If you have been hiking lately, you will have seen notices around to wear blaze orange at preserves, and maybe even have heard the sound of gunshots. Deer hunting starts with bow hunting in September and gun hunting lasting through the end of January (see Hunting Seasons and Bag Limits for all animals in PA for this year). There is no deer hunting on Sundays at this time.
The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (www.tlcforscc.org) holds an annual “Hunters and Hikers” conversation in the late Fall in East Marlborough. This is an excellent forum if you are not a hunter, and would like to know more about this traditional pursuit. If you are not already familiar with hiking etiquette during hunting season, below are some “Dos and Don’ts”.
Wear blaze orange. This applies to both you and your pet. Hunters know and recognize blaze orange (this is not just any old orange – blaze orange is much more visible). You will be protecting both yourself and the hunters.
Stay on main trails, and stay out in the open. Hunters often use deer stands in trees, and it’s just as well not to wander into the woods startle the deer that they are so patiently waiting for.
Hike preferably between 10am and 2pm when the deer are not browsing. Hunters usually hunt at dawn and dusk when deer become active.
Keep dogs under control. Follow posted instructions. Dogs off-leash may startle deer that are being tracked, or find the offal that is discarded by hunters while “field dressing” deer.
Please respect preserve closures for hunting. Hunting is an integral land and wildlife management strategy that is pursued in many preserves, and you are putting management practices as well as yourself at risk by entering a preserve when it is closed for hunting.
Ignore warning signs or notices. Stay informed. Hunting season starts in mid-to-late September and finishes at the end of January.
Try to give a wounded deer first aid. If a deer has been hit, the hunter will be along shortly. Do not handle deer – you could get hurt.
Hike without wearing blaze orange or at dawn or dusk. This is not just etiquette, it can keep you safe.
Mess with a hunter that you think is poaching. If you are on your own property and have not given permission to hunt on it, then you should be calling the police, not trying to take issue with an armed person on your own.
Feed deer. This practice makes them into pests. In addition, deer often travel to places that they think feed is being put out, wasting precious energy, to find a) no food; b) to find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order and not getting any food anyway. Deer spend the fall browsing and laying in fat, and are well able to fend for themselves. Keep wildlife wild.