Growing up hunting in Montana, sometimes I watch hunting shows that take place in the south or Midwest, and ask myself ” Are they crazy? How do they get away with not wearing orange while rifle hunting?” In my career hunting in Montana, I never had a problem wearing my hunter’s orange. It always gave me piece of mind, knowing that other hunters are aware of my location. But, even though it doesn’t seem to be an issue, the Montana Legislature is talking of making the wearing of hunter’s orange optional.
According to our friends at KECI
Senate Bill 154 has passed through the Senate and is on its way for a vote in the House. It states that anybody over the age of 18 would have the option to wear hunter orange. Those under 18 would still be required to hunt with the fluorescent color.
Most we talked to at the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Missoula didn’t want to appear on camera, but of the dozen people we asked, two-thirds sounded just like customer Jonathan Burns.
Jonathan Burns said, “My safety is my responsibility and also my choice. So if it’s optional, I’d be fine with that. Maybe if it’s heavily wooded or heavy brush, probably good to make sure I’m visible. But if it’s wide-open grassland, I don’t know if I’d necessarily need to make myself that visible to others.”
We also spoke with State Senator Scott Sales (R-Bozeman) who sponsored the bill. He says he’s trying to clean up some inconsistencies in the law.
“Hunting is now one of the safest things you can do. In fact, it’s far more dangerous to drive to your favorite hunting spot than it is to hunt,” Sales said. “We have just very few fatalities, and states like Oregon and even Idaho, that adjoins us, that doesn’t require hunter orange — their fatality statistics are very, very similar to Montana’s.”
The Montana Senate passed the bill by a 30 to 17 vote. A hearing is scheduled in the Montana House next Tuesday, February 10.
I am glad that the bill requires youngsters to continue to wear orange. But, I still see the bill as possibly causing some serious accidents as well as making it easier for hunters to trespass or even poach. Visibility is a major factor, and if you don’t believe me, then spend some time in the timber at sundown. You may think you are alone and would be surprised the amount of orange you will see flash through the trees.
People argue that they should be able to decide whether or not they want to be visible to other hunters, but I think it can be dangerous. Just like the safety etiquette we all have while on the gun range, we should take hunting in the field just as serious. Remain visible while “down range.”
If you think that your blaze orange keeps you from blending in and sneaking up on game, keep in mind that deer and elk are color blind. The orange is protection from other people.