Indiana Blaze Orange Regulations Could Sour First Fall Turkey Season
Indiana sportsmen may have their first chance ever to hunt turkeys next fall, but a proposed regulation requiring hunters to wear fluorescent orange is causing concern. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources' proposal for a 2005 fall turkey season includes a provision requiring hunters to wear fluorescent orange when moving and to hang 100 square inches of orange within 15 feet of their location when stationary.
The Indiana state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is pleased about the proposed fall turkey season but concerned that fluorescent orange will make the woods less safe for turkey hunters.
"Typically, hunters associate blaze orange with safety," said Dr. James Earl Kennamer, senior vice president for conservation programs. "However, during turkey season, orange can spell trouble. It can actually look like the red on a gobbler's head and that can draw fire rather than prevent it."
This fact is clearly illustrated in Pennsylvania, one of the few states requiring the use of fluorescent orange during fall turkey season. Since 2000, at least two of that state's turkey season incidents were attributed to hunters mistaking orange for the red on a wild turkey gobbler's head.
In comparison, Texas and Missouri each have about the same number of hunters as Pennsylvania. Despite the fact neither state requires hunters to wear blaze orange, records show there were no hunting incidents during their 2001 fall turkey seasons.
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Missouri and Texas are not alone when it comes to good turkey season safety records. Hunting incident data shows that, since 1991, turkey hunting has actually gotten safer without the use of mandatory orange.
"From a national perspective, we've seen a huge drop in turkey hunting incidents - from 8 incidents per 100,000 in 1991 to a low of 2.95 per 100,000 today," Kennamer said. "This decline occurred as the number of turkey hunters climbed to an all time high of 2.6 million."
Citing a nationwide decline in turkey hunting incident rates, the National Turkey Hunting Safety Task Force recommended against mandatory fluorescent orange requirements for turkey hunting, Kennamer said.
Instead, the Task Force encouraged educational efforts as the most effective method of creating awareness and reducing incident rates.
Educational efforts include options such as distributing NWTF safety materials and agency safety messages directly to turkey hunters. In addition, some states have increased the emphasis placed on turkey hunting in their hunter safety education program.
The proposed fall turkey season and accompanying fluorescent orange regulations must go through an approval process that includes a public input hearing, a Natural Resources Commission Hearing and approval by the Governor.
Sportsmen and women wishing to voice their opinions and receive more information about the proposed fall wild turkey season and fluorescent orange amendment can contact the Natural Resources Commission by phone at 317-232-4699 or fax at 317-233-2977. Contact the IDNR Division of Fish and Wildlife by phone at 317-232-4080.
Also, hunters are encouraged to watch their local paper for the dates and times of the public hearing on rule changes to Indiana's outdoor recreation. Go one step further and get involved with the NWTF's Indiana Chapter by calling Randy Showalter at: 260-982-7935.
To receive tips about being a safe turkey hunter, contact the NWTF at 1-800-NWTF or www.nwtf.org.