Fall is my absolute favorite time of year to be out on the trails here in Michigan; the bugs are gone, the air is crisp and cool, and who can forget the beautiful fall foliage? But as the last leaves are falling, another group of people may start frequenting some of your favorite hiking spots – sportsmen!
Hunting is a very popular outdoor activity here in the Mitten. In fact, in northern lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, many schools will close for “Opening Day” and, yes, my family does actually own a hunting cabin “Up North”. Whether you agree with hunting or not, we share the same spaces with sportsmen and it’s important to stay aware and safe during the weeks of Hunting Season.
Here some tips to keep you and your family safe on the trails during this time of year:
1. Know when hunting season is. Your state agency will have details regarding dates for deer season, as well as waterfowl and other small game. There are also different seasons for bow hunting and firearms. Additionally, a few states also don’t allow hunting on Sundays, which may be another option for safe hiking!
2. Know if hunting is allowed in the park you intend to hike in. If you are hiking in an area that allows hunting, please be sure to indicate this in your hike description. This gives families the ability to decide if this hike is for them and to dress accordingly.
3. Be aware of signage. Some states don’t allow hunting near trails, while there are no rules in other states. Occasionally, hiking trails will also be closed to non-hunters during the season. Signs will indicate what you need to know!
4. Wear brightly colored clothing. Orange and red are good colors because they will stand out. White, black, brown, and other earth-tones are obvious “no-no’s”.
5. Don’t forget your furbabies! Put a brightly colored vest or sweater on Fido. It’s not just a fashion statement – dogs can easily be mistaken for a woodland critter.
6. Stay on the trails. Sportsmen tend to stray away from heavily used trails. This is not the time to go geocaching or bushwacking because hunters will be looking for movement in more wooded areas.
7. Make noise. Hike it Baby is a super safe group to hike with during hunting season for obvious reasons. Children chattering and babies babbling will probably scare the deer – and hunters – off.
8. Avoid hiking at dawn and dusk. These are prime hunting times because it is when deer are most active. It is also more dangerous because hunters may have a more difficult time making out colors and shapes due to the lack of light.
9. Head for high country. There are places that are great for hiking, but not so great for hunters. You won’t find many animals at high altitudes, but there are plenty of beautiful views!
10. Choose a hike in a National Park or city park. The majority of these types of parks do not allow hunting at all and are, obviously, the safest option.
Each state has its own rules and regulations for hunting. For more specifics on regulations in your area, always check with your state agency. Even if you are not a hunter, using hunting websites can be extremely helpful in finding out where the hunters will be and at which seasons! The U.S. Forest Service also has some helpful tips on how to hunt and hike safely during the hunting season.
Hunters and hikers can co-exist, as long as we take the proper precautions. A little extra planning will help ensure a safe day out on the trails! Happy hiking!
Annie Fortunato lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with her awesome husband, Mike; her adventurous and spunky 4 year old son, Neko; and her two furbabies, Luna and Jack. She is a former environmental educator and currently the Hike it Baby Ann Arbor Branch Leader.