It’s fall, which means it’s the perfect time to go for a hike in the woods. But it’s also prime hunting season throughout much of the United States. Whether you let your dog out by the woods, go hiking or hunting with dogs, or live by a hunting area, autumn is a great time to remember these dog-friendly safety tips.
Know what’s in season.
Pay attention to what game is being hunted in the area you plan to hike and you might be able to avoid many of the hunters. If duck season has just opened, stay away from wet, marshy areas. Deer hunters are going to frequent around feeding areas, which are on the edge of fields that offer good cover. That’s when you want to avoid farm country and stick to local conservation areas.
Hike in the middle of the day.
All summer you’ve headed out for walks and hikes early in the day to avoid the worst of the heat. Now that fall is here, you have permission to sleep in! Wild animals are most active at dawn and dusk, which means so are hunters. By avoiding these peak times, you’ll be avoiding the majority of the hunting activity.
Do not let dogs off-leash.
Keeping your dog close by and under control is best done with a leash. Many dogs are scared of the sudden loud bangs of gun shots, so a leash will prevent them from bolting if they are startled. Shooting mistakes can happen, and some states allow body-gripping traps.
Avoid earth-tones. By donning a shiny orange vest, you make yourself and your dog more visible in the woods. If a hunter catches a glimpse of movement in the bush, orange is much easier to spot and dismiss as a human out walking a dog. It is always best for both of you to be very visible. Blue Seal stores have a variety of blaze orange reflective wear for dogs.
Make sounds when in the woods.
Whistle or sing as you walk. If you hear shots, shout to make sure hunters know you’re there.
Do not let pets eat carcasses. Hunters who harvest animals for their meat dress the animal in the field. That means as soon as they have shot the animal, they begin to butcher it. There are parts left behind that may not be used, or small scraps that are missed. Your dog has a keen nose and will likely find a leg bone or a small piece of sinew. Keep an eye on your dog, and avoid letting them sample anything they might find on the trail. Wild game is just that: wild. There may be pathogens or bacteria present on the raw meat that can lead to an upset stomach or even death.
Consider your pets’ fears.
Some pets become very anxious from the sound of guns. It’s best to keep such pets away from areas where they’ll hear gunshots. If this occurs near your home your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help keep your friend calm.
Consider avoiding hunting areas altogether.
Take this opportunity to check out urban parks or take walks through the village and sharpen your dog’s heeling skills.