August 17, 1995 in Outdoors

Political Wackos Show True Colors In Hunting Debate

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:column

Americans have a constitutional right to be stupid, and a small faction of hunters is out to prove it.

Last year, a Gray’s Harbor hunter challenged a citation for violating the state’s rule requiring hunters to wear fluorescent orange clothing during some hunting seasons.

The judge ruled in his favor, saying the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission didn’t have the specific powers to enact the law.

Many hunters cheered the decision, even though similar laws throughout the country are credited with dramatically reducing the number of firearms-related hunting accidents.

Some hunters would rather wear camouflage or earth-tone colors, even though two hunting fatalities in North Idaho last fall could have been avoided if the victims had been wearing hunter orange.

This doesn’t vindicate the hunters who carelessly pulled triggers while aiming at a target they couldn’t positively identify as an elk.

But pointing fingers doesn’t make the victims any less dead.

This is a sport in which people point guns.

Military tests show that fluorescent orange - also known as blaze orange or hunter orange - stands out better than any other color. Idaho is one of only six states that do not have a blaze-orange clothing requirement for hunters.

The right-wing wackos correlate hunter-orange laws with seat-belt laws, both of which they dub as infringements on individual rights to be as dumb as a ground hog digging a burrow in a rifle range.

Massachusetts enacted the nation’s first hunter-orange law in 1962. Montana big-game hunters have been required to wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter-orange clothing since the early 1970s.

My father, however, was years ahead of the safety game. I was a virtual beacon of blaze orange when I bagged my first buck in central Montana in 1962.

Aircraft pilots could have spotted me from 50 miles. I dropped the four-pointer at 50 yards.

After considerable debate, Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission finally enacted a hunter-orange law in 1991.

Four seasons later, the Gray’s Harbor judge said the state Legislature must author the law, not the state wildlife commission. Unfortunately, the Washington Legislature didn’t have the guts to debate the subject last session.

Last weekend, the commission stood up where the Legislature wimped out. The commission took a stand for safety and a shot at stupidity, however unAmerican that might be.

Instead of rescinding its hunter orange rule, the commission let it stand.

If you hunt in Washington and don’t wear hunter orange during the specified seasons, you can still be issued a ticket by wildlife agents.

You have the right to appeal that ticket in court. You might win. But it will cost you time and money to prove you are stupid beyond a doubt.

Even traditional red plaid clothing has been shown to be a poor choice for hunters. Red doesn’t stand out in most field conditions. Indeed, in low light, red takes on the brownish hue of an elk.

So why not wear hunter orange?

The bright clothing is no handicap if you’re a good hunter, one who knows where the game is, which way the wind is blowing, when to move and when to be still.

Unless you’re an archer or a waterfowl hunter, hunter orange is nothing but an asset.

It could be a life-saving signal to rescuers if you’re injured.

It could save you considerable suffering should you encounter a hunter with buck fever.

It could save your family considerable grief.

Only a selfish hunter would refuse to wear hunter orange.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.


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