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Hunter Safety Basics

Watch clips about hunter safety and tree stand safety. Read more on hunter safety basics below. Check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

The 4 Rules of Firearm Safety

  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger, and outside the trigger guard, until you are ready to shoot.
  • Always be sure of your target and what is in front of it and behind it. Once you pull the trigger, you cannot take back the bullet!

Hunter Orange and Pink

Photos of hunter in human vision and in deer vision
Human's vision compared to a deer's vision.
Deer cannot tell red or orange from green.

New York State law requires hunters age 14 and 15, and their mentors, hunting deer or bear with a gun, to wear fluorescent hunter orange or pink visible from all directions: shirt, jacket, or vest with at least 250 square inches of solid or patterned fluorescent orange or pink (the pattern must be at least 50% orange or pink) OR a hat with at least 50% fluorescent orange or pink.

All other hunters are not required by law to wear fluorescent orange while hunting in New York. However, the DEC highly recommends ALL hunters wear a fluorescent orange hat, vest and/or coat while hunting small game or big game.

Deer and Other Game Animals Don't See Hunter Orange

  • Deer do not have red-sensitive cone cells in their eyes, and can't tell orange from green and brown.
  • Deer have different sensitivity to various wavelengths of light than humans. Deer see short wavelength colors such as blue (and even ultra-violet, which humans cannot see) brighter than humans do. However, deer are less sensitive to longer wavelengths such as orange and pink, so these colors look darker to deer.

Wearing Hunter Orange Saves Lives

a hunter in orange suit and one in dark suit in the woods
The two hunters in this picture (one wearing camo and the
other hunter orange) are invisible to deer if they
don't move. Who would you want to be if there were another
hunter nearby, and a deer between you?

Hunter orange, also known as fluorescent orange or blaze orange, should be worn to make a hunter more visible and prevent other hunters from mistaking them for an animal, or shooting in their direction.

Hunters who wear hunter orange are seven times less likely to be shot. For example, during the past ten years, not one person who was wearing hunter orange was mistaken for game and killed in New York. On the contrary, big game hunters who were involved in firearm related incidents were not wearing hunter orange.

Hunting From Tree Stands

Every year, hunters are seriously injured, paralyzed, or killed falling out of tree stands. Falls from tree stands have become a major cause of hunting related injuries and fatalities in New York.

In 2017, DEC investigated 12 tree stand accidents. Fifty percent of the accidents were fatal. All 12 accidents involved a hunter who was not wearing a harness or the harness was not attached to the stand or the tree at the time of their fall. The proper use of tree stands and full-body harnesses will help to prevent these injuries and fatalities.

Tree Stand Safety Tips

a hunter on a tree stand putting on safety straps
Hunter using safety straps
  • Read the manufacturer's instructions and warnings before you use your tree stand and check your stands (including straps and chains) every season. Replace any worn or missing parts.
  • Use a full-body harness with a lifeline and stay connected from the time you leave the ground to the time you get back down.
  • Be aware of suspension trauma. Be sure the harness has a foot strap to relieve harness leg pressure.
  • Use a "lifeline" or safety rope that is secured at the base of the tree or stand and to the tree just above your head when sitting in the stand. Attach the tether from your full-body harness to the lifeline using a carabiner and prusik knot, which easily slides up and down the lifeline, keeping you connected at all times.
  • Once you are safely in your stand, and your tether is attached to the tree, raise your equipment into your stand. Always use a haul line, such as a strong rope, to raise and lower your unloaded gun or cocked crossbow or bow with quiver up the stand. Do not tie the haul line around the trigger or trigger guard on a firearm. Raise a firearm with the muzzle pointing down.
  • Let a reliable person know where you will be hunting and when you will return. A map showing your stand location makes it easier for others to find you if you do not return on time.
  • Carry emergency equipment, such as a knife, cell phone, flashlight, and whistle in your pockets at all times (not in your pack hanging in the tree).

Fitness For Hunters

Hunting is a physical sport. Every hunting season is marred by hunters who suffer heart attacks and strokes. Walking while carrying gear, spotting, and shooting at a deer and dragging a carcass can cause more stress than the heart can handle. That's especially true if you are not physically active, smoke, have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, or other health problems. It is a good idea to start building up your endurance before hunting season. But you don't have to train like a marathon runner. Any activity that gets you moving around, even if it's just 30 minutes each day, can start strengthening your heart and lungs so you can have a safe hunting season.


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    Hunter Education Program
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    Albany, NY 12233-4800

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