Hiking During Hunting
Inside the Outdoors,December 11,

When I was younger and it snowed, regardless what time of year this happened, my father and I would often walk in the woods, tracking animals and discovering nature in its frozen state. Thanks to him, I was introduced to the great outdoors and its particular facets.

But one thing I never learned about until coming to Latrobe after living with my parents in Laughlintown was that we could have walked right into trouble as our pursuits may have been observed through the scope of a gun.

So, the question remains, “Should hikers even attempt to hike doing hunting season?”

First of all, one has to understand, if one is going into someone’s woods and is allowed to do freely, both hunters and hikers have the same rights, so to speak. On the other hand, what I learned through this job of writing about the outdoors are precautions one should use along with a little common sense that could easily save one’s life.

It’s great to enjoy God’s creations, but it’s also wonderful to return home for a hot chocolate and a cozy atmosphere where Arlo or Buster may greet one with a wagging tail.

In case one is hiker and knows nothing about or cares to know anything about hunting, following are some tips for the uneducated to be forewarned concerning the activities occurring during the winter months.

First, either call the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 724-238-9523, extension 208, or log onto its website at www.pgc.state.pa.us and ascertain hunting seasons for the various animals. One will find a good many.

Firearm season for white-tailed deer, in particular, is when hikers should be on high alert, since it’s when the greatest number of hunters is active.

Second, know when and where hunting is allowed. It’s possible to avoid hunters altogether if one choses his paths wisely. That only makes sense. Even if property is posted, ‘No Hunting,’ stay off of it during hunting season. The property owner may reserve this area for his own pleasure of pursuing wild game without the threat of others being on his land.

Third, wear appropriate colors. Yes, hikers, for ones’ own safety wearing a blaze-orange-colored vest, hat, or pack color is one of the most important things one can do to stay visible to hunters. It is what hunters wear themselves for safety. So, it only stands to reason, hikers should follow suit.

Do not wear earth tones. Here’s an outstanding tip. Do not wear white. That resembles the rear of a white-tailed deer. There are other colors one should avoid depending on the season one intends to hunt. For examples, if one finds that he is foraging through the woods during turkey season, stay away from wearing red or blue. One doesn’t want to be mistaken for this bird!

Fourth, be cognizant of the time hunters are most active. Chose mid-day over sunrise and sunset time periods. Hunters and deer, for example, usually make their presence known during these two times. Other than those pursuing these animals, one should be out of the woods particularly at these times.

If for some reason one has to be out in the woods during that time, wear reflective clothing in addition to the orange apparel.

On state game lands in Pennsylvania, all non-hunters are required to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 except on Sundays. The orange material must be visible from all angles (360 degrees).

Fifth, hikers make noise. One may like walking through the woods as a way of getting some peace and quiet, but not during hunting season. Talk with companions, whistle, sing, or try to do impressions of people that entertain you. If one hears shooting, shout to hunters and make them known as to one’s presence.

Sixth, if one’s dog is with one, clothe it in orange vests, as well. Retuning home as both went into the woods is prime. I’m told, vests are made for animals, as well. The PGC requests that all dogs be leashed at all times.

Seventh, be extra cautious within on-half mile of road crossings, both approaching and leaving and in valley areas.

Eighth, here’s some really great advice. “Hikers should be aware that interference or harassment of hunters in the lawful pursuit of game is a violation of law in all 14 Appalachian Trail states,” according to the Applachian Trail website. “This includes interference or tampering with dogs used in the pursuit of game where allowed by law. Sportsmen are our partners in conservation, and encounters between hunters and hikers are opportunities to raise the awareness of both groups,” it said.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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