Everything You Need to Know About Hiking During Hunting Season Skip to Content

Everything You Need to Know About 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 hiking during hunting season.

Each October I would look up the rifle season dates in my state 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. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. If you enjoy hiking, you can still get outside during hunting season. You just have to take some precautions to keep yourself safe. Here’s what you need to know about hiking during hunting season, no matter where you live.

Hiking During Hunting Season

I have a healthy respect for most hunters, and our mutual love of the forest has made us conservation allies. Hunters are often staunch protectors of the environment, and without them, our beloved hiking trails and national forests may not even exist. The hunters that I’ve met love being outdoors, will fight to protect wildlife, and no a lot about the outdoors. 

If you are a hunter, please understand that I get it. It’s just that running into people with guns in the woods is a little unnerving, especially for someone who hikes solo. Despite the fact that hiking during hunting season makes me a bit nervous, late fall is such a fabulous time to hike.

The bugs are gone, the air is crisp, and leaves on the ground are still full of crunch. The more I fall in love with the forest trails near my house in Vermont, the more impossible it is for me to stay out of them. Even during hunting season.

After several years of caution, I have finally 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. Where I live, 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 to avoid unpleasant surprises while hiking. Instead of refraining from hiking during hunting season, I make sure I’m aware of important hunting season dates so I can be proactive and stay safe.

Tip #1: Hike Where Hunters aren’t Allowed

A pair of battered hiking boots on a mossy rock
Prevent surprises during hunting season and hike where you know hunters aren’t allowed.

If you’re 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 than hunters, and with few exceptions, you won’t find hunters in these areas.

If you want to avoid hunters altogether, 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 regular folks who want to avoid hunters during hunting season. Knowledge is power, my friends!

Tip #2: Wear Blaze Orange or Another Bright Color When Hiking During Hunting Season

You can keep yourself safe and make a fall fashion statement by sporting your blaze orange hat, vest, and coat during hunting season. 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 below was actually created for hunters, but it really helped me realize how important being seen while hiking during hunting season 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.

Blaze Orange Fashion Trends for Hiking During Hunting Season


Tip #3: Keep Your Dog on a Leash When Hiking During Hunting Season

My dog is my all-time favorite hiking companion, but hiking with dogs during hunting season can be quite risky, especially if they hike off-leash. No matter how well behaved your dog is, please keep him or her 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. It just isn’t worth the risk to let them run free when hunters are in the woods. I also recommend dressing your pup up in blaze orange when you hike. Now you’ll both be safe, and you’ll match!

A German Shepherd wears a blaze-orange vest while hiking during hunting season.
Ogden, modeling his blaze-orange vest during hunting season.

Tip #4: Make Some Noise While Hiking During Hunting Season

As much as I love tiptoeing through the woods looking for birds and other wildlife, it’s better to call attention to yourself when hiking during hunting season.  I spend a lot of time talking to my dog, singing, and whisteling. 

If you don’t want to talk to yourself or your dog while hiking in hunting season, how about rounding up some of your rowdiest friends for a late autumn hike? Hunters may not appreciate your revelry, but at least everyone will stay safe.

Tip #5: Stay Out of the Woods When Deer and Hunters are Most Active

A young boy and a black Labrador pose on a hiking trail. They are both wearing red to stay safe during hunting season.
When we can’t find our blaze orange, we opt for bright red

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. I you are able to get outside on your hikes from Monday through Friday, you’ll be much better off. 

There are 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 will 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 hunters 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!


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A photo collage featuring a German shepherd, deer silhouettes, and a pair of hiking boots. The caption reads: everything you need to know about hiking during hunting season
A man hiking in the autumn forest. The caption reads: Important Safety Tips for Hiking During Hunting Season
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Susan Hines

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

the bad thing is, we live on a dead end street surrounded by woods and they are hunting all around us. It's just basically dangerous to even be in your yard. Where is that bullet going if you miss that deer?

Tara

Tuesday 26th of November 2019

You're right, Susan, we have had folks hunting right within our small town in areas where there are homes and lots of people, but it's not the norm here, thank goodness! The few times I've seen hunters in our town park (where hunting is expressly forbidden), I've called the police.

robert

Saturday 23rd of February 2019

Thank you ! this post is very helpful. It explains the subject very well, is easy to read and well laid out

Richard

Thursday 13th of December 2018

I am both hunter and woods hiker. Wife and I don't hike where deer or Turkey are being hunted. Blaze orange a must! Leave rowdies at home, a recipe for confrontation - where the angry guy has a gun. Bad idea. Most States have a strong hunting tradition and, yes, hunters have paid for, and been behind the founding of most National Parks, and wildlife propagation areas. If you hike the woods in hunting season, be quiet and respectful of all your surroundings. Hunters are part of Nature too. Be aware, you may startle a deer, and send it running to a hunter. It's all part of the whole. If I see you out there, I will smile, and nod "Hello". The gun I'm carrying is no threat to you. Enjoy.

Nadine J

Sunday 4th of November 2018

As a hiker, this is just great post with awesome tips. Thanks

Simon Cuthbert

Saturday 6th of October 2018

Great advice. It's not just beneficial to the hiker its also beneficial to the hunter. The last thing anybody wants is an accidental shooting, and the more hikers that follow your guidelines above, the safer they are. (and their dogs)

Knowing when hunting season is on, in your area is crucial, because if you keep tabs on that, you can then work your hiking around that. Stay safe and happy hiking, & hunting.