If it’s a gorgeous fall day in our national forest you can probably find me flying down backwoods trails on my Cannondale mountain bike with my little dog at my side, not a care in the world. Unless it’s hunting season. Hiking, mountain biking or any kind of outdoor fun in our California national forests get a bit more stressful when my secluded trail runs through alpine glens turn into running past dudes decked out in full camo gear with big ass guns.
Ahh hunting season, those months in Southern California between September 17th an October 22nd when any dude with a hunting license can attempt to take down any of the three remaining Bambi’s in our national forest. And if you are feeling really lucky you can even try to legally shoot tree squirrels starting September 9th!
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with hunters in the least bit and I actually adore venison (and my boyfriend cooks up the very best Venison Vindaloo in Big Bear Lake or any where outside of Tamil Nadu, India for that matter) I wish we had more friends who brought us fresh venison meat besides my family in Idaho who live a 15 hour drive away. My issue with hunting in our national forest is we already have so very few Bambi’s left here especially after a forest fires left over 10,000 acres of our national forest looking devastated like another planet three years ago. This terrible wildfire did not help our already very low deer population living in the San Bernardino National Forest.
But our national forest is not just mine and mine alone for my personal outdoor needs and I realize that. (A lot of other hikers and mountain bikers I know think it’s all about them and the off roaders, dirt bikers and hunters have no place out in “Our forest”) The single track trails and jeep trails I hike and mountain bike down most days are here for all nature lovers to enjoy. The important thing in the autumn months is just to be extremely extra villligent if you are going to be out hiking in the forest, especially if you have your pup with you.
When hiking during hunting season the most important thing is to let the hunters know you are out there in any way possible and that neither you or your pup are a delicious deer.
Here are some great tips for beginners when it comes to hunting and staying safe on your hike.
Doe; Not a deer
When hiking during hunting season its super important to wear bright clothing, orange if you have it. In your outdoor workout wardrobe try to throw in a few garish fluorescent orange sweaters, vests or tank tops. If you can find an orange pack for your pup or any other fluorescent color I recommend that as well. The least your dog looks like Bambi the better. If you have a bell to put on your pups collar that is also helpful, because deer usually do not wear bells. Even our some of our local forest rangers wear bells on their clothing during hunting season just in case.
Keeping your pup safe on the trails
The safest way to trail run with your dog in the autumn months when you may be running by hunters with big ass guns is to kept that pup on the leash! My pup loves to be off leash and chase squirrels and do all kinds of silly dog things in the forest but it’s just not safe during hunting season. She also wears a vest or a bright florescent pack while out on the trails with me. We both dress as 80’s bright and neon as possible in the fall when out on the trails.
Situation awareness is very important when hiking during hunting season. I feel like it’s important to know the areas you are hiking in well when you choose to go for a hike or a mountain bike ride during hunting season. I tend to go to the areas where I never see any deer. I also try to be aware of any trucks in the area that look like they belong to hunters. Where I live and hike hunters tend to usually hunt in the exact same areas every year. Of course I say that then this year I walked by a dude with a cross bow in an area where I never see deer and I normally never see anyone hunting.
Usually when I hike or trail run I try to stay pretty quite so I have a better chance of seeing wildlife. During hunting season I tend to listen to loud music on my IPhone while hiking because lets face it, Bambi’s don’t usually listen to Taylor Swift. And sometimes I yell at my dog loudly, but that does not always have anything to do with hunting season!
The cooler autumn days are a fantastic time to be out on the trails enjoying the fall colors but try to be safe out there. Follow a few of these easy tips to have a safe and colorful hike out in the leave strewn forest. See you on the trails!
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