Hunting is an enjoyable sport, a family tradition for many Idahoans and an amazing way to get healthy, 100% organic protein compliments of Mother Nature.
But it can also provoke concerns among nonhunters, newcomers and longtime residents, alike, who wonder whether it’s safe to pursue their favorite activities outdoors during hunting season.
The short answer is yes. Hunting is, statistically speaking, a very safe activity. In an average year, fewer than 1,000 people are shot by hunters in the U.S. and Canada, and only about 75 of those are fatalities. Also, a “typical" hunting accident is usually one hunter shooting another, not a hunter shooting a nonhunting person who also happens to be in the woods.
To put those statistics in larger perspective, there were 15.6 million hunting license holders during 2018 in the U.S. alone, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Another thing that helps keep hunting safe is all hunters in Idaho born after 1975 must pass a hunter education course, with a few exceptions, and hunter education is also required by other states, which teaches safe hunting practices.
Play it safe
But if you’re heading into the woods to hike, bike, camp, walk your dog or other activities, you should consider a few simple precautions during hunting season. Wear brightly colored clothes, such as orange, red, pink or yellow, which helps hunters to instantly identify you as a person. Avoid white, tan, brown or black, which could resemble an animal’s colors.
Most hunters are out in early mornings and evenings when animals are most active. If you’re heading to a place where there may be hunters, and you’re concerned about them, you might choose to go late-morning to mid-afternoon.
You might also keep your dog on a leash or close-by. One of the primary rules of hunting is always identifying your target before shooting, or even mounting your gun, so the odds of your dog getting shot are minimal, but also remember that wolves and coyotes can legally be hunted. For more peace of mind, you can put an orange collar or vest on your pet.
Also realize you may hear gunshots when you’re outdoors, even within the Treasure Valley. Most areas outside of incorporated cities and towns are open to hunting, and bird hunting is popular near the Boise, Snake and Payette rivers, as well as in farmlands near towns.
Want to try hunting?
Hunting is a popular activity in Idaho because it’s a great way to experience the outdoors with friends and family. It can be challenging, but also immensely rewarding when you hunt, harvest game, process it, cook it and eat it.
It’s also inexpensive to get started. An Idaho resident hunting license costs $15.75, and a license alone allows you to hunt many species, including small game and many upland game birds. Other animals, such as big game, require a separate tag.
A new way to look at nature
Among the most rewarding aspects of hunting is gaining a greater understanding and appreciation for the natural world. Hunters must be keen observers of nature to be successful, and there’s a big difference between incidentally seeing an animal and actually seeking one out, getting within range and shooting it.
If you accomplish all those things, then you get to prepare a wild game meal, and that presents another set of wonderful experiences.
Try it, and you might find yourself joining the legions of orange and camo-clad outdoorsmen and women who ply Idaho’s woods, fields and marshes every October.