Fall is often a favorite time of year for hikers: cooler temperatures, glorious foliage, clear air all pull us out the door and into the woods. September, October, November, December, and January are also hunting seasons for deer, elk, and other game in many areas of the United States. Hunters and hikers both enjoy the outdoors; with proper care you can hike during hunting season safely.
Basic safety advice for hikers during hunting season is to:
1. Be aware
2. Be seen
3. Be heard
Be aware of where you are hiking and what potential hunt(s) may be happening in this region. Each states Game & Fish department website for each state is a good source of current information on local hunting. Here you can find information about the game, weapon, and other regulations regarding time of day, vehicle use, etc. hunters will be following. Be sure you know where you are, and whether hunters will be on private or public land, as well as where your trail is taking you. Tools like the On X app are especially useful in this instance.
Blaze orange is the typical color for people to wear during hunting season. This bright color is eye catching, and is especially so if you add reflective panels. A hat and vest or jacket on a person and a fabric covering for backpacks is especially effective. Pets can also wear collars and vests in bright coloring. Even if they are colorfully adorned, it is good practice to keep dogs on leash during hunting season.
Stay on the trail! Most hunters are aware of trails in the area they are hunting and avoid hunting in or across trafficked areas. Sticking to designated trails is a good idea during hunting season (and all the time to reduce damage to your landscape!).
Hiking in a group with active conversation is a good way to not be confused with a game animal (!). An occasional “Hikers coming through!” call out is also helpful, in a group or when hiking solo. If you start early before dawn or are finishing your hike late into dusk, be sure that you are clearly making [human!] noises to convey your presence.
Still nervous about hiking during hunting season? Then head to an area where hunting is never allowed. In New Mexico, National Wildlife Refuges and most National Parks and Monuments are closed to hunting. Year-round hiking abounds in these areas!
Lastly, be smart about your hiking. Remember to be mindful of other users of the landscape, and to be a polite and aware user yourself. Always carry your safety essentials, be mindful of your hiking route and be sure to tell a friend or family member where you are going and when you expect to be back. Also, be aware that as autumn progresses weather conditions are changing and days are getting shorter, so plan your trip accordingly.
What are your tips for hiking during hunting season?