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Hunter safety tips for firearm deer season

There have been one hunting-related death and two hunting-related injuries since opening day this year.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — About half a million Michigan hunters are registered this year for firearm deer season. Opening day was on Friday, Nov. 15, and over the weekend a two injuries were reported and one man died after his canoe flipped over on a hunting trip. 

The 48-year-old Grand Rapids area man died when the canoe flipped on the Pere Marquette River on opening day. The same day, two boys were injured when a gun discharged while their father was preparing to go hunting. On Saturday, a hunter shot his brother after mistaking him for a deer.

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Death statistics are down from 2018's opening day weekend, where there were three hunting-related deaths. However, numbers are increasing overall from the previous years, as there were no reported fatalities in 2016 or 2017.

Michigan's Department of Natural Resources gives these tips on staying safe this firearm season:


  • Keep the safety of your firearm on until you are prepared to take your shot.
  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times.
  • Be aware of your surroundings – know your target and what is beyond it.
  • Put your finger on the trigger only when you are ready to shoot.
  • Don’t use your scope as binoculars – only point your firearm at something you intend to shoot.
  • Unload the firearm when crossing obstacles and/or getting in or out of a tree stand.
  • Check the barrel and ammunition to ensure they are clear from any obstructions and use the proper ammunition.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use any mind-altering substances when hunting – including marijuana and/or medications.
  • Firearms in the home should be unloaded and securely stored separate from the ammunition.
  • When transporting firearms in vehicles make sure that they are unloaded and in a case.

Tree Stands

  • Using your hands and feet, maintain three points of contact at all times when ascending or descending into a tree stand.
  • Always use a full body harness that is attached to a secure fall line positioned above your head.
  • When lifting your firearm or crossbow into a tree stand, use a secure pull system (such as a rope) and make sure it is unloaded and the safety is on. Do not attach anything to the trigger guard.
  • Refrain from using screw-in steps on tree stands that are located on public land.
  • Ensure your tree stand is securely attached and stable prior to using it.

Hunter Orange and Trespassing

  • Obey no trespassing signs – they are there for a reason.
  • If your game goes onto property marked as “no trespassing,” you must have the landowner’s permission to retrieve your game.
  • The DNR recommends that you wear as much hunter orange as possible to increase your visibility – orange and other colors do not impact deer’s behavior.
  • Hunter orange should be worn as the outermost layer of clothing and must be visible from all directions. Options include:
    • Cap
    • Hat
    • Vest
    • Jacket
    • Rain coat
  • Hunter orange garments (including camouflage) must be at least 50 percent hunter orange to meet the legal requirements.
  • If you are recreating outdoors near hunting areas, wear hunter orange so you can be seen by hunters.

For more information on hunter safety, education and certifications, click here.


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