Hunter hunting rifle blaze orange
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By John T. Wenders

Afew years ago, on the last weekend of elk season, Ashley Lyman and I were trailering our horses up a snow-covered Forest Service road out of Elk City, Idaho. As we climbed across a steep clear-cut, the truck spun to a halt on a sheet of ice. Then slowly the whole rig began to jackknife backward toward a precipice. Ashley raced all four wheels. I jumped out of the truck, opened the rear of the trailer, and began unloading frightened horses. By the time the trailer emptied I had been kicked once, stepped on twice, knocked down, and squeezed against the side of the trailer as Brutus turned and bolted out. But getting the horses out of the trailer kept us from sliding over the edge.

On other occasions I have fallen in icy streams in below-zero weather, had nightfall overtake me far from camp in a snowstorm, been left stranded far from camp when my horse escaped, and been dumped by a grizzly-frightened horse.

I do not plan these little adventures, still they do occur, and will probably occur again. But these are some of the risks I accept when hunting. Compared to these, the risk of getting shot is the least of my worries.

Bull Elk

Now come various game and fish departments, hunter education associations, and legislators. They say that I should not be allowed to accept some hunting risks. To protect me from myself, I must be required to sally forth in glowing orange, probably with a neon propeller on my hat, so that irresponsible hunters won’t shoot me.

I can see it now: road checks to make sure I don’t pull my horse trailer up any snowy roads; all water posted in several languages and fenced in the winter so I won’t fall in; a required siren at camp that goes off at sundown to guide me back; government-regulated strength standards for all lead ropes, halters, and knots. And all grizzlies belled. Think of how safe the wilderness will be!

No thank you. I know what’s best for me. One of the reasons I hunt is to get away from the trappings of civilization, and I will accept all the risks. Further, I’ll do others the favor of presuming that they know what’s best for them: as much as I hate to see the wilderness decorated, I will support their right to wear macho hunter orange. I only ask in return that they support my right to accept the risks of not doing so.


John T. Wenders was a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at the University of Idaho and Senior Fellow at The Commonwealth Foundation. He received an A.B. from Amherst College, M.A.s from the University of Hawaii and Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, all in economics.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

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  1. I wear orange. Too many idiots with .308s and a belly full of beer stumbling around trying track deer. If you don’t want to wear it, don’t wear it.

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  2. In my younger years, I would pack into the Marbles by my lonesome. Dad always told me he would rather I didn’t go alone, but I always preferred to hunt alone. Mountain men did, so did I. I’ve had a few “learning experiences” horse rolled over on my rifle, another time we ran over a yellowjacket hole and spooked the packmule loaded with a deer on the pack saddle, that led to a broken pastern and me putting him out of his misery miles from camp and heavy snow coming in that night. Was a long wet walk out the next day.
    It’s a test of self I imagine, grit some call it. but some want to nanny us, those that chose to test ourselves, and those that want to nanny us will probably never be as strong as us, and they know it.

  3. The author protests too much. He exaggerates insanely beyond what anyone would ever suggest or see come to pass. But that’s the verbal shenanigan’s of all pundits and bloviators, they make up outlandish stuff because something that is not outlandish must be defeated at all costs because … reasons…

    I get it, he doesn’t want to wear any dang blasted orange.

    So, don’t, ya big cry baby.

    • Yeah kinda bizarre TTAG encouraging a dimwitted hunter trying to get shot. Does Elmer Fudd realize men(& women)may have to risk there lives rescuing yer butt? Duh…

    • But why should I be fined and have a license revoked because I wore an orange hat instead of an orange hat and coat?

  4. Hunter orange = putting bells on grizzlies and fencing all water, philosophically-speaking. Got it.

    • It makes you wonder if these people also cry about having to wear a seatbelt, or if they put up a fight with the DMV about having to have street-legal headlights and turn signals and brake lights.

      • You know the data shows that seat belt laws actually caused a decline is safety. People take more risks when they feel protected.

      • Yes, we did. Maybe folks were too young or just forget, but the mandatory seat bell law was a heck of a fight.

        • I’m a young’n, so I don’t remember, but the above comment chain really of reinforces how easily we lose track of freedoms from generation to generation.

          For the record, I don’t agree with being forced to wear a seatbelt while driving or a helmet while riding, but I would still do both without the government telling me to, simply because I really, really want to avoid dying if I can possibly do so.

        • I never wore a seatbelt before I owned that ’71 240Z.

          Driving it I suddenly realized the advantage of being firmly planted in the driver’s seat. I could completely forget about needing to brace my self as I dove into corners.

          That manual 3-point belt was a revelation about driving. A few months after I sold it, I bought my first new car, an 89 Civic si with deep bucket seats. 6 weeks after I bought the Honda, I was hit head-on.

          If I didn’t have that belt on, I would not be alive today. Without fail, I wear that belt every time now.

          Those who don’t want to wear them should be able to if they want. It’s their neck at risk, not mine.

