Hunting got a shot in the arm this year with a long-needed boost in deer licenses sold and increases in new hunters of all kinds.

But, only two days after the Nov. 15 firearm season opener, we’re reading a lot of unfortunate hunting-related news. Area search crews have been called out at least three times in recent days to look for missing hunters. Several searches ended happily; at least one did not, as was the case with a 61-year-old Portage man, who had killed a doe, and died of an assumed medical condition near his friend’s home in Onekama Township. Two other downstate Michigan hunters drowned in a reservoir in eastern Ohio on Sunday night. Another man was hospitalized after the crank on his crossbow malfunctioned.

Hunting has always mediated its potentially dangerous elements — tree stands, loaded weapons, unpredictable outdoor conditions, isolation — with a consistent emphasis on safety.

This season our hunters need to be especially careful. With more hunters in the woods — with varying degrees of experience and familiarity with the landscape — we want everyone to fill their freezer safely.

Hunters and non-hunters alike need to be wearing blaze orange in the woods this time of year. This goes for any accompanying pets, too. It’s important to remember that in Michigan, hunting is allowed 30 minutes before sunrise, and 30 minutes after sunset. Hunters need to abide all relevant gun safety and handling precautions.

With history as a context, hunting safety has increased dramatically. But there are still sad stories every season, and hunters who don’t come home.

We are glad to see more people out enjoying this part of our Michigan heritage. A safe, successful hunt is how we continue it.

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