Are you a die-hard 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 busy public 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.
Can You Hike During Hunting Season?
The short answer is yes, with caution.
Hunting season is a gorgeous time to be in the woods. The bugs are gone, the air is crisp, and the 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.
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 know a lot about the outdoors.
If you are a hunter, please understand that I get it. You love being in the woods too. It’s just that running into people with guns on the trail is a little unnerving, especially for someone who hikes solo.
Late fall is such a fabulous time to hike, though, so I urge you to learn to hike safely during hunting season.
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.
First, Know 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.
Hunting Season HQ is a great website for quickly finding out when the major hunting seasons are across the United States.
I still write important hunting season dates on my calendar to avoid unpleasant surprises while hiking in the November woods. Being proactive is the best way to stay safe while hiking throughout the year.
Tip #1: Hike Where 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.
This video 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
You can be both stylish and safe while hiking during hunting season. Here are a few of our favorite things to throw on before heading into the November woods.
- Bright orange mid-weight hoodie from Carhartt
- Orange down puffer jacket from Mountain Warehouse
- Orange cable-knit beanie by C.C
- Affordable, high-visibility orange vest (keep one in your car)
Tip #3: Hiking with Dogs During Hunting Season
My dogs are 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!
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 whistling.
If you don’t want to talk to yourself or your dog while hiking in hunting season, how about rounding up some 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
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 workweek. If 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 during hunting season, 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!
Looking for more posts about hiking? Check these out!
- Winter Daypack Essentials: What You Need for Hiking with Kids
- The Ultimate Guide to Hiking with Kids
- Avoiding Ticks that Carry Lyme Disease While Hiking and Camping
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Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She is the co-author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont and currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers and Vermont Explored, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.