For those of us who are not of the bow and arrow, or those who are and also hunt by burning powder, this weekend is one of the most anticipated times of the year.

The East River firearm deer season opens on Saturday (November 20). Thousands of hunters will be heading out in the wee hours of the morning to get to their spot and bag a big one. Most will be doing it safely. Some won't be. And sometimes you can do something unsafe without knowing it.

MORE: How to Not Get Shot While Deer Hunting

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Obviously, you should do everything you can to be as conspicuous as possible. Wear your bright orange garments. A hat and a vest do the trick nicely. It's not only required by law, it's just smart. You are only required to wear one article of orange, but more is better.

If you are hunting with people who are new or stupid or both, make sure they don't fire their rifle(s) at the first thing that moves. Not only should they see exactly what they are shooting, but they should also be able to see the exact spot on what they are shooting.

In 2019 a buffalo was shot in North Dakota. The farmer who lost the cow said they didn't think it was intentional "just stupid."

Hunting in wooded areas with reduced visibility can be tough to see. But you should never pull the trigger on something you can't identify. It could be another hunter.

If you are hunting in a big wide open space you may think you can see everything when you can't.

A few years ago while hunting the second doe season in Sully County, I pulled into a walk-in area with a designated road and drove in about half a mile to where I planned to sit. To my surprise, there was already a lone doe hanging out in the harvested cornfield just a few hundred yards away from my truck over a hill. I stayed low and tried to get close.

About the time I was thinking about setting up for a shot I heard the telltale crack of a bullet flying nearby, followed shortly thereafter by the boom of a muzzle blast that arrived from a few hundred yards away. Unbeknownst to me, there was another hunter in that same massive field whom I could not see because of the topography. Both of us could see the doe, but could not see each other. It wasn't my fault nor was it his. Luckily the angle did not put me in his direct line of fire.

Why didn't I see the other hunter? Instead of parking inside the walk-in area like I did, he parked a half mile further down the county road and walked in that half-mile to his sitting spot. We both had the same plan, just different ways of attacking it.

What I learned that day was to never assume I'm the only one there and to try to ascertain where other hunters may be sitting. Had I driven down the road a little more I would have known he was there.

Another thing you can do to be safer is to keep your rifle unloaded until you have action going on or you have arrived at your sitting spot. I've debated with friends on this and while I agree there are times when I would certainly walk with a loaded rifle. I used to hunt with an M1A and it's very loud to chamber around. The safety on that thing also required about twenty pounds of pressure to deactivate while the trigger was about five pounds. If I'm walking through an area where I know something could pop up at any second, I would do it. But If I'm hiking in before shooting light or I'm traveling on foot versus actively hunting, I'm going to keep the chamber empty. I may regret it but haven't yet.

You can heed my suggestions or not. But I always operate under the assumption that the next guy over is negligently unsafe and hunt accordingly. I'd rather leave an area I wanted to hunt than compete with someone who may think shooting in my direction is okay.

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Do you have plenty of venison in the freezer? Time to cook up some of that delicious backstrap.


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