Are you planning on hiking during hunting season? There are different hunting seasons, depending on where you live and what kind of wildlife is present in your area. If you are out and about in the woods on a regular basis, hiking or even just going for a stroll, make sure you read up on dates and areas near you in which hunters may be present.
Maybe you choose to stay away from those areas all together for a time. But if you crave nature and don’t want to stay away, read on and learn about ways to stay safe during hunting season.
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Check the hunting seasons for your area
Knowledge is key! If you are hiking during hunting season, make sure to check with reputable sources to find out when and where people will be hunting and/or trapping. For example in the US, in Washington state the Department of Fish and Wildlife will provide this information. Other states will have the same or similar agencies. Even if you have checked these resources in previous years, make sure to update your knowledge. Things may have changed, and you don’t want to find yourself in a bad situation.
Check the weather
Even if the visibility is bad, hunters may be out and about in the forest. While you can take many precautions to not be mistaken for a deer, you should still try to avoid areas that are open to hunting when weather conditions aren’t ideal.
Don’t go in the dark
Try to avoid hiking in the hour before and after sunrise and sunset during hunting season. Hunters and their prey are most active during these hours. The light during these hours can make it harder for a hunter to distinguish between hiker and animal. Stay home at this time.
Tell someone where you are hiking during hunting season
This is a good thing to do in any situation, but especially you are hiking during hunting season. You should tell someone where you are going and how long you are planning to be gone for, approximately. In case you do not return within that time frame, they will know to call for help.
Wear bright colors
Blaze orange is the best color to wear if you don’t want to be mistaken for someone’s dinner. This way, you are super visible. You can find clothing in this exact color in any outdoor store. Make sure to wear either a vest, or at least a beanie or baseball cap in bright colors. Just a small splash of color will not do the trick, and you could end up in a bad place. Avoid wearing blacks, white, brown, earth-toned greens and anything that resembles an animal color.
Consider your dog’s safety
Always consider your dog into your safety plan! While your pup should always be leashed in areas that require it, it’s important to keep him or her restrained in any area that allows hunting during the season, even if it’s an off-leash area. Not only could your dog be mistaken for prey, but he or she could get scared by the sounds of shots being fired and take off into the woods.
Outdoor stores often carry brightly colored gear for dogs as well as for humans. A brightly colored vest, bandana or leash is an invaluable investment if you want to keep your furry friend safe!
Don’t venture off the trail
Most hunters know their area very well. They know where the established trails are and will be aware that a stray hiker may wander that way. Animals tend to avoid human trails, and that means that hunters will be less likely to be close by.
If you decide to leave the trail and make way through the woods, be careful not to get mistaken for a deer and end up in a dangerous place.
Make your presence known
It’s not quite necessary to bring along your tuba, but make some noise if you are hiking during hunting season. Sing a little song or have a conversation with nature. Whistling always works, too. Make hunters aware of your presence. They will be listening for animal sounds, any human sound will let them know you are there and protect you. if you do hear shooting, you should raise your voice to alert hunters to your presence.
Don’t cross onto private property
If you live in a rural area, you will often encounter ‘private property’ signs, posted there by the landowners. In general, you need to respect the signages but it is even more important to do so during hunting season. Landowners will not expect random strangers to wander their property, and therefore be more inclined to confuse you with an animal. Stay on the trails and don’t go wandering on private property!
Scale back adventures on horseback
Hunters can easily mistake a horse for a larger prey animal. So, to keep yourself and your horse safe during hunting season, it’s best to avoid hunting areas altogether.
Know your Comfort Level
If hunting makes you uncomfortable, avoid those areas when you are hiking during hunting season.
Interactions with hunters
You may or may not agree with hunting in general. However, encounters in the forest aren’t the time or place to confront them. If you happen to make eye contact with a hunter, give a short sign of acknowledgement, preferably a nod, and continue on your merry way.
Be courteous and try to avoid making unnecessary noise in order to not disturb wildlife that may be close by.
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