Tips to help prevent injuries and prepare for a safe and successful bow hunt this fall
DWR press release
The general season deer archery hunt and general woodpecker and elk archery hunt are the premier big game hunts of Utah’s fall season, and they all start on Saturday August 20th. If you’re archery hunting this fall, there are many ways to prepare for the hunt and stay safe when out in the field.
Although archery hunting does not involve firearms, it does present some unique risks that hunters should be aware of.
“Every year we receive reports of hunters being injured by falling from trees or hitting themselves or other hunters while carrying arrows in their hands,” said RaLynne Takeda, head of the education program for hunters. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources hunters.
With a little knowledge and preparation, it’s easy to stay safe while hunting. Here are some general archery hunting safety tips:
Safety of watchtowers
Before placing a portable tree stand in a tree, be sure to check the weight rating of the stand. Make sure it will support both your weight and the weight of your equipment.
“Hunters sometimes forget to factor in the weight of their gear,” Takeda said. “If the combined weight of your body and the equipment is more than the weight the stand can support, it could easily collapse, sending you and your equipment to the ground below.”
Another risk is falling while you’re climbing the tree or falling off your stand once you reach it.
“Before you start climbing, attach a safety harness (also called a fall arrest system) to yourself and the tree,” Takeda said. “Keep it tied until you’re on the ground again.”
Another risk is trying to carry your gear with you as you climb the tree. Hunters should not attempt this. Instead, attach a carrier line to your gear, leaving plenty of slack in the line. Then attach your safety harness to the tree and start climbing, holding the transport line in one hand or attached to your belt. Once on your stand, use your transport line to lift your equipment to you.
Hunters should remember that it is illegal to build a tree stand on land managed by the US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. Only portable media may be used in these areas.
Do not leave your arrows uncovered
Broadhead arrows are extremely sharp, so it’s risky to carry one in your hand or nock one in your bow before you’re ready to shoot. Hunters should not remove arrows from their quivers until it is time to shoot.
“It only takes a few seconds to pull an arrow out of a quiver, nock the arrow and fire it,” Takeda said. “The few seconds you’ll gain by carrying arrows in your hand or nocked on your bow aren’t worth it.”
Know your target
Never shoot a deer or elk that is beyond the maximum range you are comfortable shooting. Also, before you release your arrow, be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.
“Arrows, especially carbon arrows, can hit with great force at distances of up to 100 yards from the point of launch,” Takeda said. “You need to know what’s behind your target and make sure you never shoot where a road is in the background.”
“We treat and take very seriously any violation that may affect the safety of the public in the field and detracts from the overall quality of the hunting experience,” said DWR Law Enforcement Captain Chad Bettridge. . “Many of these violations include things like loaded weapons or unshaken arrows in a vehicle, not using a helmet while driving an all-terrain vehicle, driving off-road, and driving under the influence.”
There are also some things bowhunters need to know and practice before heading into the field. Here are some basic preparation tips:
Check your equipment. Make sure your bow blades don’t chip or separate, and make sure your bow strings don’t fray. If you have a compound bow, make sure the pulleys and cables are in good condition. Also, make sure your arrow flute (the stiffness of the arrow shaft) matches the draw weight of your bow. If the draw weight of your bow produces more force than your arrow can handle, your arrow could fly off target or even break or shatter when you release it.
Sharpen your broad arrows. When sharpening your wide points, take your time and be careful. Your broad spikes should be perfectly sharp before you hit the court. But make sure you don’t cut yourself while sharpening them.
Practice shooting as much as possible. Use the same broad points that you will use while hunting so that you become familiar with them. The DWR has two public ranges which are great places to practice before the hunt.
Obtain permission. You must obtain written permission from private landowners before hunting on their property or using their property to access public lands. If you cannot get written permission, find another point of access to your hunting unit.
Know the limits. Do some preliminary scouting and familiarize yourself with the area where you are going to hunt. Make sure you know the boundaries of nearby limited access units and other restricted land in the area. If you are hunting near private property or along hunting unit boundaries, do not cross these areas to retrieve an animal without obtaining proper permission from the owner or the assistance of a conservation officer.
Be careful in popular outdoor spaces and obey all laws. Make sure you are well beyond the minimum distances you must maintain from roads and homes. Many local municipalities have restrictions on offloading firearms or using archery equipment within city limits. Please know and understand these restrictions. If you are going to hunt in Salt Lake County, note that the county’s hunting restrictions are more restrictive than the rest of Utah. Familiarize yourself with where you can and can’t hunt before heading out into the field.
Take the DWR bowhunter training course. Although you are not required to take this course to bow hunt in Utah, it is a useful resource for both beginners and experienced hunters. He teaches bowhunting safety, ethics, hunting methods and more. You can take the course online or in an instructor-led course. Learn more about the course and register to take it on the DWR website.
Visit the Utah Hunting Planner. This free and useful resource includes notes from the biologist who manages the unit you will be hunting, general information about the unit, and safety and weather items to know for your particular area. Information on the number of bucks on the unit, relative to the number of hinds, is also listed. You will also find maps indicating the boundaries of the unit, the public and private lands, as well as the different types of habitats present on the unit. You can find the Hunt Planner page on the DWR website.
Know what to do once you’ve taken a photo. Observe the animal and determine the direction it has taken. Then go to where you last saw the animal and find your arrow. If there is blood on it, and if you have a compass, note the direction the animal went. Then, wait 30 minutes before following it. If you follow the animal too soon, you can scare it away. If you wait at least 30 minutes before following it, most of the deer and elk you shoot will be found dead within a reasonable distance of your starting point, saving you a lot of time and hiking.
Animal tracking. When stalking an animal, look for blood not only on the ground, but also on brush. If you start to lose track of the animal, tie a piece of biodegradable tape near the last bloodstain. Next, search for the animal’s track by running in a circular pattern from the tape. The strip will serve as a marker that will let you know where you started. Also, tying tape to the locations of the last three or four bloodstains you see, then stepping away from the tape and looking at the trail can help you visualize the direction the animal went.
Find the animal. Once you find the animal you slaughtered, check to see if its eyes are open. If not, the animal is probably not dead. If his eyes are open, touch one of the eyes with a long stick. If the animal is still alive, touching one of its eyes with a long stick will take you away from danger and alert you that it is still alive. Once the animal is dead, prepare the meat and chill it immediately. Temperatures are usually warm during fall bowhunting, which can quickly spoil the meat.
Find out about fire restrictions beforehand. Check if campfires are allowed in the area where you will be hunting. Due to extreme drought conditions, campfires are not permitted on many public lands this year. If campfires are allowed and you are using one, make sure it is completely extinguished before leaving. Pour water over the heat, stir, add more water and stir again until cool to the touch. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave. Visit the Utah Fire Sense website for more tips.
Research scheduled prescribed burns in your hunting unit. If your hunting unit includes lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management, you should be aware that these agencies will occasionally have prescribed fires in an area to reduce wildfire risk and improve the habitat. Sometimes these prescribed burns can take place during a hunting season. Check with the land management agency ahead of time to see if a prescribed burn can take place on your hunting unit.
Know the rules from the Big Game Ground Rules Guide. Make sure you know all the rules before you go hunting. You can get a free copy of the 2022 Utah Big Game Field Rules Guide from the DWR website.