Since the fall season is now upon us it means that hunting season has also arrived, and officers from across East Region of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are reminding the public to be vigilant.

There will be many hunters travelling back roads and rural areas in the coming weeks. It is important for hunters to ensure that hunter safety and being prepared are kept in mind when venturing out for the day.

The OPP will be working with Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) throughout hunting season to ensure that hunter safety and ethical hunting practices are on everyone’s mind. Here are some things to consider when planning your day in the bush:

• Ensure that you have the appropriate hunting licences for the game that you are hunting. It is your responsibility to know the game possession limits for your hunting area, as well as the hunting season dates for your wildlife management area.

• Check your firearms licence (possession/acquisition or possession only) to make sure that it is current. You must have a current licence to carry a firearm and have it with you while hunting.

• When transporting your firearm and ammunition, ensure that both are secured properly. It is an offence to have a loaded firearm in your vehicle, ATV or vessel.

• All firearms must be unloaded and encased between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise. A half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset are the legal hunting hours.

• Hunter-orange is a must. All hunters must wear a hunter-orange garment and a hunter-orange head covering. The more visible you are, the safer you will be. Check the regulations regarding these requirements.

• Tell someone where you will be hunting and when you expect to be back. Take a cell phone with you if possible. If you are walking, let someone know where you will park your vehicle. If you become lost or injured, this will save searchers a great deal of valuable time if they know where to start.

• Dress for the weather and wear proper footwear. Fall weather can often change quickly.

• Be prepared. Pack items such as water, snacks, matches, a first-aid kit, map, compass, knife, flashlight, extra gloves/socks and a wind breaker. If you are lost, run into bad weather, or are injured, you can look after your immediate needs and stay warm. A GPS is always a good idea. If you are using a vehicle, be prepared for breakdowns. If you are with others, Family Radio System (FRS) “walkie talkies” can be handy too.

• Hunt only where you are permitted and stay off private property unless you have written permission from the land owner.

• Hunting by night (jack-lighting) for big game species such as deer, moose and bear is illegal and is very dangerous.

• When using an off-road vehicle or ATV, it is your responsibility to abide by the relevant legislation pertaining to its operation and the carrying of a firearm while travelling.

• Show consideration for others using the forest. If someone approaches you, unload your firearm as a courtesy. If the area is busy, consider a different area to hunt.

• A firearms licence shows that the licence holder can possess and use firearms

Practice safe firearm handling practices by treating all guns as if they are loaded. Ensure that you safely carry your firearm. Never let your firearm “cover” anything you are not willing to destroy and keep the safety on and finger off the trigger until you are actually going to fire. Be sure of your target and what stands beyond. If you are not sure of either, do not fire and wait. You are responsible for the rounds you fire, so make sure of what is beyond your target and what your target is. There may be others in the forest close by.

Hunter safety is everyone’s responsibility. The OPP encourages all residents and visitors to conduct safe hunting practices. For more information about hunting regulations visit Ontario’s Hunting Regulations or contact your local MNRF office at 1-877-847-7667.