Following Oregon’s startling $577 million budget shortfall, state departments must strategically refine and prioritize the core issues they need to address. What sportsmen wear is not one of them. However, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently issued a report investigating whether it should mandate that all outdoorsmen wear an observable piece of hunter orange clothing while hunting.
According to the report, bicycling is more dangerous than hunting. 1,351 bicyclists are injured for every 100,000 participants, compared to just 5 injuries per 100,000 hunting participants. Yet, bicyclists over age sixteen are not required by law to wear a helmet or reflective clothing. Cyclists are given the liberty to make those decisions themselves.
Among Western states, Oregon’s hunter safety record is second only to Nevada’s, a state which also doesn’t require orange clothing. Also, while 19% of reported hunting accidents in Oregon involved people wearing hunter orange, the report failed to mention that only 15-25% of outdoorsmen wear hunter orange. This is in equal proportion to the accident rate, thus negating any statistical argument that a person is safer wearing hunter orange.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s concern for hunters’ safety may seem admirable, but making Oregon the safest state in the West for hunters won’t be achieved through clothing regulations. Rather, Oregon needs an outdoor culture supportive of hunter safety education opportunities and personal responsibility.
Karla Kay Edwards is Rural Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute. She has held positions of leadership in numerous organizations focusing on agricultural and rural industries and issues, including the Fresno (California) Farm Bureau, Washington Cattlemen’s Association and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.