A deer broke into a southern Michigan church this week, reported the Washington Post.

Being that it’s the firearm hunting season opener we could make a tasteless joke about “being saved.” But the wily 10-point buck left the same way he’d come — a broken window — opting to take his chances back in the wild.

Hunting whitetail deer for food, sport and sustenance is a time-honored Michigan tradition — but one that hinges on safety all around.

For hunters, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources put out a “10 Best” list of practices to keep the season safe:

  • Properly tag your deer before field-dressing or moving the deer, including the month and date the deer was taken, deer gender and antler points.
  • Know your firearm, how it functions and make sure it is properly sighted. Being able to safely handle your firearm is an important part of being a responsible hunter.
  • Know your target and what’s beyond it. Rifle rounds travel long distances – hunters are responsible for where the bullets end up.
  • Respect landowner rights. If a deer runs onto private property, the hunter cannot retrieve it without the landowner’s permission.
  • Share public land — Regardless of who constructed, purchased or tends to blinds, when they’re on state-managed public land, they are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Leave the land better than you found it
  • Wear blaze orange — Hunters are required by law to wear at least 50 percent hunter orange and be visible from all directions
  • Know and follow baiting regulations — Baiting and feeding are banned in the entire Lower Peninsula and in the core chronic wasting disease surveillance area in the Upper Peninsula (portions of Delta, Dickinson and Menominee counties) — except for hunters with disabilities who meet specific requirements.
  • Hunt in-season, during legal hours — A hunter legally may shoot game 30 minutes before sunrise or until 30 minutes after sunset. Anyone who witnesses or suspects hunting outside of legal hours should immediately call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800.
  • Be respectful to other hunters

Wearing blaze orange and being aware of hunting practices in the area is also a really good idea for any non-hunters (hikers, bikers and dog-walkers) in the woods this time of year.

Blaze orange requirements and hunting safety courses contribute to decreased numbers of hunting-related firearm mishaps, but they do happen. In 2020, an 11-year-boy was fatally shot by his stepfather while retrieving his deer. In 2019, Justin Beutel, 38, was killed by another hunter on his family land near Torch Lake.

That the biggest news out of the Nov. 15 opener was a discombobulated deer in church is a positive sign, but all of us need to take precautions to make sure we’re all “saved” this season.

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