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Pioneer Editiorial: A tradition opens in state forests

The forests surrounding the Bemidji area become a hotbed of activity early Saturday morning as the Minnesota firearms deer season opens.

The state Department of Natural Resources estimates that nearly 500,000 hunters will be venturing into fields and forests across the state when the season opens. It also estimates that with about 1 million deer, there should be plenty of opportunities for deer hunters.

The weather should be ideal, although most hunters would like a little snow on the ground to make tracking easier. As does the opening of the fishing season, Saturday's deer-hunting opener means a lot to Bemidji area businesses as deer hunters travel here and provide economic stimulus to our restaurants, lodging places, convenience stores and fuel stops, and grocery stores.

With so many people out in the woods, and armed, it is also a time to keep safety in mind. Double-digit hunting fatalities were the norm in Minnesota during the 1950s and 1960s with a high of 29 fatalities in 1961. But with the help of mandatory hunter education classes, that average has been greatly lowered.

Still, we urge hunters to observe the basic rules of hunter safety, including:

E Point the muzzle of your firearm in a safe direction.

E Treat every firearm with the same respect you would show a loaded gun.

E Be sure of your target and what is in front of and behind your target.

E Unload and safely store firearms when not in use.

E Handle firearms and ammunition carefully.

E Never climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch or log with a loaded firearm.

E Carry your firearm safely, keeping the safety on until ready to shoot.

E Never point a firearm at anything you do not want to shoot.

E Don't drink alcohol or take mood-altering drugs before or while handling firearms.

E Be aware of changing weather conditions.

E Follow and respect Minnesota trespass law.

Special care should also be shown this year as we have hundreds of pipeline workers in the area who are outside and working to lay pipeline through the area. Rifle shots carry far, so hunters need to know where their bullet is traveling.

Deer hunting is important to Minnesota. Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be in Thief River Falls this weekend, hosting the Minnesota Governor's Deer Hunting Opener, to highlight the sport's traditions and its importance to the Minnesota economy.

Minnesota voters took a step in 1998 by approving an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that preserves Minnesota's hunting and fishing heritage, and this weekend continues that tradition.