Something you need to think about right now is how to protect yourself during hunting season. As a hunter, camper, hiker, or adventurer, hunting season is well upon us. With that adventurous time comes great stories around a camp fire, and tales that get taller with the passing years. Each year, though, there are other stories–news stories of accidental shootings, animal attacks, and the consequences of insect bites from problem bugs like ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers. How do we protect ourselves if we are hikers? Campers? Other hunters? Here’s a quick, common-sense run-down on what to do.
protect yourself from hunters.
If you are a hiker or camper that doesn’t hunt, you may be concerned about heading out into the wilderness for a little bush camping or hiking during hunting season. Most hunters are extremely aware of the dangers that accidental encounters can pose. For the most part, they are out to get food for their families, enjoy the great outdoors, and connect with nature in a way that is very unique and personal to each one.
So how do you co-exist in a way that keeps you both safe and happy?
- Be aware of what hunting season means in the area you will camp or hike in. This means knowing whether or not hunting is even allowed in that area, what the animals are that are being hunted, and when the hunting season is open and finished for that area. Remember that just because you are in a provincial or national park, it doesn’t automatically make you safe. Some parks allow hunting, some don’t. Check and be sure.
- Wear a blaze-orange-colored vest or hat (or some other item) to make you very visible to hunters. Even bright-colored clothes work. Stay away from white and earth tones, and any color that might be confused with the animal in question (such as blue and red during turkey season).
- Make noise! Like warning off bears, shouting, loud talking and whistling will help alert hunters that you are, in fact, a walking, talking human being, and not this season’s back strap on the barbie.
- It’s not just you. If you go hiking or camping with your dog, invest in one of those bright-orange blazers for pup, as well. You can find a selection here.
Protect yourself from moose and deer.
There are usually four things that prompt a moose or deer to attack: 1) Mothers protecting fawns, 2)mating season, 3)territorial control, and 4) high population.
- Cervidae (moose, elk, caribou and deer, among others) can get bat-poop crazy. They have been known to do things that defy logic, such as attacking already dead “rivals” (and if you don’t believe me watch this YouTube video), lawnmowers, gardeners, hikers and the like. Agitation is the key. If they are agitated, for whatever reason, you can rightfully assume they will attack. So–
- Do not spray your body or anything else near you with elk/deer scent.
- If you encounter a deer, moose, elk, caribou or any other cervidae in the wilderness, watch its body language. Stomping and huffing is a clear signal to back away slowly and put something between you and it, such as a tree or large rock or outcropping. Wave your arms and make loud noises (but not for moose; see below) as you back away. Do not turn your back.
- If it attacks, climb a tree if there’s time. Curl up in a fetal position if there isn’t. If it won’t stop attacking you, an extreme solution is to grab the antlers and wrestling it to the ground, but this is rare and dangerous.
- For Moose, you need to talk to them softly, not loudly, while slowly backing away. Like you are trying to calm them down. Don’t panic if they make a few bluff charges. Just keep backing away, hands in the air, speaking to them as if they were are suicide bomber who’s not sure they want to kill themselves.
protect yourself from bugs.
The main problem bugs during hunting season are ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers. Some areas don’t have this problem at all; others have a brief storm of them before colder winter sets in and solves the problem, particularly in North America.
- Treat hunting season like it’s tick season. Avoid tall, grassy areas where you can, wear long-sleeved, long-legged clothing with boots, and treat your gear and clothing with permethrin, which kills ticks.
- Walk in the center of trails, to avoid ticks on grassy stalks.
- Be aware that ticks may drop off recently killed animals. If you’re a hunter, when you dress or transport animals, know that ticks are looking for a new host.
- Chigger bites are most common in the spring and fall months. They are very tiny members of the arachnid family that live in tall weeds and grass. Wear long sleeves, and long pants. Add insect repellent to the tops of your boots, shirt neck, cuffs, and your waistband.
Yes, turkey hunters. They are a whole ‘nother situation to protect yourself against. These basic rules also work for hunters of other flying creatures and tree-born animals:
- Make human sounds. Most turkey hunters are focussed on the blue and red colors, and the gobbling and wing sounds turkeys make. But don’t assume they will recognize you, even with bright clothing. Sing a song, yell, shout; make any sound absolutely different from that of a turkey. Play your iPod!
- A Note About Etiquette: If you find yourself hiking or camping in an area that hunters are allowed to hunt in, and you have identified yourself as a hiker or camper to them, don’t make noise that unnecessarily disturbs wildlife. In that area, they have the right to hunt.
hunters vs. hunters.
These safety tips can keep hunters safe from what they are hunting, and from each other, and from themselves:
- Take a hunter education course and get certified, no matter where you are. Since these courses have been introduced in the last 50 years or so, hunter-related injuries have decreased dramatically. Even if it’s not mandatory, do the responsible thing and take this course. It teaches you ways to be responsible in the wild.
- You need to treat every gun and bow as if it was loaded.
- Don’t point at anything you don’t intend to shoot, even if you know your weapon isn’t loaded.
- Wait until the game is in your sights and you are ready to shoot before you put your finger on the trigger.
- Don’t just focus on the game you are going to shoot–check beyond the game and make sure nothing is there that you don’t want dead.
There are many more rules that make your hunting, hiking or camping trip safe during hunting season, but if you follow the rules outlined above, your time in the wilderness will be a lot safer. Most important of all–you’ll come home safe and sound, with a lot of great, great memories!