Hiking is a wonderful activity that you can do all year round. Fall and winter are a magical time to enjoy the trails. There are typically less people, temperatures are cooler, the scenery is beautiful, and there are no bugs! All of that makes it a favorite time for many to hike, including my family.
But fall is also a very busy hunting season, which means you need to take some common-sense precautions when heading out to hike. Here are eight tips for enjoying your hikes safely during hunting season:
1. Know before you go
There are many different types of hunting and multiple start and end dates. Check with your local environmental agency or forest service for information about when and what kind of hunting is allowed in your state. Visit here for the Mass. 2020-21 Hunting Season dates and find the "Wildlife Management Zone map" here. NOTE: There is no hunting in Mass. on Sundays. You may call MassWildlife with any questions at (508) 389-6300 weekdays from 8AM - 4:30PM.
2. Be visible by wearing bright clothes
Make sure you are visible and unmistakably human! Wearing bright colors is a must. No one can mistake a bright pink hat with a pom-pom for a deer!
3. Don't forget Fido!
Dogs can easily be mistaken for wildlife. Keep them on a leash and add a bright accessory like a dog vest or doggy scarf/bandana to make them stand out.
4. Know the area
Be aware of your surroundings. Not every park allows hunting, of course, but some state (MassWildlife) and municipal lands do. If you are not comfortable with that possibility, make sure to do research before heading out about whether hunting is allowed in that specific location.
5. Know when to stay home
Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. Use extra caution or try to avoid hiking at this time. This is when you will be least visible and the deer will be the most active -- which means it is prime hunting time.
6. Make noise
No need for banging bells and screaming, but some noise will alert hunters of your presence. Have a conversation with your hiking buddy/group or whistle while you walk. Once hunters are aware of your presence, be courteous of theirs. There's no reason to scare away all the wildlife with your noise!
7. Show yourself
If you do see a hunter or hear shooting nearby, make sure to let them know you are in the area. A shout of "hikers in the area!" will generally do the trick.
8. Follow the trail
Before heading into the woods, be sure you know what your destination is. Stay on the trail. Wildlife tends to stay deeper in the woods, so hunters will do the same. Stay on the trails to steer clear of them. This is the best practice to follow for hiking in any season!
Taking these simple common-sense precautions can go a long way to hiking safely in the woods. Now get out there and have some fun!
Jenna Slade is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Saugerties-Catskill-Hudson-Rhinebeck, N.Y.
Updated for 2020 by Ann Fisk, publisher of Macaroni Kid SW Boston.