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Hunter orange protects children

If you're the parent or guardian of a youngster who's going hunting in Oregon - or even if you're not the parent - you'll want to take note of a new rule this year. All hunters under the age of 17 are required as of Aug. 1 to wear visible hunter orange when pursuing game animals or upland game birds.

There are exceptions to this rule, such as turkey hunters and waterfowl hunters, which makes sense because hunter orange is highly visible to these birds.

This rule, which would have been a wise requirement for all hunters, was a smart move on the part of the Oregon Wildlife Commission.

It's always a good idea to reduce the risk of injury - or death - anytime you put children in situations that may be beyond their experience level.

We do that already with bicycle helmets, limiting the risk of head injuries when a kid crashes a bike. And we do that with boating, where all children 12 years and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while on an open deck or cockpit on boats that are under way or when being towed.

We do this because we know children are more apt to take unnecessary risks and to make mistakes that adults would otherwise avoid.

The advantage of hunter orange for children is obvious: They'll be more easily seen and less likely to become the targets of other hunters. Then, if you put kids on the other end of the rifle or shotgun, inexperienced youth hunters will be able to easily detect other hunters around them, making them less likely to mistake a human for a game animal.

We were disappointed with the Oregon Hunters Association - a strong advocate of hunter safety - that lobbied against ODFW's proposal to require hunter orange for everyone.

The organization, which lobbies for hunter rights, took a position that Oregon's hunters have a strong record of safety, and that the issue of hunter orange should remain a matter of personal choice.

Faced with the opposition from the Oregon Hunters Association, the Wildlife Commission modified its proposed rule to apply only to hunters 17 years old and younger.

At least this was a step in the right direction. This rule does nothing to harm the hunting experience beyond the choice of clothing. And at least it provides another safety feature designed to protect children, which should be the No. 1 priority anytime firearms and youngsters are combined.