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Hiking during hunting season: 6 safety tips

Hunters hiking on sunny day, Colorado
Our tips for hiking during hunting season help keep you out of harm's way and in nature’s lap (Image credit: Cavan Images)

Are you afraid of going hiking during hunting season? It can certainly be a little daunting, particularly if you grew up in an urban center on the east coast and only recently moved to the mountains. In North America, hunting season does take up most of the fall, and in states where both hunting and hiking are popular, there are precautions you need to take to stay safe. However, you definitely don’t have to pack away your hiking boots and stay off the trails either. Our tips for hiking during hunting season help keep you out of harm's way and in nature’s lap this autumn.

Hunter with rifle walking in the forest

In North America, hunting season does take up most of the fall, and in states where both hunting and hiking are popular, there are precautions you need to take to stay safe (Image credit: EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER)

1. Do your research 

First off, it’s helpful to know when hunting season is in your area so you can make preparations at the right time. Many people think that hunting is limited to deer and takes place in November, but in Colorado for example it includes many animals from pronghorns to bear and begins in early September and can go all the way through the fall to December. The best thing to do is consult your local Fish and Game or Parks and Wildlife department to get the exact dates for your state – a quick google search for hunting season in your state should do it. 

Once hunting season is in full swing, it’s helpful to stick to more popular, well-trafficked trails, since hunters typically want to be away from busy areas to help increase their chances of tagging a deer or elk. The plus side here is that hiking trails generally are quieter in the fall, so it doesn’t mean you have to endure busy trails. You can also choose to hike in places where hunting is prohibited or restricted, like state parks and National Parks, and avoid private land and wildlife preserves. 

Hikers in Scotland

Stick to well trafficked trails and hike with friends to make more noise (Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Make yourself visible 

Hunters are required to wear bright orange to identify themselves to other hunters and reduce their own chance of being mistaken for game. Hikers are not, but for the same reasons, it’s a good idea to don a bright orange hat or colorful fleece jacket when you’re hiking in the fall. Definitely leave the demure earth tones and cute camouflage at home. 

4. Avoid dawn and dusk 

The best time of day for hunters to bag a deer or elk is either at dawn or dusk, which means they’ll be more active during those times. In hunting season, hike in the middle of the day when most hunters will be napping in their tents or reading a book with their feet up. 

Smiling woman in mountains

Leave the demure earth tones and vintage camouflage at home (Image credit: Johner Images)

5. Make (a little) noise 

Don’t go crashing through the undergrowth and definitely don’t blast Katy Perry on a speaker when you’re hiking, as this will disturb the wildlife and other hikers. However, it is a good idea to make a little noise to alert others to your presence, especially if you’re on a quiet, isolated trail. Talk with your friends or to yourself, bang your trekking poles together, blast your hiking wistle occasionally or use a bear bell

6. Take care of your dog 

Even though we advise you to wear orange and make noise, it’s not often that a human gets mistaken for a deer. What is somewhat common, however, is dogs being mistaken for deer and tragically shot by accident. If you’re hiking with a dog, buy it an orange vest too and keep it on a leash during hunting season. 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.