Adventure, hiking, Travel Tips

What You Need to Know About Hiking in Hunting Season

hiking during hunting season
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Are you a November hiker, or do you relinquish the woods to deer hunters when rifle season comes around? As someone who didn’t grow up near the woods or hunters, it took me a really long time to feel comfortable in the November forest. Each October I would look up the rifle season dates and mark them on my calendar, and for several weeks during hunting season I would only hike in urban parks —  listening to the distant crack of rifles as happy deer hunters reclaimed the forest.

Hiking During Hunting Season

Don’t misunderstand me. I have a healthy respect for most hunters, and our mutual love of the forest has made us conservation allies. It’s just that running into people with guns in the woods is a little unnerving. Still, late fall is such a great time to hike. The bugs are gone, the air is crisp, and leaves on the ground are still full of crunch. The more I fell in love with the forest trails near my house, the more impossible it was for me to stay out of them. Even during hunting season. After several years, I realized that hiking during hunting season is not out of the question, it just requires extra caution. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the November forest. In other words, everything you need to know about hiking during hunting season.

Be Aware of Hunting Season Dates in Your State

It seems like it’s always open season for one species or another, but the most popular hunting season across the country is definitely deer season. In the northeastern United States, deer season takes  place throughout November, but it might be different where you live. I was hoping to find a link to a site that provides hunting season dates across the country, but I don’t think such a thing exists. Before you head out on your autumn hike, I recommend doing a quick internet search for “hunting season dates in (your state).” I still write important hunting season dates on my calendar. I may not stay out of the woods during hunting season, but knowing when people with guns are in the forest with me is always helpful.

Hike Where Hunters aren’t Allowed

You don't have to stay out of the woods in November, you just have to be careful! Here's everything you need to know about hiking during hunting season.

If you’re still feeling uncomfortable about sharing the fields and forests with hunters, it’s not too hard to find places where hunting is forbidden. Town and city parks, conservation areas, and national parks cater more to hikers, and with few exceptions, you won’t find hunters in these areas. Steer clear of national forest trails and wildlife management areas, as well as trails that cross private property. Where to Hunt is a website dedicated to helping hunters find permitting info and locations to hunt in every state. By default, it’s also a great resource for hikers who want to avoid hunters during hunting season. Knowledge is power, my friends!

Wear Blaze Orange or Another Bright Color 

Make a fall fashion statement and sport your blaze orange hat, vest, and coat. If you are hiking during hunting season, this is really your best line of defense. Seriously! Bright orange is not exactly my color, but a few years ago I watched the video below and was totally convinced that it was the safest way to hike. The video was created for hunters, but it really helped me realize how important being seen is! If you don’t have blaze orange attire, bright red or another bright color is better than nothing. Please do not hike during hunting season in brown, grey, or green — you’re just asking for trouble.

Keep Your Dog on a Leash 

My dog is my all-time favorite hiking companion, but hiking with dogs during hunting season can be risky. No matter how well behaved your dog is, please keep him on a leash during hunting season. In many states, dogs who chase deer can be legally shot, and dogs are much more likely to be accidentally shot than people are. I also recommend dressing your pup up in blaze orange (affiliate link, see disclosure here) when you hike. Now you’ll both be safe, and you’ll match!

You don't have to stay out of the woods in November, you just have to be careful! Here's everything you need to know about hiking during hunting season.

Make Some Noise While Hiking

As much as I love tiptoeing through the woods looking for birds and other wildlife, when hiking during hunting season, it’s better call attention to yourself.  I spend a lot of time talking to my dog in the woods during hunting season. Sometimes he even talks back. I’ve also been known to whistle, but I never sing (that would be mean). If you don’t want to talk to yourself or your dog, how about rounding up some of your rowdiest friends for an autumn hike? Hunters may not appreciate your revelry, but at least everyone will stay safe.

Stay Out of the Woods When Deer and Hunters are Most Active

You don't have to stay out of the woods in November, you just have to be careful! Here's everything you need to know about hiking during hunting season.

