You don’t have to stop hiking just because hunting season is here. As long as you’re comfortable with the occasional crack of rifle fire, you can safely hike, climb, and even walk your dog during hunting season.
Caution is advised, though, and there are a few extra steps you must take to stay safe on the trail, including:
Check Hunting Season Dates
When is hunting season in your area? This is the first step to ensuring you are safe when you’re hiking.
Hiking during hunting season is not just about preparing yourself for sudden blasts of gunfire. There are a few extra steps to take, so make sure you know when it starts and ends.
Wear Brightly Colored Clothing
Blaze orange is the color of choice for hikers during hunting season. This fluorescent orange shade is one of the most noticeable to humans. It stands out against the greens and browns of the forest and is not a color commonly seen in nature, so if you see blaze orange, you know there’s a human nearby.
Hunters also wear blaze orange in addition to their usual camouflage. Not only does it allow them to spot each other across the forest, but as deer are partially color blind, they can’t detect it.
Pick up a bright orange hat and an orange vest, and if you’re hiking with a dog, make sure they’re adequately covered as well. If a hunter can mistake a bipedal and clothed primate for a deer, they will almost certainly make the same mistake for a four-legged canine.
Stay on the Trail
Hunters know that they’re not alone in the woods. They expect to find people on the trail, and if you stick to the path, you should be able to avoid them.
Don’t stray far from the trail. Not only could you walk into the path of a bullet or catch the eye of a careless hunter, but you’re also more likely to alert wild animals that may cause you just as much harm.
Shout to Alert Them
If you hear shots nearby, shout to alert all hunters to your presence. You may scare a few deer away and annoy those hunters, but at least you won’t catch a bullet in your backside.
Think about your own safety at all times. Shout, talk, and let hunters know you’re nearby.
Hike in the Middle of the Day
Hunters tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, as this is also when deer are active. To avoid any potentially dangerous encounters, plan your hikes for the middle of the day and make sure you’re finished before the sun goes down.
Carry Some Essentials
Whether you’re hiking through national parks in the summertime or exploring local woodland in hunting season, there are a few essentials you should always carry with you. These will keep you safe and secure in the event of an emergency, such as if you get lost or become stuck in a storm or heatwave.
The essentials include:
- Food and Water
- Hard-wearing Footwear
- Map, Compass, and GPS Locator
- Fire Starter Kit
- Emergency Whistle
- Sun Protection (Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Visored Hat)
- Small Knife/Multitool
Hike Where Hunters Can’t Go
If you’re not comfortable with the idea of walking near to hunters during deer season or elk season, look for trails where hunters aren’t allowed. These include city parks and national parks, as well as conservation areas.
Avoid hiking in popular hunting spots and you won’t need to worry about getting shot!
In some states, hunting is either banned or severely restricted on Sundays. If you save your hike for Sunday, you could avoid all or most hunters.
These states include Maine, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia.
Keep Dogs Leashed or Away from Hunters
Even if your dog is wearing bright colors, it could still be shot if it’s running free and chasing deer. Stick to areas where hunters aren’t allowed and if you must walk through forests during hunting season, keep your furry friend on a leash.
Avoid Hiking in Poor Visibility
If the visibility is low, there’s a greater risk of being mistaken for an animal or being hit by a stray bullet. Stay at home during dark and foggy days.
Do You Have to Wear Orange in the Woods if You’re Not Hunting?
During hunting season, you should always wear bright colors, including a blaze orange hat and vest. It helps you to stand out against the backdrop of the forest and ensures you’re not mistaken for an animal.
Is it Safe to Hike the Appalachian Trail During Hunting Season?
It is safe providing you follow the steps outlined above. Pay attention to the rules and warnings and be on the lookout for hunters.
When is Hunting Season?
Deer hunting season typically begins in September and runs through to late December. However, hunting seasons vary from location to location and you should check with your local laws for more information.
Is Bow Hunting Legal?
Bow hunting is allowed in many states, but there are restrictions. Hunting with a bow is less of a risk to other trail users as the arrows don’t cover as much distance. But they also make much less noise and so they are harder to detect.
Bow hunting may also cause unnecessary suffering for the animal. It’s harder to hit vital areas and requires much more experience and skill to take an animal down with a single shot. As a result, regulations may include specifics regarding the size of the weapon and how it’s allowed to be used.
Summary: How to Hike Safely in Hunting Season
For safe hiking during hunting season, keep the following in mind:
- Check Hunting Season Dates
- Wear Bright Colors (Blaze Orange, AKA Hunter Orange)
- Avoid Hunters Where Possible
- Alert Hunters to Your Presence by Shouting
- Stick to the Hiking Trails
- Carry a First Aid Kit, Food, and Water
- Take An Emergency Whistle, Compass, and Light Source
- Give Dogs Orange Vests