There’s something about fall that gets us outside. It seems to be the perfect combination of cooler weather, impending snowfall + stunning colors. Hordes of hikers head outside to hit the trails. Fall is also “hunting season” to hundreds of outdoorists with bows + guns. This isn’t something to fear, but something to be aware of. While hunters are expected to be responsible for knowing their targets with certainty, there are some things hikers can do to help keep themselves safe on the trails.
Let’s chat about a few important hiker safety tips for sharing the wilderness with hunters.
Check Trailhead Signage
Trails and trailheads that lead to popular hunting areas often have signage telling you so. Usually, you’ll find signs on the big trail maps, but sometimes you’ll need to pay attention for less direct signs. If the parking area is full of large pickup trucks with blaze orange or camo gear in the dash…you’re about to head out into some public land that is well loved by hunters as well.
Depending upon your comfort level with sharing the wilderness with hunters, you can make a decision on what you’d like to do. If you’re not comfortable, there is zero shame in choosing a different trail to hike. If you are comfortable, let’s chat about a few other safety tips…
Wear Bright Colors
In some areas where hunting season is essentially a state-wide holiday [ahem, the Midwest] even the non-hunting locals have a stash of blaze orange attire to be worn every time they leave the house. This may seem a bit extreme for people who aren’t accustomed to congratulating strangers for the big buck in their truck bed.
There is no need to head out + buy blaze orange, but you may want to dig around in your closet to find some bright colors. Anything you own that will obviously look ‘unnatural’ in the woods will work. You can dress in head-to-toe neon or simply don a bright blue jacket with a colorful beanie. Again, find a middle ground you’re comfortable with. The last thing you want to do is head into the woods wearing fake fur + reindeer antlers, that’s just asking for a horrible accident.
Keeping chatty is easy if you’re hiking with someone else. You’re out there together to enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer, snag a few Instagram photos of the fall colors + gossip about your exciting lives, right?! But what if you’re hiking alone?
It’s not quite necessary to carry on a full blown conversation with yourself…that would be just plain weird [unless you already do that, in which case it’s awesome you’re such good friends with yourself!]. Just be well aware of how your actions would appear to a hunter. Stay on the trail, don’t go creeping around in the shrubbery + don’t be afraid to make a little noise. Ponder your life aloud, comment on the weather to the squirrels, talk to your dog…
Keep Dogs Leashed [+ Colorful]
Speaking of dogs, they look a lot like animals! In part, because they are animals…don’t forget that, especially during hunting season! A dog sniffing through the underbrush can easily look like a bear or coyote…both of which have active hunting seasons in the US. Be aware of this!
If possible, keep your dog on a leash [especially if the local laws/trailhead signage requires it]. Better yet, deck your dog out in some bright colors. This can be as simple as getting Rufus a flashy collar, but collars are hard to see. It’d be even better if your dog had a brightly colored vest or pack. A bright red or blue pack could be doubly useful — keeping your dog safe + allowing your dog to carry his own water or poo!
There is no denying fall is an incredible time to get outside + enjoy the changing of seasons. We share our public lands with a big handful of outdoor lovers, which includes hunters. The best thing we can do [for our own enjoyment + for the longevity of public land accessibility] is to happily share this land + safely co-exist. These are just a few small steps you can take to be safer while out on the trails during hunting season.
Ultimately, do what you’re comfortable with + be aware of what other trail users are doing + seeing while they’re outside doing what they love!