While autumn is a great time to enjoy the outdoors, it also marks the beginning of hunting season across many areas of the country, and a little extra caution is prudent if you plan on hiking, running, paddling or biking through natural areas where hunters are likely to be present.
If you are unfamiliar with hunting season dates in your area, it's best to contact your state's fish and wildlife agency or game commission to find where hunting is permitted; the seasons for different types of game; and the dates when firearms or bow-hunting are permitted.
Dress Like a Hunter
Next, make sure that you and your companions wear blaze orange hats, jackets or vests every time you venture into hunting territory. This is important for hikers, runners, bikers, and paddlers. Avoid wearing white or tan clothing that makes you look like a deer and if you have a dog, make sure that they are also outfitted with a blaze orange vest and collar too. Most hunters are well trained to avoid firing at prey unless they have the entire animal in sight, but the more you can look like another hunter, and not a prey animal, the better.
Travel in Groups
While I enjoy hiking by myself, it's a good idea to bring a few friends along with you on day hikes or overnight backpacking trips if you're going to be in an area where hunting is permitted. Groups make more noise than individuals and there's less chance you'll be mistaken for an animal if you're chatting away with friends.
Stay on well-marked trails and avoid bushwhacking or cross-country travel unless you're above treeline or in an area where hunting is restricted. Don't assume that hunters are familiar with the local trail system, shelter or campsite locations, and if you come across them at the trailhead or elsewhere, tell them where you will be hiking (and camping, if you are staying overnight). All of the hunters I've ever encountered have been very cordial and appreciate knowing what spots to avoid for safety reasons.
There are many different ways to enjoy the outdoors. Do your part to educate hunters and non-hunters about leave no trace practices and outdoor conservation. People who have safe and enjoyable outdoor experiences are the future stewards and advocates of our backcountry areas and the wild lands we love.
For more hunting season safety tips, see Hike Safely During Hunting Season.