Posted by: davepidgeon | November 3, 2009

Hikers & Hunters

During late fall, winter and early spring, hikers share the woods with hunters.

I chuckle a little every time I see this sign at the trailhead to Mount Tammany on the New Jersey side of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The calendar flipped to November last weekend, and that means more and more hikers will share the woods with hunters. No time quite like the present means an overlap in the use of the American wilderness between these at-times like-minded groups and at other times divergent in their views.

What both groups can agree on, however, is safety. We all want to walk into the wilderness and walk out alive and unharmed.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy listed the following tips for hiking during hunting season:

Hikers: Know local hunting seasons—Specific dates for hunting seasons vary year to year and also by type of game hunted and weapon used. Small-game seasons (turkey, rabbit) stretch from fall through the end of May; large-game seasons (deer, bear, moose) generally occur October through January. Learn the regulations and hunting seasons for the areas where you will be hiking before you go. Hunting on Sundays is prohibited in some states. See our 2009-2010 Hunting Season Guide by State

Hikers: Wear blaze orange—Wear a blaze orange hat and vest (and pack cover if backpacking), or hooded outerwear when hiking in fall, winter and spring. All fourteen states that the A.T. traverses require hunter education classes prior to issuance of licenses, which has led to a significant decrease in hunting-related accidents. Even though these safeguards have been put in place, both hikers and hunters need to do their part to prevent accidents. In late 2002 and early 2003, two A.T. hikers were shot and seriously injured in separate incidents by hunters who mistook them for deer. Neither hiker was wearing blaze orange, and neither hunter properly identified his target.

If you hike with a dog, it should also wear blaze orange visible from all sides. ATC recommends that pets be leashed at all times while hiking.

On state game lands in Pennsylvania, all hunters and non-hunters are required to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, or a fluorescent orange hat, from Nov. 15–Dec.15 (except on Sundays). The orange material must be visible from all angles (360 degrees).

The online Ultimate A.T. Store stocks several items in blaze orange for hikers.

Hikers: Other Clothing Tips— Avoid wearing colors that could be mistaken for game animals—white or brown during deer seasons; red or blue during turkey seasons.

Hikers: Use extra caution near roads and in valleys—Be especially cautious within 1/2-mile of road crossings (both approaching and leaving) and in valley areas.

Hikers: Be heard—Make sure you are heard before you are seen by whistling, singing, talking, etc., while you hike.

Hikers: Avoid hunter interference—Hikers should be aware that interference or harassment of hunters in the lawful pursuit of game is a violation of law in all fourteen A.T. states. This includes interference or tampering with dogs used in the pursuit of game where allowed by law. Sportsmen are our partners in conservation—encounters between hunters and hikers are opportunities to raise the awareness of both groups.

Hikers: Avoid deer firearm season—Avoid areas where hunting is legal during deer firearm season, which varies by state, but typically occurs during parts of the months of October, November, December, and January. During those months, you may want to hike in one of the five national parks crossed by the A.T. (note that hunting is allowed in Delaware Gap National Recreation Area, another NPS unit):

I personally like to head to Shenandoah National Park during the months of November and December, where hunting is prohibited. The park is much-less crowded compared to summer and early autumn, which means a better chance to spot black bears and fewer people at the inspiring vistas. I would still practice good habits for hiking season like making sure you’re being heard since Shenandoah does see its fair share of poachers, but for the most part, the Shennies provide worry-free hiking during the hunting season.



  1. […] a fantastic weekend. If you’re hitting a trail somewhere, don’t forget these safety precautions for hiking during hunting season. We’ll see you Monday for another week of trails, gear, […]

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