Standing motionless about twenty feet up while waiting for the shadows to get longer I am excited for tonight’s hunt. I look off to my side where my cameraman is asleep. This is a normal occurrence in so many of our hunting trips while we wait for the golden hour of hunting as I like to call It during the early deer season. No worries though, we’ve videoed a lot of content going in and everything around us was quiet. It’s still about an hour until prime time when I hear a faint sound coming from the direction of the old two track we came in on earlier in the day.
The sound doesn’t really make sense and at first I can’t place it, so I stare into the brush in that direction and slowly raise my binoculars. The sound wakes Kevin, and he swings his camera toward the brush. You never know, it could be the buck we’d captured on the scouting cameras recently in the area. Then I hear it again, a rustling and sniffing sound. Trophy squirrel? Armadillo? Racoon?
I glass up and down the trail until I pick up movement and what I see is none other than a healthy golden retriever turning down the trail we felt the deer were using, about 25 yards from our stand. About 20 yards behind the dog are two ladies; one dressed in tan and the other in a green sweatshirt. All three walked right on by never knowing we were there. This came as quite a surprise as we were on private land with permission, where we’d walked in on two track and were about a mile from the nearest road.
This encounter and others I’ve had like it always leave me concerned, spooked and nervous. The reality is, we share the woods with many others, regardless of if we’re on private or public land. This interaction between a hunter and non-hunter could happen anywhere or at any time and as such there are a couple of tips and rules we can all follow during hunting season.
TIPS FOR NON-HUNTERS
Identify hunting seasons and lands open to hunting. Know where and when hunting is taking place. Talk to others in parking areas and plan your recreation activities based on what you know to be certain. Avoid hiking in low light conditions around sunrise and sunset; this is when most game species are moving, and the low light will make it more difficult for hunters to identify and see you. If you have access to private land during hunting season, be sure to always talk the landowners as they may have given hunting permission to family or friends. You should always assume that you’ll not be the only person out there.
Stay on designated trails. Trails are designed for safety of public users, to protect sensitive habitats and keep you from crossing into areas where people may be hunting. Enjoying recreational hiking activities on designated trails will reduce the chances of you entering an area someone is hunting.
Wear bright, highly visible clothing. Keep these words in mind: Be safe by being seen. I still think back to a hand full of encounters I have had with others in the outdoors where I couldn’t identify who they were or what they were based on the clothing they had on. That is scary stuff. Make yourself easily visible. Choose colors that stand out, like bright blaze orange, fluorescent red or green. Avoid earth-toned, animal-colored clothing, and maybe leave the fuzzy pom-pom hat at home for your hike.
Do not forget to protect your dog, too. On public and private land where pets are permitted, tie a brightly colored bandana or swath of fabric around your dog’s neck. Or purchase a blaze orange dog vest, available from many sporting goods outfitters. Follow appropriate leash requirements if there are any.
Make noise. Alert hunters to your presence by whistling, singing, or carrying on a conversation as you walk. If you hear shooting, raise your voice and let hunters know you are in the vicinity and if possible, go back the way you came while making noise.
Be courteous. Once a hunter is aware of your presence, do not make unnecessary noise that disturbs wildlife. Avoid conflict and share the outdoors.
Follow Wade at: