TO PICK UP a pair of binoculars and see the business end of a rifle pointed directly at you is not a pleasant experience.
It means someone is trying to decide if they should send a bullet into your body with the sole intent to kill.
How does a person end up in this situation on the wrong side of the trigger?
In a word, visibility.
Randy Riggan, a seasoned hunter, tells the story of one particular elk hunt out here.
He was perched up on a hill. Hearing noises he followed the sound and saw the characteristic colors of an elk rump moving through the shadowy forest.
He waited for the animal to clear the dense timber so he could get a clean shot, certain his hunt was almost to a close.
But when the elk rump stepped out, it was a man with a pale-colored hat and wearing no orange at all.
In retelling this story, he still shudders.
Since then, Riggan has worn orange for hunting.
“It’s definitely the safest,” he said.
Right now, hunting seasons are in full swing around the Olympic Peninsula and the West End draws hunters because of the depth of huntable forest.
Muzzleloader elk just closed last Friday and modern firearm deer season opened the following Saturday.
The West End is a prime destination for elk hunters, especially those who like to spend days walking offtrail through the dark draws and steep holes.
It is no strange thing for elk hunters to spend a night or two out in the woods in search of their 1,000-pound prey.
Deer hunting out here, while producing some magnificent bucks, is a challenge because of the thick brush and smaller size of deer compared to elk.
Most deer hunters prefer eastern Washington or even other states where the visibility range is much longer.
Again, visibility comes into play.
To aid visibility allowing hunters to clearly identify human from prey, the state Department of Fish and Game has set regulations for wearing what is called “fluorescent hunter orange.”
It’s also called blaze orange and high-viz orange.
It’s a very unnaturally brilliant color that no wild animal living on the Peninsula bears.
When the state requires hunters to wear orange, it stipulates “a minimum of 400 square inches” and “must be worn above the waist and be visible from all sides.”
So, a hat isn’t enough, wearing a backpack eliminates several square inches, and those funky orange socks absolutely won’t cut it.
I am not going to take sides on this argument. As with most arguments, there is logic on both sides.
Some feel that wearing the orange makes them more visible to their prey because the large blocks of a single color are unnatural.
However, the manufacturers of hunting clothing addressed this by putting a pattern of black lines over the orange to resemble branches.
Others feel that because not everyone is going to abide by the regulation of wearing orange, hunters might get careless and assume that because something is not wearing orange, it’s safe to shoot.
While the vast majority of hunters will be absolutely certain of their target, there can be as many careless hunters as there are careless drivers.
Personally, I do not hunt.
However I do like to be in the forest on any given day and time.
So, with all factors taken into consideration, I try to wear fluorescent hunter orange whenever I go into the woods, beginning with bear season Aug. 1, right through the close of late deer season toward the end of November.
I am also wary of taking my animals into the woods without orange as well.
Wearing orange is a small act to keep myself out of the scope of someone else’s rifle.
Zorina Barker has lived on the West End for most of her life. She is married to a Forks native who works in the timber industry. Both of her kids have been home-schooled in the wilds of the Sol Duc Valley. She can be reached at 360-461-7928 or [email protected]
West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be Oct. 30.