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How to stay safe while hiking in hunting season


Fall is popular with all walks of outdoorspeople, including both hikers and hunters. As New York’s hunting season picks up steam and daylight hours dwindle, hiking and biking advocates urge those exploring the woods recreationally to take extra precautions so as to maintain the safety of themselves, their pets and hunters.

“Hunting is an activity that’s quite popular and has a long heritage here,” says Andy Mossey, Stewardship & Advocacy Coordinator for The Catskill Center. “As people are getting out and recreating, we should be prepared that we’re sharing the woods with hunters.”

Wear orange

Hunters are required to wear orange or pink when hunting with a firearm. So, too, should hikers and bikers.

Maria Bedo-Calhoun, president of the 3500 Club, says a recent hike raised some alarms for her. “I was out hiking yesterday, and it didn’t seem like we saw a lot of people in orange,” she says.

Mossey says he recommends that during peak foliage season, when orange is common in the woods, people also incorporate a bright cyan blue.

“Do a blue shirt or backpack,” he says. “And rocking an orange hat is really important.”

Keep dogs in orange and on leash

Mossey says in the past few years, it’s been dogs, not people, that are more commonly mistaken for a deer or bear. He urges dog owners to be particularly mindful.

“Especially if they happen to be a mid-to-large size dog that’s darker in color, they should definitely be wearing a reflective, bright vest.”

Orange reflective dog vests can be found in any local pet supply store or online.

It’s also crucial to keep dogs on leash to control their running through leaves and underbrush, which could confuse hunters.

Stick to daytime hikes and rides

Hunters are particularly active at dawn and dusk, when deer are as well. To optimize safety, Scenic Hudson advises hikers and bikers to limit their outdoor activities on wooded trails to prime daylight hours.

Stay on established trails

Established trails are the best place to hike during hunting season. “While it may be enticing to go for those bushwhack hikes this time of year, I typically recommend sticking to peaks with trails, and trails that are somewhat busier,” says Mossey.

And although some hikers occasionally contact private landowners to ask if they can hike despite no trespassing signs, Bedo-Calhoun discourages this during hunting season, when private landowners may be more wary of people on their property.

“If you’re wanting to do a specific hike and are calling to ask for permission, just be aware it might be best to just wait until [hunting] season is over,” she says.

Ask questions

Mossey notes that some of the stated rules around hunting season — when bowhunting ends, when rifle hunting begins — can vary by county and can be confusing to the general public.

“Hunters in particular know those things but the general public does not,” says Mossey. “I recommend people give DEC or the Catskill Visitor Center a call to ask so that they know what to expect.”

Those in Orange, Ulster, Sullivan, Putnam or Dutchess County can call the DEC at 845-246-3098. Residents and visitors in Delaware, Greene or Columbia County can call 518-357-2355.

The Catskill Visitor Center can be reached at 845-688-3369.

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