Five Idaho hunters died accidentally during last year's hunting season, the highest number of fatalities for the sport since 1982, says a report from the Idaho Fish and Game Department. Since the fall accidents, a member of one victim's hunting party has vowed to see Idaho implement a law that would require hunters to wear blaze orange clothing.
A bill introduced into the Idaho Legislature in 1988 would have done that, but it met with so much opposition that Don Clower, former head of the Idaho Hunter Education Association, says he doubts the state's Game Commission will push a hunter-orange law again.
"If you live in the West, you understand that people resent the government telling you what to do," Clower says, "and a number of sportsmen resented the government telling them what to wear. They saw it as punishing the victim instead of the perpetrator." Clower had supported the bill.
Since the 1988 defeat, the Idaho Fish and Game Department's official stance has been to educate hunters about safety instead of advocating more legislation. Since Idaho passed a law in 1980, requiring all hunters born after 1975 to go through a hunter education course, the rate of fatal hunting accidents has dropped from 7.9 per season to 1.9.
"I think this year is really just an anomaly," says Ed Mitchell of Idaho Fish and Game.
But Dan Papp, coordinator of the state's hunter education program, says older hunters who haven't been through the education courses are still vulnerable to accidents.
Making all hunters wear orange, he says, would save lives.