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Column: It’s rifle season, so buck up and stay smart

My family has been stockpiling hot chocolate mix and Halloween candy for the last few weeks, an annual ritual that leads up to one of my favorite times of the year.

Sorry, Bambi, but I love deer hunting.

Even though college classes and work have kept me from hunting for the last several years, there is something I find refreshing about hearing stories of the ghost that got away, and seeing the ones that didn’t.

However, I know that the occasional moron can ruin the season with selfish, reckless behavior.

Most years, the fun and camaraderie amongst hunters is interrupted by hearing about someone who died or was seriously injured in a hunting accident.

The worst part? It might have been prevented if there was a little more thought involved before going into the woods or pulling the trigger.

So I’m going to repeat what I was taught in gun safety and by my dad.

Wear blaze orange

No whining. It’s required for rifle hunters. Even if you’re just walking in the woods and not hunting, wear orange. Better to be safe, visible and obviously not a deer, than sorry.

Think beyond where you are aiming

Sure, there’s a deer in front of you. But what is behind it? If there is any chance a stray bullet may go toward another hunter or residence, wait for a clearer shot.

Know what you’re shooting

 Is it a buck, a doe, or another person who forgot to wear their blaze orange?

You had better be sure, because that bullet doesn’t have a reverse.

Shoot once, shoot well

Is there ever an honestly good reason to fire off a whole clip at one deer?

I don’t think so.

Wait until you can be sure that you can get a single clear shot at your target, and be ready in case an “oops” happens.

Pass the (little) buck

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take the monster 17-pointer who walks into your sights.

No way. If you’ve got your buck tag and a clear shot – he’s all yours.

What I mean to say is… let those little forkies and 6-pointers go.

Why take him now, when he could be wall-worthy in another year or two?

Besides, in my personal experience, does are better eating since their meat isn’t as tough from fighting and carrying around antlers.

Also, it is much more effective to take does out of the equation when trying to control an out of control population.

Now that I’ve finished the soap box speech, I have one last suggestion.

If you have a bonus or landowner’s tag, think about donating that extra deer to a food shelf. Or donate hides to Hides for Humanity (see today’s letter to the editor, on the bottom left of this page, for more info on that).

Thanks to a program in Minnesota, there is no processing cost for the hunter who donates a deer.

In order to be eligible, the deer must be field-dressed (with the hide intact), have an appropriate DNR tag and be free from any visible signs of illness, contamination or decomposition.

The DNR recommends that hunters call processors in advance, to ensure they will be able to handle a donated deer. According to the DNR’s website, these local companies are participating in the venison donation program:

Perham – Al’s Butchers Blend, 346-4015; Perham Locker Plant 346-6245

New York Mills - Mills Locker Plant, 385-2875

Detroit Lakes – Hoffman’s Town and Country Meat Market, 847-7207

For more information about the donation program, or to find other participating processors in the state, visit