Outdoors in Maine: Bird hunters: Stay safe, wear orange

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It probably should please me that in more than 50 years of upland bird hunting and big game hunting, I have been shot only twice: once, long ago, while duck hunting at Merrymeeting Bay, I took a BB shower from another hunter across the water; later, while fussing with my lawnmower behind my Hampden home in October, a grouse hunter sent some BBs my way from across the brook.

In neither incident was I seriously injured. But I could have been. I could have lost any eye or worse. One accidental shooting is one too many. In the Hampden incident, I called out the careless young man who messed up. He took my lip whipping with grace and apologized. The way I read it, he was remorseful and learned a valuable lesson that day.

In the overall scheme of things, Maine has had, over the past decade, an excellent safety record when it comes to woods-related shooting accidents — at least until the last few weeks of bird season. What in the world is happening out there? At press time, there have been five hunting-related “incidents” already, and we have barely gotten started.

In Rangeley, the first week of October, Robert Cyr, 32, of Penobscot, was accidentally hit with bird shot when he and a friend were closing in on a grouse. Cyr took 20-25 pellets in his body. He was hospitalized, treated and released.

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Before that, Kayla Corey, 28, of Kennebunkport, shot herself in the foot while loading her .410 shotgun on the Ragmuff Road in Piscataquis County. At press time, she had been transferred from Millinocket Regional Hospital to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Near Togue Pond in Aroostook County, Geraldine Botka, 67, of Rangeley, was hit in the leg with some shotgun pellets while hunting with her husband. Her wounds were not serious. She was treated and released.

This same week, there was a similar incident in the Gorham area. A man was shot by bird shot by two other hunters from another party, who reportedly left the scene but eventually turned themselves in. That incident remains under investigation, according to the Maine Warden Service.

In a number of these cases no hunter orange was worn by the victims. Of course, hunter orange is no safeguard against irresponsible gun-handlers, but it might have made the difference. Although hunter orange is not legally required of bird hunters, unless it’s deer season or moose season, why take a chance?

Bird hunters, wear an orange hat. What do you have to lose?

We’ll save the rest of the hunter-safety lecture for another day. Most of us know the do’s and don’ts. With November deer season almost here, this is a good time to reflect on what we already know and have been taught.

The author is editor of the “Northwoods Sporting Journal.” He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program — “Maine Outdoors” — heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on “The Voice of Maine News – Talk Network.” He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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