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 Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 98 FINAL
Hawaii 90
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56
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