Fall is a great time to hike. With the cooler weather comes beautiful foliage in New England and safer hiking temperatures. Once the foliage is gone the views are amazing. The chances of mountain thunderstorms diminish and best of all most of the bugs are gone. While extending the season well into autumn is the hope of every hiker there are some things to consider as well. Other people utilize the woods for different purposes such as hunting and it is paramount to be aware of the seasons in your area. Hunting is permitted on most public land and private land with the permission of the landowner. Here are some tips on staying safe with your dog while out hiking.
Know the Rules before you head for the woods and trails, know the rules and hunting season dates for any areas you’ll be hiking, running, biking, or traveling in.
Dates for hunting seasons vary year to year and by type of game (moose, bear, deer, turkey, hare, etc.), weapon (firearms, archery, muzzleloader), and location and type of management area.
While fall’s deer rifle season typically brings the most hunters out into the woods, a variety of hunting seasons can extend the activity nearly year-round. In Maine the deer firearm season runs from November 3 – November 29. However, deer can be taken by other means, archery, muzzle loaded firearms during different dates ranging from September – December. The rules for each state are easily accessible online. I have provided links for Northern New England hunting seasons below.
Outfit your dogs with bright clothing. Many sporting goods stores have blaze orange reflective vests for dogs. In a pinch, tie brightly colored fabric such as bandanas around your dog’s neck. You can also purchase collar covers for pets at most pet stores and sporting goods stores.
Do not let dogs off-leash in areas where hunting or trapping occurs. Shooting mistakes can happen, and some states allow body-gripping traps.
Do not let dogs chase deer regardless of the season. If your dog has this inclination, leashing at all times or reliable voice control is necessary.
Wear a vest or bright clothing yourself. Avoid earth-tones. It is best for both of you to be very visible. White clothing can be mistaken as a deer tail so avoid wearing white during deer season. I usually wear a blaze orange hat, they are cheap, easy to find in stores and do the job of making you visible in the woods.
Make sounds when in the woods. Whistle or sing as you walk. If you hear shots, shout to make sure hunters know you’re there.
Consider avoiding hunting areas altogether. Fortunately many hiking areas, especially the higher mountainous areas are not great places to hunt. If in doubt reach out to locals, they will know where the popular hunting places are in the area. There are places where hunting is not allowed at all, do some research before setting out, the rules vary.
If your property borders hunting areas, do not let your dog off-leash in your yard unless they are under close supervision
Do not let pets eat carcasses. Dogs allowed in hunting areas often find remains of deer carcasses and can become ill from ingesting them.
Consider pets’ fears. Some pets become very anxious from the sound of guns. It’s best to keep such pets away from areas where they’ll hear gunshots. If this occurs near your home your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help keep your friend calm.
More Information for Northern New England by State
New Hampshire Hunting Seasons and More Information can be found here: http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_deer.htm#skip
Maine Hunting Information:
Vermont Hunting Seasons and Information: