Yesterday we were hiking at Chimney Park and the place was more crowded than usual with hunters gearing up for rifle season.
But, just because it’s hunting season doesn’t mean that we need to stay off our favorite trails. Autumn is one of my favorite seasons to hike.
With a little bit of planning it is possible to stay safe during hunting season.
Here are a few tips (portions of this post were originally written for an article I wrote last fall for Seattle Backpackers Magazine).
1. Be informed. A quick phone call to the local Department of Fish and Wildlife can tell you hunting season dates, where hunting is allowed, when to expect to see hunters in the woods and give you tips on where to hike safely.
2. Be visible. In some parts of the United States, hunters are legally required to wear neon orange when hunting certain types of game. This safety requirement makes them highly noticeable to other hunters in the area. As hikers we aren’t required to wear bright colored clothing, but it’s a good time to leave the earth-toned clothing in the closet and make a neon fashion statement.
3. Make some noise. Talking, singing, whistling or packing noisy kids up a mountain will alert hunters to your presence. Hunters and wildlife prefer to be away from noisy trails, so make your presence known. If you do hear shooting, give a little holler to let hunters know that you are in the area. The American Hiking Society recommends yelling “Hikers on the Trail!” I recommend yelling “Hey man get your eyes checked can’t you see I’m a person not an elk!”
4. Keep dogs on a leash. Unfortunately, if a hunter isn’t following the basic hunter safety principle of “be sure of your target and what’s beyond it,” a dog tromping through the brush can be mistaken for game. Hiking with your dog on a leash will keep your dog from wandering off trail. You can also use a neon vest, collar or leash to make your dog more visible.
5. Avoid hiking during certain times of the day when hunters are most likely to be hunting. This will vary on location, but it’s a safe bet to try to avoid hiking during dawn and dusk when visibility is reduced and wildlife is active.
6. Stick to popular and well used trails. Hunters typically look for game away from well established trail networks. If you’re uncomfortable with hunters, hunting season is a great time to visit a National Park or State Park that doesn’t allow hunting.
What safety tips do you have for hiking during hunting season? It’s worth it to take a few extra safety precautions and still be able to enjoy autumn hiking.