          As far as I’m concerned, there should not be motorcycle helmet laws or seatbelt laws, but insurance companies should be able to charge more to insure those who don’t want to…

        • Geoff, couldn’t agree with you more. I had a 68 Camaro daily driver that I built that ran 11s. Made Hot Rod magazine once. I installed five point harnesses in it since it only had lap belts. Wear them all the time. Still didn’t think other people should be forced to. Same way with a motorcycle. Always were a full face helmet. Still don’t think it should be the law.

        • 11s.


          One day, I’d like a fast car…

        • Geoff, 11s is a good ways beyond “fast”. I have fast, maybe very fast, vicinity of 13. Had a bike once, long ago, would run mid 10s, but never got close with me driving it! But I do understand that 11s is *holy shit* fast.

        • To give you an idea, I had to not only move weight up front to keep the wheels on the ground, but had to screw my tires into the wheels, otherwise the rims would just spin on their own. 411 gears help.
          Whew, that was a rich man’s car. I spent every Friday night working on it to get it ready for Saturday races. 6 miles a gallon, highway. Got me my wife though. She was way out of my league and started dating me just so she could ride in that car.

        • neiowa, you have no idea how close to right you are. I sold that car to pay for my wedding to that same girl. Sold my truck to pay for her engagement ring.
          My next car was a Volvo station wagon.

        • I did a paper in college on seat belts.
          As a Firefighter/EMT I was always arguing with people who believe seat belts saved lives, always.
          In fact, the data showed then (1999) and is even more biased now as cars become safer that seat belts saved lives on average of about 50% of the time, the other 50% they caused loss of life.
          Statistics are a hard thing to read, you need ALL the data, not a snippet of it.
          What happens in a car crash is that the mechanism of injury comes into play and is basically a pandoras box.
          A seat belt has just as good a chance of decapitating you as it does holding you from going through the windshield.
          Compounding the problem was the addition of air bags. However, like many things, they sold the public on seat belts so hard that there is no way to backpedal on their safety, even after repeated testing clearly shows that having a seat belt on and airbags increases the risk of injury due to the belt stopping you from traveling into the bag, thus the bag hits you causing a ping pong of your guts and brain.
          You are more likely to survive a rollover if you are thrown clear of the car than seat belted in. In severe wrecks, the belt does nothing, I have unbelted many dead people from seats, this makes a statistical wash as you cannot prove or disprove that wearing or not wearing one would save you.

          With 30 years of motor vehicle accidents under my belt I can tell you I don’t wear one, new car technology and air bags are what do half of the saving, luck and mechanism of injury do the rest.

          Don’t forget how you were always told why drunks survive wrecks because they basically go limp with the crash, yea, seatbelts make you solid… thereby…. yes… causing more harm.

          Also agree orange should be optional, I don’t need anyone telling me to do something to protect me from stupid people, It can be suggested, but it should be a personal choice if you wish to put yourself at risk.
          The government is ok with you smoking cigarettes which is proven to kill, but not ok if you choose to not wear orange.
          The Covid vaccination is under the same umbrella, forced protection.

  5. Guys, I never had to deal with snow and mountains. I have had to deal with swamps, gators, boar and moccasins all my life. They are all happy to kill you. Orange never did a damn thing to change that. Never worn it.

    • Black ice is flat *ugly* to experience at speed…

      • Hey! I did that once! Pure inattention, road was nice and flat, Interstate highway, going to work in the morning while daydreaming, about the time I hit the exit ramp it struck me that the road was probably not as dry as it looked. I wasn’t even speeding, just gradually slid off the road into the median, down the hill fortunately missing all the other cars there before me, who hadn’t been able to get out! I kept it moving and got back on the road with only sheet metal damage from plowing under a little marker post. Felt really stupid.

  6. I’ve been hunting various game large and small now for 55 years or so and I guess I’ve led a charmed life as compared to the author. To tell you the truth, I’ve always though driving to/from the hunt was more dangerous than the actual part with guns, particularly around these MN deer camps and the rush to go buy more booze. 😎

    I wear the minimum amount of orange because if I don’t and get caught it will cause me to contribute money I’d rather use for some other purpose to a cause I probably don’t support.

    • I grew up in the U.P. the drive is the most dangerous part.

      Unless you go walking down a game trail during deer season. That’s a suicide mission.

      I used to love the PSAs begging people not to shoot power transformers *this year*.

  7. I went rifle hunting for the first time this year (previously only hunted with a bow). I set up my camp in the late evening, and with a solid hour and a half of daylight, I loaded up the BAR and started across my little marsh into my woods. Halfway through the marsh, I happen to look up and see that I’m about 30ish yards from a bull moose. Knowing that I was probably going to come back through this area in the dark and the moose would likely be there, I decided to head back to the relative safety of the road. Moose are about the only thing I fear in the Colorado woods, bears and cats are usually quite well-behaved around here, but moose will happily wait until you accidentally sneak within spitting distance in the dark and then take the opportunity to become belligerent with you.

