Blaze-orange clothing: It's the law and it saves lives

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2013 - 11:27 PM

The law requiring hunters to wear blaze-orange clothing has decreased the number of deaths and accidents. There’s no fine if small-game hunters don’t, but compliance is still high.

hide

Small game hunters must wear at least one piece of blaze orange clothing above the waist during the small game season, but the requirement becomes more stringent when small game hunting during the firearms deer season.

Grouse hunters are wearing it in the woods now. Pheasant hunters will slip it on starting next weekend. And deer hunters will pull it out of closets next month.¶ Blaze-orange clothing has become ubiquitous during hunting season, and for good reason: It’s the law, and it saves lives.

Nearly 14 people a year were killed in firearms-related hunting accidents in Minnesota between 1961 and 1970, and an average of 95 hunters per year were injured. But over the past decade, an average of two hunters per year have been killed and 23 have been injured in hunting accidents — a dramatic improvement, though one accident is one too many as far as hunters and hunter safety advocates are concerned.

Officials credit firearms safety education programs and the use of blaze-orange clothing as two major factors for safer hunting seasons.

“It’s both,” said Mike Hammer, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources education program coordinator. “The vast majority of hunters now have had hunter education, and blaze orange definitely comes into play, too.”

If someone is accidentally shot now, it’s usually because they are out of sight of the shooter or they accidentally shoot themselves. Of the 18 firearms accidents last year, 10 were self-inflicted wounds.

“When the eye sees blaze orange, you can’t accidentally see a grouse or deer antler,” said Ken Soring, DNR enforcement chief. “There is no game species that has blaze orange.”

The requirement is recent. In 1986, the law required blaze orange or red be worn during the firearms deer season. Beginning in 1994, red was dropped and only blaze-orange clothing was legal during the firearms deer season. The law requires “the visible portion of the person’s cap and outer clothing above the waist, excluding sleeves and gloves, is blaze orange.”

It wasn’t until 1996 that a law was passed requiring small-game hunters to wear “at least one article of clothing above the waist” that is blaze orange outside the deer season.

But curiously, while hunters can be cited and fined for failing to comply with the blaze orange law during the deer season, small-game hunters who are hunting without blaze orange outside the deer season cannot. In an apparent political compromise, legislators 17 years ago agreed to pass the blaze orange law for small-game hunters, but included no penalty for violating it.

Lawmakers apparently were concerned with forcing a major change on hunters that could make them lawbreakers.

Since it was enacted, conservation officers have only been able to issue warning tags or verbal warnings for violators. Last year, officers issued 59 written warnings.

“It’s very unusual,” Soring said. He doesn’t know of another toothless law that conservation officers enforce.

“I believe the DNR and user groups were pushing it as the right thing to do for pheasant or grouse hunting,” he said. “It clearly makes a difference.”

Both Soring and Hammer said compliance has been good. Blaze-orange clothing is accepted by nearly all hunters, and the number of hunting accidents has dropped.

“The vast majority of people realize it’s a good safety measure,” Hammer said. “There’s no inconvenience factor; blaze-orange clothing is readily available. It’s nationally accepted that blaze orange has reduced the number of hunting accidents.”

There has been no suggestion in recent years to add a financial penalty to the law.

“Accident rates are low and compliance is high,” Hammer said. “Do we need to go change something if it’s working? By and large, the blaze orange requirement is working.”

Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, who sits on the environment and natural resources policy committee, was elected two years before the small-game blaze orange law was enacted.

  • related content

  • Moorhead hunter poised to claim state record elk

    Wednesday October 2, 2013

    A Moorhead police lieutenant shot the roughly 1,000-pound elk on Sept. 14 in Kittson County on land owned by the Nature Conservancy.

  • 8-point buck trapped in downtown Minneapolis freed

    Tuesday October 1, 2013

    Animal control agents and Minneapolis Park Police freed an eight-point buck on Tuesday night that had been trapped since late last week on a grassy strip in downtown Minneapolis near...

  • Chart: Small-game hunting blaze orange violations since 1996

    Tuesday October 1, 2013

    blaze violationsNumber of warnings issued each year for blaze orange violations while small-game hunting.1996 2781997 2111998 2331999 2022000 852001 582002 562003 722004 752005 842006 862007 612008 722009 812010 632011 502012 59

  • Since 1994, Minnesota has had a law requiring hunters to wear blaze-orange clothing during the firearms deer season. Two years later, small-game hunters were required to wear at least one piece of blaze-orange clothing above the waist, but there is no penalty for violating the law. “As long as people are abiding by the law, I don’t see any reason to impose a fine,” says Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: B. McCarthy 3 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 4
Philadelphia - LP: A. Burnett 5 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: D. Gee 6
Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Hughes 2
Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco 8 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 12
Boston - WP: C. Buchholz 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: A. Cobb 0
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 6
Texas - LP: N. Cotts 2 FINAL
Houston - WP: J. Veras 3
Chicago Cubs - LP: C. Villanueva 6 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: P. Neshek 9
Oakland - LP: S. Kazmir 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: M. Shoemaker 8
Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse 5 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 15
Los Angeles - WP: H. Ryu 7 FINAL
San Diego - LP: E. Stults 1
Washington - LP: T. Roark 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: H. Iwakuma 5
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: C. Anderson 6
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 0 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: A. Wood 1
Cleveland 4 Suspended
Kansas City 2
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Red Bull New York 0 FINAL
D.C. 2
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
Chivas USA 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 3:30 PM
Calgary
Phoenix 77 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close