Deer are most active during dawn and dusk, and so are hunters. Try and plan your hiking excursions during the middle of the day, and you are much less likely to run into hunters in the woods. Deer aren’t exactly weekend warriors, but you’ll find fewer hunters in the woods during the work week. There are also eleven states in the USA where hunting is prohibited or restricted on Sundays. If you live in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia or West Virginia, you may have an easier time hiking on Sundays during hunting season. Check your state’s hunting regulations for more specifics.

With a little advance planning, you should have no problem sharing the woods with hunters during deer season. Most will try and steer clear of hikers, not only for safety reasons, but because hikers tend to scare away their prey. Follow the tips above, and you can continue to enjoy the woods throughout November. Happy trails!

You don't have to stay out of the woods in November, you just have to be careful! Here's everything you need to know about hiking during hunting season.

17 Comments

  1. Jim

    Great post! Always good to be cautious during hunting season. We make sure to have blaze orange on us and our pooch!
    Jim recently posted…The Best Life Jacket For ToddlersMy Profile

  2. Great post and good video! I did not see any of the hunters in the quiz. I usually wear hot pink, red, or orange while hiking year round.
    Jen Morrow recently posted…Puerto Del Rey Marina, Puerto RicoMy Profile

  3. This is such great information. I don’t think I’ve ever hiked where hunting was allowed, but if I ever come across this type of situation I will know the protocol. Thanks!
    Candy recently posted…The Mysterious Pirate Tower at Laguna Beach, CAMy Profile

  4. Growing up in Michigan, I am around hunting a lot. My dad, brother, and uncles all hunt deer. This post is super relatable and offers a lot of great tips! thanks

  5. Thanks very much for the heads up when going hiking during the hunting season. I definitely learnt a lot of things, which I am going to use next time.

    I love German shepherds so much – aren’t they one of the most faithful dogs?

    • I can’t speak for the breed, but yes, the two shepherds we’ve had have been neurotic in their loyalty – following me into the bathroom, just to make sure I’m okay.

  6. Far out! I never even thought about the dangers of hiking in the US during hunting season. I guess coming from Australia, it’s not even an issue. Luckily, I realize that I have never actually hiked in November in the states – only in Alaska (Denali National Park) and across the board in British Columbia. Will keep this in mind if I head back to the US.

  7. This is a great post and in all honesty something that I’d never even considered! This is super valuable information – next time I’m hiking in the USA this time of year I’ll be sure to wear bright colors!

  8. This is a great post! I usually take time off from hiking when it’s hunting season, but these are so really great tips so I can enjoy hiking throughout the fall. Especially this year because it’s so unseasonably warm here in the Ozarks! Cheers!
    Paige Wunder recently posted…Hiking to Four Lakes in the Rocky MountainsMy Profile

  9. I am not hiker – but I used to live on 80 acres of farm land that people used for hunting. It is definitely weird to run into someone with a gun and make you feel unsafe. I eventually got used to it as we loved the land equally. In fact – during non hunting season I would use blinds as forts.

  10. I don’t think I’ll be hiking during hunting season in the US anytime soon! It looks dangerous. I’m curious to know if hunting is a mainstream activity in the USA in most states.

    • Hi Christina,
      Yes, I would say it’s pretty mainstream in many US states, but rifle season is pretty short, just a couple of weeks in the late fall.

  11. Thanks for bringing this to people’s attention. I was hunting in Wyoming and was perched in a tree stand and saw movement about 200 yards out. From that far away with my naked eye, there was no way that I could tell what it was. Luckily I had a good scope and as soon as I looked through the scope I saw a young couple with 2 dogs leisurely walking. BOTH of them were wearing camo, which I thought was crazy. If I didn’t have a good long range scope on me with good clarity, who knows what would’ve happened. Pretty crazy. Great tips for hikers, thanks.

  12. Sad but true. Most hunters are careful people. But at the beginning of the hunting season when they have been waiting for 9 months to try out a new rifle, they can be a little trigger happy.

    Blaze orange on a dog is a good idea too.

    My uncle lives adjacent to a National Forest and said that hunters once mistook a horse for a deer, when they crossed into his property by accident.
    Marc recently posted…3 Best 308 Semi-Automatic Rifles – What is Your Favorite?My Profile

  13. Thanks for the information, learnt a lot about the dangers that is associated with hunting some of them I wouldn’t even know existed!

  14. Great article. I think it also gives hunters a few things to think about.

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