Stay Safe this Hunting Season!

What do hikers and hunters have in common? A deep appreciation for the outdoors and wilderness.

Now that the calendar has turned to November, hunting season in New York is well underway. During these months, it is no surprise to have both hikers and hunters out enjoying trails. In New York, all hunters must complete a Hunter Education Course at least once and purchase a NYS Hunting License each season, all of which are offered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). While all hunters receive education and training and are responsible for following safe hunting practices, there are a few actions that non-hunters can take as well to ensure everyone’s safety.

  • Know when hunting season is: Hunting season in New York typically runs from September to March. Be aware that there are several different seasons that correspond with different game types and weapon choices. You can check the NYSDEC website for further information: Hunting Season Dates

  • Wear the correct clothing: Sight and visibility are crucial for both hiker and hunter safety. Wearing brightly colored clothing will ensure you are visible and not mistaken for wild game, and will also make sure nearby hunters are aware of your presence. The best option for clothing is to wear as many bright colors and reflective materials as possible. Colors to avoid include anything dark or earth toned such as black, grey, brown, and even white which could be mistaken for the rear end of a white-tailed deer! During turkey season, colors such as red and blue could also be mistaken for wild game.

  • Stay on the trails: Most hunters tend to stay away from trails or any areas that are highly populated with humans. By remaining on the trails you are less likely to cross paths with a hunter. Hikers and hunters are most likely to meet close to roads, trailheads, and valleys.

  • Make your presence known: It is helpful to make your presence known and obvious. Singing, whistling, or chatting are all great ways to let hunters know that you are an approaching human. Some people wear bells to scare away bears but this tactic could also alert hunters to passing hikers or pets. Refrain from wearing headphones during hunting season. Without your sense of hearing, you may not be aware of nearby hunters which puts both parties in significant risk. If you do hear nearby gunshots, feel free to call out to them if they have not yet noticed you.

  • Know when and where to hike: If hunting makes you uncomfortable, then choose to hike where hunting is prohibited. In most town or city parks, conservation areas, and National Parks, hunting is not allowed. Be aware that national forest trails, national preserves, and wildlife management areas are generally places to avoid if you do not want to hike in areas where hunting is permissible. Consider using trails that cross into private property. At these locations, hunting may or may not be permitted, therefore, it is the hikers responsibility to know the regulations beforehand and pay attention to all posted signage. An additional consideration is the time of day. Prime hunting hours occur both at dawn and dusk, when human activity is low and animal activity is highest. During these times, visibility is also quite low. It is advisable for hikers to travel closest to midday (generally the warmest, too!) - however, if hiking during dawn and dusk is unavoidable, bring a flashlight or headlamp to increase your visibility.

  • Avoid hunter interference and be courteous: Did you know that the interference or harassment of hunters in lawful pursuit of game is a violation of the law? This includes the interference or tampering of dogs lawfully used for hunting. Most hunters are conscientious and respectful of other human activity, therefore, it is the hikers job to also respect hunters and other sportsmen. Once you acknowledge a nearby hunter, try to be courteous by remaining quiet as you leave the area in order to not disturb either the hunters or the game.

  • Pets: Hikers and hunters both love bringing their pets on the trails and in the wilderness! Just like us, there are a few actions we can take in order to ensure their safety during hunting season. Hunters are trained to identify their target and what is beyond before they shoot but mistakes happen, therefore, it is important to keep your pet leashed. In doing so, it is less likely that a hunter will mistake your pet for a wild animal. The leash forces your pet to stay on the trail and by being attached to you, hunters and other sportsmen know they are a beloved pet and not their targeted game. In addition, dressing your pets up in bright colors and attaching a sound making device such as a bell are highly advised to help hunters distinguish your pet from wild game.

Hunters and sportsmen are allies with hikers in the preservation of wilderness and other natural areas. Together, we can better advocate for the lands we cherish and both appreciate New York's great outdoors.