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Safety first

Local groups team to promote use of blaze-orange safety clothingOutdoor Journal

People attending tonight's Oregon Hunters Association meeting in Medford will get a blaze-orange bandanna and an emergency solar blanket as part of a not-so-subtle attempt to promote a not-so-universally accepted tool for safety in the woods.

The OHA's Rogue Valley Chapter has teamed with state wildlife officials on Oregon's second annual Hunter Safety Awareness Month by promoting voluntary use of blaze-orange clothing among a hunting public divided on its worth.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as the Oregon State Police and the OHA, which is Oregon's largest sportsmen's group, are co-sponsoring a series of community programs this month to promote safety and survival skills.

Tonight's Medford meeting begins at 6 p.m. with a social hour. It is at J.J. North's Grand Buffet, 1016 N. Riverside Ave. Non-members are welcomed.

Oregon is one of a handful of states that does not require blaze-orange clothing while big-game hunting, even though studies show the neon-like color greatly improves visibility in brush and fog ' the most common instances in which hunters are shot while mistaken for animals.

— It's something we're really pushing in information and education because we really believe in it, says Ken Condon, education services section manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

We're trying to get the word out as much as we can because it's the safest way to hunt, Condon says.

The ODFW has no formal policy or position regarding whether Oregon should require blaze orange while big-game hunting. The Oregon Legislature has resisted requests for such laws in the past, in part because some hunters believe the extra visibility harms their hunting success.

The International Hunter Education Association has estimated that 90 percent of firearms-related hunting accidents would have been avoided if blaze orange was worn.

The OHA also has no position on the wearing of blaze orange while hunting, and the organization's 10,000 members are divided on the issue, OHA State Secretary Duane Dungannon says.

We want to take part in encouraging people to wear blaze orange because it's been demonstrated that doing so is in their best interest, Dungannon says. But it usually comes back to that personal-choice issue, and that's where (mandatory requirements) die.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail