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Gear Guy

Is it safe to hike without an orange vest during hunting season?

During a recent backpacking trip my friend insisted that we all wear blaze-orange vests to prevent hunters from mistaking us for ge. My faith in a hunter's ability to correctly ID a target is a bit stronger than my friend's and I resisted his suggestion. I have no desire to be mistaken for an elk and shot by a high-powered rifle, but I also did not want to wear that vest. How valid were my friend's concerns and was I putting myself at risk by not wearing blaze orange? Pete Littleton, Colorado

A: I suggest you do some sort of Web search for news articles that relate directly to hunters' ability to distinguish between an elk, an elf ("Dang! I thought you said, there goes an elk!"), and a hiker. Here's one too-typical story that ran on Portland, Oregon's KVAL-13 news channel last month:

Filson hunting vest

"Lane County detectives are continuing their investigation of a fatal hunting accident over the weekend. Neither hunter was wearing blaze orange, something that could have prevented the tragedy. Now 29-year-old [name removed] could face charges for shooting and killing his best friend...."

So, here's my advice: WEARING ORANGE HELPS. A lot. Most states require it, and those that do have reported significant decreases in hunting accidents since the rule went into effect.

Why can't hunters tell a human from a deer? I think it's because they (some—not all) see what they WANT to see. So do whatever you can to persuade them that what they are looking at is NOT a deer, bear, pheasant, or the like. I don't care if it does look dorky—wear a vest.

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