Shield your eyes; this is going to hurt.
Although wearing hunter orange clothing while deer hunting seems universally obvious to all of us here in Michigan, it isn’t everywhere.
And it’s not even universal in Michigan, which has a long list of exceptions: orange isn’t required for bow hunters during the archery deer season, for archery bear hunters, for turkey and migratory bird hunters, or for certain furbearer hunters. Bow hunters taking deer during the firearm season must wear orange.
Hunters have been wearing bright orange clothing since the 1960s, and researchers have repeatedly concluded that the requirement alone has prevented something like 80 percent of accidental shootings in the decades since. Mandatory hunter safety education took care of the remaining 19.9 percent, making hunting far safer than golf and a lot of other recreational pursuits.
Despite the evidence, only 40 states and about half of Canada mandate wearing orange during any hunting seasons.
Some hunters are smarter than others, though.
New York doesn’t require hunters to wear orange, but about 80 percent of deer hunters do anyway. The proportion of hunters wearing orange while pursuing other game is smaller.
A Centers for Disease Control study of New York hunting accidents gives hunter orange almost mystical powers. Ninety-five percent of hunters who were shot by someone who mistook them for game were not wearing blaze orange, which is sort of obvious.
But almost 70 percent of hunters injured or killed by accidental discharges were those not wearing orange. Blaze orange improves the eyesight not only of hunters, but also of their firearms.
Overall, the New York study found, not wearing blaze orange made hunters seven times more likely to be the victim of an accidental shooting.
But why orange?
For humans, it’s a vivid, hard-to-ignore color that means trouble. For deer and most mammals — most of which are red-green colorblind — it is the same shade of gray as green summer foliage.
But humans who aren’t in the woods use different colors to get attention.
All the guys tearing apart and putting back together the Interstate 94/I-69 interchange were wearing fluorescent lime green. The engineers and surveyors documenting their work were using fluorescent hot pink paint and flagging tape.
Recreational hikers and bikers are warned to wear lime green or hot pink when they’re near hunting areas in the fall.
And some critics suggest that orange is too close to the color of early fall foliage.
But nobody is looking at alternatives — except Wisconsin.
Bills pending in the Wisconsin legislature would amend the state’s hunter orange requirements to include hot pink. Lawmakers say it’s a more effective safety color than orange and that it’s even less visible to deer than orange garments. Some suggest it’s also a marketing move meant to attract more women to hunting.
I suppose it’s also a counter-marketing move. Because it’s pink. That’s probably why a similar proposal in Maine went nowhere.
Hot pink camo isn’t the only hunter visibility issue on the agenda in Wisconsin.
State lawmakers are fine-tuning the state’s hunter harassment laws to deal with animal-rights troublemakers who’ve learned to exploit loopholes in existing laws.
The bill would interfering with a hunt to include hanging out where a hunter can see the violator, photographing a hunter, using a drone and confronting a hunter.
Critics suggest the additions may be unconstitutional, particularly since hunters make a point of being explicitly visible to other hunters in the woods, and they all seem to enjoy photographing themselves.
Hunters and conservation officers say photographing poachers is a valuable enforcement tool.
Wisconsin will need to encourage violators to take selfies.
Contact Michael Eckert at [email protected], (810) 989-6264, on Facebook @michaeleckert or on Twitter @michaeleckert.