As Nebraska’s largest hunt by participation – the firearm deer hunting season – comes into view from Nov. 12-20, visions of antlers and venison tenderloins can make the mind wander a bit. So before you take to your stand or blind, please read over these deer hunting safety tips and regulation reminders to keep yourself focused, safe, ethical and within the rules.
With 43 years at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and as a rural land manager and longtime firearm deer hunter in Nebraska, here are my top priorities for hunters, who should:
— If you have permission to firearm deer hunt on private land, be sure to touch base with your landowner to make sure that you’re still good to go when it comes to going afield on their ground.
— Hunting public land? Be safety conscious at all times, don’t intrude on others and know your property boundaries.
— Make certain your deer permit is signed, you have a habitat stamp (if applicable) and any other required items.
— Exercise caution driving to and from hunting spots. Deer activity increases this time of year at dawn, dusk and night, so slow down and be alert behind the wheel. Also watch out for large, slow-moving ag vehicles on rural roads hauling grain or hay.
— Wear 400 square inches of blaze orange clothing and the head, chest and back. It is required of all deer and turkey hunters during the firearm deer hunting season, regardless of the type of equipment used.
— Plan your hunt and hunt your plan in the field. Firearm deer hunters need to coordinate exactly where they will be hunting on a given tract of land; when they are departing and when they’ll be returning. Eventualities that may happen must be considered. Once you’ve made the plan, follow it, and stay in communication with others.
— Place some sort of blaze orange material on your ground blind to be readily seen from all directions and indicate to others that it is occupied.
— Deploy an artificial light like a headlamp going to and from your hunting spot as an additional safety precaution and to allow you to see better in the dark.
— Use only approved safety equipment when hunting from a tree stand. Newer fall arrest systems offer more protection than older models.
— Maintain proper muzzle control at all times! Know where the firearm is pointed and never allow it to be pointed at anything you do not intend to shoot. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded!
— Use binoculars, rather than a rifle scope, to identify your target.
— Keep aware of your surroundings. Be fully aware of your target and background. Before firing a shot, ask yourself: “Is the bullet flight path clear, is that a legitimate target and what am I going to hit if I miss my shot!
— Never go onto private property without the landowner’s permission. This includes trailing a wounded deer onto someone else’s property.
— Arrange for the cleaning, cooling, transporting and processing of deer.
— Once the deer is down and deceased, cancel your deer tag on your permit immediately. Firearm and archery deer permit holders harvesting deer during the firearm season then must deliver their deer to an in-person check station no later than 1 p.m. on the day following the close of the season.
— Locate an in-person deer check station online before heading out to the field. Visit OutdoorNebraska.gov for an updated list of firearm deer hunting season check stations.
— Only take good, clean shots. Exact shot placement into a vital organ area is a must for all deer hunters. The best shot on a deer is made broadside or quartering-away and hits the heart and lungs.
— Put the Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers toll-free telephone number in your cell phone to report game law violations. The number is: 1-800-742-7627. It is staffed 24 hours a day, year-round.
Remind yourself that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s website at OutdoorNebraska.gov is an invaluable resource for any information regarding deer hunting. It includes a multitude of things from the 2022 Big Game Guide to the 2022 Public Lands Access Atlas. Also on the website are links to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), Antlerless Hunter Database, Take ‘Em Hunting, Hunters Helping the Hungry and the Deer Exchange.
I wish you a safe, memorable deer hunt! GW.