If my dog Oreo could be mistaken for any other type of animal, I think it would be a baby dairy cow or perhaps one of those black-and-white Hampshire pigs. A splotchy pit bull mix, he decidedly does not resemble a white-tailed deer, coyote, fox, or any of the other wild animals being hunted in the Maine woods this time of year. Yet I still choose to clothe him in “hunter orange,” the bright color that tells hunters, “I’m not a wild animal.”
This “Let the Dog Out” series is about dogs, but let me just cover all my bases and say that everyone entering the wilderness during firearm hunting season should consider wearing hunter orange — dogs, humans, horses, etc.
In Maine, it could be argued that “hunting season” doesn’t really exist. There are so many. This year, Mainers can hunt grouse and quail, Oct. 1-Dec. 31; snowshoe hare, Oct. 1-March 31; bobcat, Dec. 1-Feb. 14; and fox, Oct. 21-Feb 28. Deer season stretches from Sept. 7-Dec. 14, but varies depending on the weapon. Then there’s bear season, Aug. 26-Nov. 30, and moose season, Sept. 23-Nov. 30, staggered by zones. Turkey can be hunted by bow, Oct. 3-Nov.1, by shotgun, Oct. 19-25, and by firearm, April 28-May 31. Woodchuck, red squirrel, porcupine and coyote can be hunted year round.
Now, according to Maine’s target identification law, which was adopted in 1991, “While hunting, a hunter may not shoot at a target without at that point in time being certain that it is the wild animal or wild bird sought.”
My father is a lifelong firearm and bow hunter of deer and turkey. He’s bagged a caribou up north, as well as a black bear. I’m a big fan of his hunting stories, as well as the meat he brings home. He knows exactly what he’s shooting before he pulls the trigger, and in my opinion, so do the vast majority of hunters in Maine. But there are exceptions.
Back to dogs.
My friend used to have a Newfoundland named Shadow, but I always called him “Bear” because to me, he closely resembled a black bear. And my neighbors’ Great Dane is almost as big as a white-tailed deer. But really, what most dogs are in danger of being mistaken for is a coyote, which as I stated above, are legal to hunt year round. Not only that, coyote can be hunted at night Dec. 16-Aug. 31. And that is the main reason I think you should clothe your dog in hunter orange.
To make my point, I’ll have to relate a tragic story published by the Bangor Daily News in December 2011.
Less than two years ago, on Nov. 2, 2011, a hunter shot a domestic dog in southern Maine, mistaking it as a coyote. The bullet hit an artery in the leg of the 5-year-old mixed breed dog, owned by Matthew and Heather Henriksen of York, and it bled to death, according to the Associated Press.
Unfortunately, the case wasn’t unusual. In fact, it was at least the fourth time a dog had been shot in Maine that month.
In summary, a Westbrook man shot a Siberian husky in Standish; a Dixfield man shot a German shepherd in Magalloway Plantation; and an Orrington man shot a dog in his hometown. All men were hunting. All men told officials that they mistook the dogs as coyotes.
All four men were charged with shooting a domestic animal. The penalty for shooting a domestic animal in Maine includes a minimum mandatory five-year hunting license revocation, according to the state’s hunting and trapping rules.
So lets talk about orange.
Hunter orange isn’t just any type of orange.
If you open up a box of Crayolas, you’ll find that orange comes in many shades — and some of them are borderline brown. Hunter orange isn’t “Burnt Orange” or “Yellow Orange” or “Sunset Orange.” It certainly isn’t “Atomic Tangerine,” and while it’s pretty close to “Neon Carrot,” it isn’t that either.
No, hunter orange is bright. After all, it’s also known as “blaze orange” because it looks like it’s on fire.
It’s actually quite a specific shade, with “a dominant wavelength between 595 and 605 nanometers, excitation purity not less than 85 percent and luminance factor of not less than 40 percent,” according to the state rulebook.
Quite honestly, I just look for super bright orange, the variety that kind of hurts your eyes a little to look at. I go with that. First I put it on Oreo (a handsome orange vest from Blue Seal, a collar from Petco) then I put it on me (a hat I found in a convenience store, a jacket from Mardens) then, we head into the woods to play.
Both of us invite you don orange with us, in the spirit of Maine’s many hunting seasons.