April 10, 2003 11:00 pm
TARGETING SAFETY: Members of the Eagle Cap Traditional Archers practice at a range in La Grande. The archery club promotes bowhunter safety and ethics. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).
TARGETING SAFETY: Members of the Eagle Cap Traditional Archers practice at a range in La Grande. The archery club promotes bowhunter safety and ethics. (Observer photos/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Bow hunter safety and ethics.

Both are becoming increasingly important issues in Oregon as the number of bow hunters pursuing deer and elk in the state grows.

"When you get more competition, hunters are going to take more chances,'' said Dave Doran of Bend, the state chairman for the National Bowhunter Education Foundation.

Risk-taking bowhunters, for example, might shoot at deer and elk from outside the effective range, increasing the likelihood of wounding animals rather than killing them quickly, Doran said.

Doran discussed ethical issues and much more during a recent 10-hour bowhunter certification class in

La Grande. The class was sponsored by the Eagle Cap Traditional Archers. Sixteen people from Northeast Oregon attended.

Besides hunter ethics, safety was the major issue discussed. Three people have died in Oregon in bow-hunting accidents since 1979, Doran said. Two of the accidents involved hunters who hit their partners.

In one case, the victim was difficult to see because he was not wearing blaze orange and was shot through brush. Another incident involved two people who were hunting at night, which is


Doran said that one important thing a bowhunter can do is to keep track of his or her hunting partner.

"Remember where your hunting partner is at all times,'' said Doran, who is also a volunteer coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Bowhunting is generally much safer than rifle hunting because archers need to be 30 yards or closer to the animals they are shooting.

"You should be able to distinguish a hunter from a deer from 30 yards,'' Doran said. "There is no excuse not


Archers, though, need to be concerned about more than flying arrows. Archers need to realize that sharp broadheads also pose a risk. Never carry an arrow on a bow string because of the danger an exposed broadhead poses.

"If you fall forward, you could hurt yourself (by hitting the arrow) or jab someone with the arrow,'' Doran said.

He also knows of instances in which hunters with bows on a string have kneeled down and poked an arrow through their ankle or foot. Sometimes the archer felt no pain until he saw blood flowing out of his foot, Doran said.

He knows of one instance in which a hunter cut his foot with an arrow while kneeling down but failed to realize it.

"He actually passed out from lack of blood. His hunting partner saved his life,'' Doran said.

Always use a stringer

Hunters with long bows and recurve bows are urged always to use a stringer rather than the old push-pull method. When the push-pull method is used there is a chance that the bow's limb could slip off your hand and hit you in the head. Doran knows of man who lost the sight in one eye when this


Tree stand safety

Many bowhunters put themselves at risk by hunting in tree stands. This inherently dangerous.

"One out of three people who hunts from tree stands will fall sooner or later,'' Doran said.

Last fall a bowhunter in the Starkey area died when he fell out of a tree stand, the first such known incident in Oregon.

Hunters can take precautions to protect themselves when setting up a tree stand. First, wear a harness when climbing a tree — and when in the tree stand.

"If you swing out, you can get right back in,'' Doran said.

Doran encourages bow hunters to find live trees with no lower limbs and set up tree stands no higher than 20 or 30 feet.

Tracking is critical

Bowhunters should be prepared to do more tracking than rifle hunters do. An animal hit by an arrow never drops right away and might run a considerable distance before it dies. Bowhunters should be ready to follow the blood trial of an animal, and to help them learn this skill Doran had his class follow a fake blood trail.

He noted that if an animal is hit in the lungs, its blood will be frothy. People who find such blood can expect to discover their animal a short distance away since an animal hit in the lungs can die within 20 seconds.

Those who attend the classes Doran teaches receive an International Bowhunter Education program certificate. The certificate is required of bowhunters in 18 states, four Canadian provinces and most European countries.

In Oregon, bowhunters do not need certification on any public lands except those in Central Oregon's Metolius Unit. Some landowners, though, do require International Bowhunter Education program certification.

Doran believes that in five to 10 years certification will be required of all Oregon bowhunters due to the state's growing number of bowhunters.

The International Bowhunter Education certification program is sponsored statewide by the Traditional Archers of Oregon, Oregon Bow Hunters and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.