Autumn really is a magical time of year, the air is crisp, apples and pumpkins are in abundance, the leaves are changing, and animals are more active in the forest. For many species of animals, as the days get shorter, they enter a period of rut. Rut is the mating season of certain mammals, which includes ruminants such as moose, deer, sheep, camels, goats, pronghorns, bison, giraffes and antelopes, and extends to other mammals across the animal kingdom such as bears and wolves. The male animals are more aggressive and territorial during these times, so please follow the sixth principle of Leave No Trace, and respect wildlife. We recommend keeping your distance, and admire from afar.
As summer gives way to fall, a new backcountry adventurer emerges: the hunter. Hunting during the fall can be seen as a sustainable form of animal population control, and there are many types of hunters with varying goals. One commonality across most hunters is a deep respect for wildlife and nature. Many state governments require hunter safety courses which prepare individuals to be safe in the forest. Click here for courses in your state. However, if you haven’t taken one of these courses and are adventuring out, there are some important tips we would like to share to help you feel safe and secure while hiking during the hunting season.
1. Be prepared and in the Know!
It’s always important to be prepared, and we know as backcountry explorers to follow rule 1 of Leave No Trace, and plan ahead. But during hunting season we recommend taking an extra step and looking into local and state hunting laws and regulations. Knowing what game is in season, and what methods and equipment are being used will help you determine what locations you consider for your trip. There is an assumption that you are not allowed to hunt on public lands or national parks. This is a false assumption, in fact- A total of 51,097,000 acres managed by the National Park Service are open to hunting at various times during the year, representing approximately 60% of the total acreage of the National Park Service system. In many places, like the Grand Tetons where elk hunting is allowed, hunting is used as a very effective method of population control.
2. Timing - Avoid Hiking at Dawn and Dusk.
Ruminants are most active in the early hours of the morning and the early evening. Many species of deer are nocturnal. Planning your exit from camp or entrance on a trailhead for well after sunrise, ensures your safety, as well as your fellow hunters. Enjoy the extra time sleeping in or making a deluxe breakfast! 3. Wear Blaze Orange or Red
Hunters are trained to keep a look out for orange and red in the forest. It will keep you safe while hiking through areas of dense foliage and thicket, since motion readies a hunter. Also if you are traveling with a furbaby- make sure they are also sporting some bright orange, you don’t want them to be mistaken for game.
4. Stick to hiking trails.
Hunters tend to stay away from heavily used hiking trails. It increases their chance of encountering another human, and our sounds and scents. All of which drive game away from an area. If possible, also head for higher ground. Typically the number of ruminants found in high country decreases with altitude. Now there are some exceptions, such as mountain goats. But you will be relieved to know that mountain goat hunting is not very common because it's considered one of the most dangerous forms of game in North America.
5. Be loud!
Some of us escape the modern world for the peace and serenity that nature provides, and the stillness and quiet are rejuvenating and recharging. However if you are concerned about encountering a hunter on your trek, then we recommend singing that song that is stuck in your head softly, humming, or having a conversation with your trail squad. The sounds you make will carry to a hunter's ears and they will know you are in the area.
We all enjoy the backcountry differently, and it’s always best to be respectful in any encounters you have - whether they are with another human or an animal. Practice Leave No Trace Principles, follow these 5 tips, and don’t forget to grab your Garmin Inreach Mini. And if you are looking for some great autumn hikes check out our 10 Hiking Spots for Amazing Fall Colors blog.
Carrie Fifield, is the Director of Business Development at RightOnTrek, when she is not on the trail, she can be found jamming out to music, hanging out with friends and taking in the sights and sounds of Chicago.