florescent orange makes hunters more visible and is intended to curtail hunting accidents.

A Georgia deer hunter was killed last week when his hunting partner saw movement and fired.

That's as inexcusable as it is tragic.

The most basic rule of hunting is never shoot unless you're absolutely sure what you're shooting at.

In Tennessee that's hammered into every youngster during the Hunter Education course they must complete before they can obtain a license.

Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1969, is required to take the course, which emphasis firearm safety in and out of the field.

Since the mandatory Hunter Ed classes were implemented some five decades ago, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says firearm hunting accidents have steadily declined. Today they are so rare in our state that they can't be measured statistically.

Most hunting accidents nowadays involve falls from deer stands. A hunter being shot accidentally is virtually unheard of.

Yet, as the Georgia incident illustrated, it can still happen.

Just one split-second of carelessness can cost a life and destroy the lives of others.

There is no excuse for it. Shooting at "movement" is not only dangerous to hunters but ethically irresponsible to the quarry. If the target -- a deer, for example -- can't be clearly identified, there's no way a clean shot can be made.

Snapping off such a shot will at best result in a wounded animal. At worst, it can result in an injured or dead hunter.

The news report about the fatal Georgia shooting did not include details, such as if the hunter was wearing blaze orange, as is required for Tennessee deer hunters.

When I began deer hunting in the early 1960s, wearing red colors was required. I sewed a red cover on my hunting cap, and red cloth on the front and back of my hunting coat.

Eventually the red-color requirement was replaced by a blaze orange rule -- blaze orange being more highly visible than red -- with specific requirements about how many square inches of the color had to be worn. (A cap and vest meet the requirement.)

It's a good rule, and becomes more important every year as more and more hunters are squeezed into less and less hunting territory.

Even when moving through thick woods or brush, a hunter wearing a blaze orange hat and vest is highly visible. It's hard to imagine someone not being able to see the bright orange colors and taking a shot in that direction.

But it can happen in a moment of excitement:

A hunter sees a big buck dash into a dense thicket. A moment later he detects movement, and takes a shot. He doesn't see the orange colors worn by another hunter through the thick brush.

And in that split-second, lives are destroyed.

It's not complicated: If you can't clearly see what you're shooting at, don't dare shoot.

No deer is worth that risk.

Larry Woody is The Democrat's motorsports writer. Email him at

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