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.

“Everyone was OK with it as long as there was no penalty,” he said. “As long as people are abiding by the law, I don’t see any reason to impose a fine. I’m not in favor of making people criminals.”

During the firearms deer season, of course, even small-game hunters must comply with the stricter blaze orange requirement. For specifics, see Page 31 of the hunting and trapping regs at www.startribune.com/a2502.

 

Doug Smith • doug.smith@startribune.com



 

  • 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

Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 11/27/14 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Golden State 111 FINAL
Orlando 96
Brooklyn 99 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Portland 105 FINAL
Charlotte 97
Washington 87 FINAL
Cleveland 113
LA Clippers 104 FINAL
Detroit 98
New York 102 FINAL
Dallas 109
Toronto 126 FINAL
Atlanta 115
Milwaukee 103 FINAL
Minnesota 86
Sacramento 89 FINAL
Houston 102
Utah 82 FINAL
Oklahoma City 97
Indiana 100 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Denver 112 FINAL
Phoenix 120
Memphis 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 93
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Buffalo 1
Washington 2 FINAL(OT)
NY Islanders 3
Philadelphia 2 FINAL
Detroit 5
NY Rangers 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
Florida 1
Toronto 3 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Minnesota 0
Chicago 3 FINAL
Colorado 2
Calgary 2 FINAL
San Jose 0
Robert Morris 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 61
Rochester College 35 FINAL
Eastern Mich 68
Marist 68 FINAL
Fresno State 64
Butler 74 FINAL
North Carolina 66
Liberty 50 FINAL
Morgan State 51
Denver 57 FINAL
Belmont 78
American Univ 64 FINAL
Hampton 60
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
James Madison 79
Northeastern 54 FINAL
Massachusetts 79
Samford 71 FINAL
Kennesaw St 84
ULM 48 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 61
Hawaii 75 FINAL
East Carolina 73
Missouri 74 FINAL
Chaminade 60
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oklahoma 75
North Florida 72 FINAL
Elon 65
Oral Roberts 69 FINAL
Milwaukee 66
Chicago State 61 FINAL
Western Carolina 66
Purdue 87 FINAL
BYU 85
Furman 54 FINAL
Duke 93
San Francisco 72 FINAL
Evansville 79
Wisconsin 72 FINAL
UAB 43
Davidson 95 FINAL
UCF 69
Albany 75 FINAL
Colgate 71
Longwood 66 FINAL
George Washington 91
Delaware State 76 FINAL
Iona 126
Trinity Baptist 57 FINAL
Jacksonville 69
Cleveland State 33 FINAL
Louisville 45
St Johns 70 FINAL
Minnesota 61
PSU-Harrisburg 42 FINAL
Navy 67
Richmond 72 FINAL
NC State 84
Grambling St 54 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
Georgia State 83 FINAL
Oakland 78
Campbell 64 FINAL
Ohio State 91
Goucher 43 FINAL
Towson 97
Bryant 47 FINAL
Vermont 73
Miami-Ohio 63 FINAL
Virginia Tech 78
Mount St Marys 49 FINAL
Wake Forest 83
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Yale 82
UMKC 63 FINAL
Youngstown St 66
Canisius 60 FINAL
Cornell 67
Va Military 72 FINAL
West Virginia 103
Lehigh 86 FINAL
DePaul 74
UC Riverside 62 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 66
Morehead State 77 FINAL
Marshall 68
Miss Valley St 52 FINAL
North Texas 67
UNC-Asheville 75 FINAL
South Carolina 89
Tenn Tech 65 FINAL
SE Louisiana 86
Texas Southern 59 FINAL
SMU 72
Radford 50 FINAL
TCU 74
TX-Pan American 48 FINAL
Utah 85
Wayne St-NE 69 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Kansas State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 70
Northern Ill 49 FINAL
Iowa 70
Fla Gulf Coast 45 FINAL
Green Bay 59
Carroll (MT) 52 FINAL
Montana 75
Florida A&M 33 FINAL
New Mexico St 78
Auburn 71 FINAL
Oregon State 69
Eastern Ky 73 FINAL
Southern Utah 64
Stetson 41 FINAL
Wyoming 65
Northern Ky 60 FINAL
Eastern Wash 81
Utah Valley U 60 FINAL
Idaho State 57
Florida 65 FINAL
Georgetown 66
Northwestern 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 61
Georgia 76 FINAL
Gonzaga 88
Cal Poly 52 FINAL
California 72
Utah State 70 FINAL
UC Davis 77
Arizona 61 FINAL
San Diego St 59
Alabama State 68 FINAL
North Dakota 75
Portland State 63 FINAL
CS-Northridge 55
Tulsa 35 2nd Half 11:55
Oklahoma State 55
Pacific 48 2nd Half 8:32
Alaska-Anchorage 45
Missouri State 11/27/14 1:00 AM
Colorado State
Ohio U 24 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 21
LSU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Kennesaw St 74 FINAL
Seton Hall 77
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 55
Illinois-Chicago 40 FINAL
Northwestern 61
UT Martin 75 FINAL
Samford 79
Niagara 63 FINAL
Binghamton 52
Radford 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 72
East Tenn St 69 FINAL
Indiana 97
North Dakota 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 52
Marshall 49 FINAL
Cornell 58
Oral Roberts 43 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 54
LSU 0 Postponed
Texas-El Paso 0
Boise State 59 FINAL
Yale 53
Evansville 39 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 83
(4) Tennessee 63 FINAL
Chattanooga 67
Delaware State 64 FINAL
Mount St Marys 73
Bradley 74 FINAL
Columbia 81
Providence 56 FINAL
Dayton 72
Presbyterian 43 FINAL
Xavier 45
Albany 64 FINAL
Canisius 59
VA Commonwealth 48 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Alabama A&M 44 FINAL
Alabama 75
Colgate 35 FINAL
(22) Georgia 66
Memphis 75 FINAL
Southern Ill 82
Oakland 64 FINAL
(16) Michigan State 79
Utah Valley U 49 FINAL
UC Davis 59
Butler 62 FINAL
BYU 81
TX-Pan American 45 FINAL
(6) Texas 72
McNeese State 27 FINAL
(7) Texas A&M 93
Milwaukee 80 FINAL
Marquette 85
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
TX-Arlington 80
Jackson State 70 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Indiana State 74 FINAL
South Alabama 53
Kansas State 0 Postponed
Santa Clara 0
Long Beach St 69 FINAL
Alaska-Anchorage 60
Iona 49 FINAL
Kansas 90
Fresno Pacific 60 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 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