Let’s be careful out in the woods
It’s too early to know the exact circumstances behind the shooting deaths of three men in Michigan this week. But all three were celebrating the Michigan time-honored tradition of deer hunting in the woods.
Justin Beutel, 38, of Sanford was hunting on private property near Alden and was apparently shot by a 45-year-old Gaylord man hunting nearby.
Matthew Boeck, 29, of Howell, had been hunting in the woods near Lewiston when his body was recovered by Oscoda County authorities.
Chong Yang, 68, of Lansing, was found on public property northeast of his home after he was hit by a bullet “from someone else’s” gun.
Investigations are ongoing in all three cases, but the term “accident” has been used twice. And while one Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer told a Record-Eagle reporter that — while they examine every case for possible motive — at least one hunter mistook another for a deer.
This is unusual, at least for recent times.
Hunting, in general, has become safer through the years. According to DNR stats, 89 people were killed hunting between 1940-1970.
Fatalities hovered in the double digit teens until the late ’70s when it started to taper. Hunter safety training became mandatory for first-time hunters ages 12-16 in 1971. The Mandatory Hunter Orange law became effective in 1977 and expanded in 1984. In 1988, hunter safety education became mandatory for all first-time hunters born after January 1, 1960.
In three of the last five years, 2014, 2015 and 2017 — no hunting fatalities were recorded in the state, DNR statistics show.
“Michigan has an incredibly low rate of hunter incidences when you look at the number of people who hold licenses,” Lt. Thomas R. Wanless of the DNR’s law enforcement division told a reporter this week.
But the number of people buying deer licenses is also dropping.
A recent Detroit Free Press tally noted a decline from a high of 785,000 licenses in 1998 to 621,000 licenses sold during the 2017 firearms deer season.
More women are hunting, the DNR has noted, but the state is facing a general loss of youth and has put in place many incentives to draw young people in as well as make the sport more comfortable for hunting’s aging population. The DNR is forecasting a good year for hunters in our area: the 2018 hunting prospectus forecasts an upswing beyond last year’s gain of 15 percent over 2016.
We need a good white-tail deer hunting season — just ask anyone of the 50,949 people involved in vehicle-deer crashes last year. Of those, the Office of Highway Safety Planning reports that 1,254 people were injured and 17 people (13 on motorcycles, 2 on ORVs and 2 in passenger cars) were killed.
Please, when you head out there, be mindful of your surroundings and know that you’re potentially sharing the woods with thousands of like-minded hunters. Remember, hunters must wear orange outergear visible from all sides, all day, on any property. Never ever scope another hunter. Remember that moment when you decide to take a deer’s life is an awesome responsibility, and make triple sure of your target before you squeeze. No deer is worth taking chances.
As hunters, we are responsible for each and every bullet and shell discharged from our firearms. Be safe out there.
— Traverse City Record-Eagle