• It’s time to change our colors
    February 17,2013
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    Dennis JensenPhoto

    A deer hunter makes his way through thick woods wearing a blaze orange vest. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board will be asked to consider a blaze orange law.
    It was a foggy, strangely warm November morning. I was running a little late getting to my ground blind that morning.

    Working my way through a stand of young pine trees, I caught movement, about 50 yards away. Coming to a stop, I took a long hard look, struggling to make out what was moving through the woods.

    There were a few inches of snow on the ground and, finally, I could determine what the figure was ó a fellow deer hunter, moving at a very, slow stalk. That wasnít a big surprise, but the scene said something else, something very troubling.

    The guy was dressed, head to toe, in camouflage. I watched as he moved, slightly crouched, and wondered why anyone would take that kind of chance on a day like this.

    All I could think was: Here is an accident just waiting to happen.

    I hunt in three other states and in one, Maine, wearing blaze orange is the law. There are hunters out there, hunters who believe that orange works against a hunter. But I can say, without any hesitation, that deer simply do not see this bright color. It is movement, not the color of clothing, that can give a deer hunter away.

    The issue of making it mandatory to wear blaze orange during the Vermont firearms season seems to emerge whenever a hunter, mostly in deer season, mistakes another hunter for game and shoots.

    Tragically, people die from mistakes such as these. Vermont, one of only 10 states without a blaze orange law, has hunting fatalities every couple of years. This talk of orange usually follows.

    Proponents of mandatory blaze orange are convinced that the lives of hunters would be spared if a law were to go into the books.

    Opponents, many of them very vocal, say a deer hunter should have the right to decide whether to wear blaze orange or not, when he or she steps into the woods.

    I had a long conversation with one deer hunter, many years ago, who insisted that the state had no right to impose a blaze orange law in Vermont.

    The guy insisted that he was careful hunter and would never pull the trigger on another human, no matter what the conditions were. Thatís well and good, I told him. Thatís also not the issue.

    What I never could understand about the folks who insist they would never wear blaze orange in the woods is this: You are putting your life in the hands of someone else, someone you assume carries the same degree of care that you do when deer hunting.

    Since I never know who I might encounter in the woods ó the best deer hunter Iíve ever met or the biggest moron who ever walked with a loaded gun ó Iím not going to trust my life to someone who may or may not share my sense of gun safety.

    Thatís why I always wear a blaze orange vest and hat when walking to and from wherever I plan to hunt. When I get to my tree stand or ground blind or favorite spot, I hang the vest on a branch behind me. And if I plan on still-hunting later in the day, I will be wearing a blaze orange vest and hat.

    I have no desire to get shot while walking in the woods.

    A report in the Herald and Times Argus last Sunday said that the Shumlin administration wants the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board to take up a proposal that would require Vermont hunters to wear blaze orange apparel during the firearms deer season.

    For more than two decades the Vermont Legislature has sought to pass a ďblaze orangeĒ bill but strong opposition has stymied any attempts.

    While I canít speak for the 14-member Fish & Wildlife Board, it would be my guess that most of the members would agree with board chairman Brian Ames that a blaze orange rule during the rifle deer season is ďa common-sense issueĒ and is overdue.

    ďBut Vermonters are a very free-spirited lot and some truly donít appreciate being told what they have to wear while afield,Ē Ames said.

    I understand that point of view and can understand the reluctance on the part of a free people to keep the government off their backs.

    But this is, after all, a life-and-death issue. In states like Maine, which by law requires the wearing of a blaze orange hat and vest, deaths and injuries due to mistaken-for-game incidents have declined by eye-popping numbers.

    Itís time Vermont made the wearing of orange the law of the land.

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