    Anyway, I started heading up the road after I got out of the marsh, and an RV comes bumping along. A man and woman get out and are ogling the moose for a time- until the man went back into the RV and emerged wearing orange and carrying a rifle, which he loaded by the side of the road, and promptly gave chase to the moose, who at this time was about 50 or so yards from the gentleman, still in broad daylight. They both vanished into the woods, all the while I sat on a stump. Presently, his wife came over to talk to me about the trials and tribulations of their hunting trip at altitude. I mentioned that I had seen the moose several minutes beforehand. She asked, quite puzzled, why in the world I didn’t shoot it, and i explained that I was hunting deer, not moose. She was quite shocked at this revelation, and said “that was a moose? I’d better go tell him. We thought it was an elk.”

    The author can whine about the big bad gub’mint making him wear orange all he wants; I’m not going rifle hunting again without an orange prison jumpsuit if this is what I have to contend with out here.

      • It’s not just hunters. I’ve probably run across a dozen people who tell me they are fishing for trout in places where there are none. They will proudly hold up a stringer of small mouth and fallfish to show you all the “trout” they caught. If you try to explain it to them they get mad. They know what they are doing, dammit!

        • Just before the half-way point of your comment I was thinking “Jesus, people fishing shoot moose and cows?”.

          I was thinking you had one HELL of a story to tell.

          Thankfully it didn’t get as bad as I was thinking. It stayed at “worth chuckling over” instead of “OK, we need to cleanse the gene pool”.

      • We used to lease our land for deer hunting. After numerous goats and 2 out buildings were shot, we quit.

    • “She asked, quite puzzled, why in the world I didn’t shoot it, and i explained that I was hunting deer, not moose.”

      I imagine the logistics of even 2 people trying to pack out an adult moose are…

      Daunting, on foot.

  8. Only ask that if you don’t wear orange, you wave any right to be treated for your injuries or to sue the other hunter when you get shot.

      • This! Exactly this! I’ve never understood why anyone takes a shot at something they can’t positively identify. It’s even one of the 4 f#@king rules of firearm safety. “Know your target AND what’s beyond it.”

      • I don’t blindly fire without clearly identifying a target, but don’t expect me to account for your safety if you’re wearing clothing designed to hide you. If I see an animal and person in the possible trajectory of my shot, I’ll hold my fire. I all I see is an animal, I’ll pull the trigger. The state only requires someone with a license and gun to wear orange or pink, but I’ll wear it even when guiding or being a sherpa.

  9. Nanny-stating turns personal responsibility on its head through promotion of the talisman effect.

    “I follow the safety rules (wear the talisman), therefore I am safe.”

    Which can paradoxically lead to more accidents, as the talisman’s dubious protection tempts wearers into taking more risks than they normally would.

    From a position of personal responsibility, the statement would be–
    “I value both safety and sense, therefore I follow the safety recommendations that make sense, and accept any risk from not following those that don’t.”

  10. Oral surgeon that removed my wisdom teeth got shot deer hunting by some unknown idiot. His medical training kept him alive as he crawled out of the woods to his truck. This was before cell phones. Be careful out there folks.

    • Cell phones are priceless. Middle aged couple north of my place went for a long walk and far from anywhere the lady mixed it up with a rattlesnake, this in the early days of cell phones. If she tried to hike out she would most likely die, so she stopped moving and her husband pulled out his new toy and called 911, the helicopter ambulance landed right beside them and she was out of danger before they reached the hospital. Best investment he ever made.

  11. What I have learned from gun and hunting forums in PA is that most of the hunters here think most of the hunters here are idiots. And they are correct.

  12. Philosophically I oppose the government doing anything “for my own good.” I don’t need to explain why to you fine folks, you get it. Practically? The deer can’t see it, other humans can, I’M WEARING ORANGE. There’s just no practical reason not to where I hunt.

    • I was going to comment to the same effect. As in “uh, all those animals y’all are hunting are red-green colorblind, and perceive orange as brown, y’all know that right? I don’t like being told what to do either, but unless you’re secretly hunting humans it’s kind of dumb to not wear orange,” lol

    • Deer don’t see the color, but they WILL see that a big splotch of solid color is there, an obvious break in the visual noise of the woods.

      Oklahoma allows the use of orange camo, which is at least an acceptable compromise between safety and stealth.

  13. NC does as well, so that’s my go to. It just has to be orange and visible 360 degrees, so I have an orange camo hat.

  14. So why the need for camo for turkey hunters? Apparently wild turkey aren’t that bright.

    Last week a wild hen in my backyard/dog run. 3′ woven wire fence and the dumb thing (think Joe Obiden brain addled dumb) is in the corner of the yard running back and forth. NO IDEA how to get gone. It flew over the fence to get IN THE YARD.

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