- Where Barn Banter Goes Global
Please support

Orange You Antsy?

Published: 11/18/2008
View comments
By Maddy Butcher

Maine game warden John MacDonald has seen a lot in his 10 years as a warden for Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. He hasn't investigated a deer hunter shooting a horse. Yet.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Read related blog post. Find the hidden deer.

“If you can dream it up,” he said during a recent phone interview. “it can probably happen.”
He should know. His peers just finished successfully prosecuting a hunter who shot a house. 
A house!

The shot narrowly missed a woman on its way through two interior walls. The bullet ended its journey in the side of the family fridge.

The shot narrowly missed a woman on its way through two interior walls. The bullet ended its journey in the side of the family fridgeI asked MacDonald if this was your stereotypical out-of-stater, parking wherever and bumbling around in what he or she assumed was a remote section of Maine woods. It was just that kind of person, a woman from Massachusetts, who shot and killed our family dog when I was a kid.

“No,” he said. “This guy was a local. He knew the house was there.”

[ Does this English pointer look much like a deer? My mom was walking with him a few hundred feet behind our house when he was shot.]

Here is a pause for us all to shake our heads and contemplate sharing the planet with people like these hunters...Sounds like domestic terrorism to me.

Frankly, I was surprised no horses have perished.
"A hunter should not mistake a horse for a deer," said MacDonald, and then perhaps recalling the 1988 tragic and fatal shooting of Karen Wood in her own backyard. "A hunter should not mistake a human for a deer."

I certainly mean no disrespect to deer hunters. The vast majority are solid outdoorsmen and women with a keen sense of safety and etiquette.
But there is a dangerous minority. They're Yahoos with no business owning a firearm, say nothing for traipsing around the woods with a loaded one. They often combine hunting with drinking and they make me nervous.
Pretty in Orange Statistically-speaking, we know our horses won’t be shot by deer hunters. Statistically-speaking, we won't win Powerball either. But that doesn't stop us from putting orange on our horses or dropping a few bucks on quick-picks!Statistically-speaking, we know our horses won't be shot by deer hunters. Statistically-speaking, we won't win Powerball either. But that doesn't stop us from putting orange on our horses or dropping a few bucks on quick-picks.

Sue Laffely of Windham has responded to our anxieties with bright orange mesh Protectavests to put on every size of equine (she also sells halters, quarter sheets, orange helmet covers).
The idea started way back in 1990 when she acquired a young Arabian and pastured him in an area with plenty of hunters. She was already “stitching for a living,” she said. So, after several tries, using her Arab as a guinea pig, she began producing what we now see dotted across many Maine fields and pastures.
Her Mac Mountain Tack company produces hundreds of horse vests every year.
Almost all of her business is in the northeast United States, she said. That’s where hunters and high densities of non-hunting animal owners converge to make the season a stressful time.
Laffely hasn’t found much of a market west of the Mississippi, she said. Most horse owners there grew up around hunting and very likely hunters themselves.

Over the years, her sales have steadily increased by 15 percent annually.
“The more paranoid you are, the more orange you put on your horse.”
Of course, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to turn your buckskin pony bright orange.
Buckskin Pony
“You can take a can of orange spray paint,” suggested Laffely, “and spray an old blanket or fly sheet.”
I've embellished my bright orange hat with flowery tassles and wear it every time I leave the house. My dogs and horses have various orange treatments, too.

The way I see it?

I’d rather be safe and give folks a good chuckle than discover or become a dead loved one.

View Reader Comments:

add your comment
3/12/2009 Bobbie
I'm so relieve to read about other's who dress their horses during deer season. Even if the chances are slim. Ya just never know!
12/16/2009 Eileen
Yes, I agree. I respect the tradition of hunting, though I do not hunt. What scares me is what I heard said by a young roofer as he worked on my house last summer. He was complaining about having to take a hunter safety course and commented, "I don't care about the course, I just want to kill something". People like that are not the traditional, ethical hunters who harvest deer safely and respectfully and consume what they have taken. Maybe the hunter safety course should be paired with a personality test and an intelligence test to weed out the dangerous. Though my property is completely fenced for my dogs and horses, it abuts hunting land and I fear for us all.
10/21/2010 Elisabeth
Enjoyed your article. I am an avid hunter and I own two Tennesse Walkers and english springer spaniels. Hunters sometimes get a bad rap all the way around from those who don't hunt both with concern for their animals being shot by mistake and those who just want to take our guns away. There are always a few bad apples that spoil it for the rest of us. People need to remember that it's not just November to be concerned about - Hunting begins in October with Birds, Ducks, Geese and also Bow Season and Cross Bow Season for deer. Most of us hunters go above and beyond to be sure that what we are aiming is, in fact, a deer or a bird. I have purchased these vests for my horses and they wear them daily. One of my mares is a palomino and she would look just like a deer if you only saw a piece of her body. We post our land however we know that people trespass and poach on it, so I must protect them as much as I can. Hunting is a sport that has been around since the beginning of time. It is unfortunate that these accidents have happened. I think it is wise for everyone to color their horses and dogs during the fall. Opening day is next Saturday and I am looking foward to the season adn hopefully harvesting a mature Maine Whitetale Buck!
10/27/2011 Brenda
This is a good, and timely, article. My arab mare sports her own orange vest. It would be helpful if you could post the dates of deer season beginning and ending in an article like this! I always get confused with all the dates for different animal's hunting seasons, bow and arrows, different fire arms etc. Thanks again.
10/27/2011 NickerNews
Rifle season in Maine starts on the first Saturday closest to November 1. Bow season started in October. Muzzle loaders can hunt past the last Saturday in November (the end of rifle season). But contact your local or state warden to confirm. Thanks!
11/3/2013 Marsha Craig
I bought an orange vest for my mini. She's only 30" tall and should never be taken for a deer but that old adage "ounce of prevention" is the rule of thumb I'm using!
11/6/2013 Sue
Sue also makes all sizes of dog vests.
11/5/2015 Robin
Someone's horse was shot here in Maine yesterday by a hunter:(

"Dog lovers hate to clean out kennels. Horse lovers like cleaning stables." - Monica Dickens