Hike Safely During Hunting Season
Many frontcountry and backcountry areas that hikers, backpackers, trail runners, and mountain bikers frequent, are also popular with hunters.
Both hunters and non-hunters need to be educated and do their part to keep the outdoors safe for everyone.
Follow the safety reminders below whenever you get out into the woods and fields during local hunting seasons.
Know the Rules
Before you head for the woods and trails, know the rules and hunting season dates for any areas you'll be hiking, running, biking, or traveling in.
Dates for hunting seasons vary year to year and by type of game (moose, bear, deer, turkey, hare, etc.), weapon (firearms, archery, muzzleloader), and location and type of management area.
While fall's deer rifle season typically brings the most hunters out into the woods, a variety of hunting seasons can extend the activity nearly year-round.
Be Very Visible
Wear blaze/fluorescent orange clothing that can be seen from all angles, including a hat, vest or jacket, and covering for your pack (a vest, pack cover, or large bandana will work).
Again, know the rules. Some states require a certain amount of fluorescent orange (for example, at least 250 square inches on the head, chest, and back) during peak hunting season.
Find blaze orange items at your local outdoor, sporting goods, or general store. Stock up, then wear those fluorescent orange vests and hats every time you take to the trails, woods, or nearby fields and camp roads.
If you hike with your dog, put a fluorescent orange vest, collar, leash, and/or bandana on your pooch too.
If you don't have any or enough orange clothing, bright reds and yellows are other potential color options (though on overcast days they can appear black, so use carefully). Choose bright, neon, even garish, clothing. Now’s a great time to get on the retro bandwagon with that old hot pink jacket from the ’80s.
Avoid any brown, tan, earth tones, and especially white. You do not want to look anything like the flash of a deer’s tail.
During turkey season, avoid red and blue.
Hike during broad daylight, when hunters can easily identify you as another human.
Consider where you're headed and anticipate where you're likely to meet fellow hikers and hunters.
Hunters are active from early dawn to dusk and in between. You’re more likely to meet hunters closer to roads and trailheads (within a half mile) and in valleys. However, expect that you can meet them anywhere at any time.
If possible, avoid the most popular hunting days, like opening weekend.
Consider hiking on days of the week when hunting is not allowed. In some states, hunting is prohibited on Sundays.
Choose trails and areas that are off-limits to or unpopular with hunters. For example, many (but not all) national parks prohibit hunting, while national preserves allow hunting (always check local rules).
Stick to established, marked trails. Skip the bushwhacking during popular hunting seasons. Hunters are more likely to expect hikers on trails.
Make Yourself Heard
Be sure hunters can hear you well before they see you. While many of us enjoy running or hiking on a quiet trail, hunting season is not the time to practice your stealth moves.
You needn't be excessively loud, but keep up a steady conversation with a partner.
If you’re alone, whistle, sing, or talk to make yourself heard.
Consider putting a bell on your dog.
If you hear hunting taking place near you, make yourself known to the hunters.
Respect One Another
Be courteous and respectful of all outdoor enthusiasts, hunters and non-hunters alike.
Before you head out during hunting season, educate yourself about safe hunting and backcountry practices, know and follow all rules, and be prepared.
Above all, use common sense and do your part to share the woods safely. Hunters and hikers both have the right to pursue their chosen outdoor recreation safely. Respect each other and the land we share.
If you have suggestions for safe backcountry travels during hunting season, please share them below.