November 11, 2013
With hunting season in full swing many hikers decide to take a bit of time off. The time off is not only to partake in hunting, but in some cases many hikers are quite nervous about being in the woods. Hunting season isn’t a reason to become a couch potato; you can still have to get out there and enjoy Mother Nature and do some serious hiking. This is a great time of year to be in the woods; the temperatures are much more moderate, no bugs to contend with and it’s easy to see deep into the woods with the lack of foliage.
There was a time when hiking during hunting season was an overwhelming fear; as I now see it, its negative tones are heard less and less. Are the dangers still there? Are there fewer hunters? Why take a chance? These are all great questions and ones I hear the most and answer the most. The dangers are not really anymore than during non-hunting seasons. Sure, there are people in the woods with loaded guns ready to fill their freezer. However, if you play it smart and take the proper precautions you should have nothing to worry about.
As far as the hunter population, I would have to say that there are fewer hunters the woods. I feel hunting is becoming less and less popular and in turn reducing the number of hunters overall. I have nothing to back me up on this, but in talking with affiliates of hunting clubs, members and applicants are down.
As far as why take a chance, that’s an odd question. Do you want to recreate or not? The chance you are taking is somewhat dependent on the preparation you take to be safe. Hunting season has never stopped me from playing in the great outdoors and I don’t figure it ever will. I have seen hunters or tracks of hunters many times in the woods while bushwhacking. Many times I am sure I have even walked by them without even knowing it; but I bet they saw me. In all the times I have met hunters I have never had an issue, always pleasantries. I have even had a couple give me tips about what not to wear and what to do in prime hunting areas, and I would like to share those with you today and a bit more. I don’t want to see you being an armchair mountaineer during this fine season of recreating; I want to see you out and about and enjoying the fall and early winter.
Hiking on trails
In many areas of higher hiker population you are limited in the probability of seeing a hunter. For example, the trail to Marcy Dam or the trail up Algonquin; very slim chance. Trails in the Western Adirondack, South Meadow, Northern Adirondacks and other less populated hiking areas, you will have a higher chance. Many hunters will use the trails to access prime hunting locations, but not necessarily hunt from the trails, both of which is legal by the way.
If you bushwhack during hunting season you must dress properly and follow many guidelines to be safe. Not that when you are hiking on a trail you shouldn’t, but deep in the bush is where most hunters are. I can’t guarantee that you will see a hunter while bushwhacking. Or do I believe that doing everything I mention is guaranteed to keep you safe, but you have to be smart about your destinations, preparations and follow through.
This is the most important piece of safety equipment you can have. Wear bright colors like red, blaze orange and florescent colors, and wear lots of them. Small patches of bright colors don’t work as well; the bright colors need to be seen from all directions, not just when you happen to be standing the right way. Your outer layer should be the bright color. If you shed that outer layer, your next layer better be just as bright.
Make sure your clothing doesn’t have any white hanging from it. The white can resemble a tail of a deer and your constant movement makes you sticks out like a sore thumb. This also goes for that white hat you have kicking around.
Backpack- This should also be a bright color if you have it available. Don’t go out and buy a bright red pack just for hunting season; if your outer layer is bright enough, just make sure your pack doesn’t cover it up too much. If needed, tie a red kerchief from your pack for an accent.
Bear bell- If you can stand the constant ringing; tie a bear bell from yourself someplace. This constant sound helps in identifying yourself.
This is a tough one. Essentially, you should leave your dog at home during hunting season. In the very least have your pet leashed at all times with no exceptions, even when stopped. Your dog should have on a bear bell just in case they get away from you. They should also be dressed as you are, in bright colors. One of my biggest fears is to have my dog shot by a hunter. I realize a loose dog resembles one running a deer and could be shot for that reason. Laws protect hunters and allow them to shoot dogs they feel are running deer. I don’t tell you this to scare you but to educate you, keep yours safe, please.
Hiking in groups
This is a great way to protect yourself. Hiking in a group of two or more creates more noise and the racket of the constant chatter of conversation carries quite some distance in an otherwise quiet forest.
Where to go
Don’t limit yourself on where to go, but realize that less populated areas might attract more deer and essentially more hunters.
There are many hiking easements out there but just as many hunting easements. Very few places restrict hiking during hunting season, but some do exist; be aware of those locations if you were to consider going there.
Do you have more questions about how to protect yourself while hiking during hunting season, feel free to contact me right here. You can also check in with a local guide service or outfitters to have your questions answered or pick up a bit of the needed gear. Be safe and have fun.