Thursday, October 3, 2013

Exploring the Backcountry During Hunting Season

Hunter campsite near Threemile Beaver MeadowThe late summer and early fall weather has been ideal for exploring the Adirondack backcountry. The mostly sunny days and clear cool nights are near-perfect conditions for bushwhacking through remote and wild areas, regardless of the season. With the weather and my hording of vacation time this year, the stars seemed aligned for an interesting late season adventure.

Except for one tiny detail, it is hunting season. That time of the year when bullets and arrows fly, causing wildlife, in addition to a few hikers and bushwhackers, to flee for their lives. In my opinion, a hail of bullets and/or arrows whizzing by one’s head is uniquely qualified as the easiest way to ruin a backcountry trip.

For some reason, I thought I was safe until the end of September, with the advent of early bear season. This turned out to not to be the case. Imagine my surprise when a quick Google search yielded the much earlier date of mid-month instead. Adding insult to injury, bow season for both black bear and white-tailed deer start on the last Friday of September too.

Instead of exploring the Adirondack backcountry during the last week of September, enjoying the fall colors and the nearly bug-free days, I stayed home anticipating the Breaking Bad series finale and planning for the inevitable federal government shutdown. Fun, yes, but just not the same as getting out and enjoying what the Adirondacks has to offer during early autumn.

Now one might say, “What’s the big deal?” Why cannot hunters and hikers share the backcountry for just a few months of the year? Are these two activities mutually exclusive?

Obviously, hunting and hiking can co-exist in the remote backcountry of the Adirondacks. In fact, hunting in the Adirondacks on state land almost certainly requires hiking to access those areas where wildlife hang out, whether it be on a trail or not.

Nothing gets my hackles up more than gunfire in the backcountry, though human voices, the crash of a falling tree and the sharp crack of nearby lightening come in as close seconds. Although somewhat expected during hunting season, the sound of gunfire never fails to illicit a cold sweat and a shiver down my spine. The increased risk of being shot in the head, or having a couple razor-sharp arrows embedded in my buttocks are probably the cause of this anxiety. Talk about a bad bushwhacking trip, and I thought the 1995 microburst trapping me in the backcountry was a harrowing experience.

Tent poles at hunter campsite near Deer PondAm I just being paranoid? Probably. How many hikers, bushwhackers or backpackers have ever been accidentally shot anyways? Probably not many, especially in the Adirondacks. I just do not want to be one of them.

Personally, I have few problems with hunting as an activity. This article is not a PETA-loving harangue against hunting as an endeavor. Hunting is an appropriate outdoor sport and many people still enjoy it (although perhaps less than in years past). In addition, hunting is a viable way to manage wildlife species.

Despite the legitimate reasons for hunting, I have absolutely no interest in it. Never have and probably never will. My hunting involves eyes, binoculars and camera, which minimize the harsh noises, bitter smell of gunpowder and the spillage of blood usually accompanied with hunting.

There is one aspect about hunting I hate with a passion though, and it is a purely selfish reason. Hunting keeps me out of the backcountry for several months of the year. This is especially painful during those autumns with warmer temperatures and plenty of sun, like this year.

My deep-seated skepticism of hunters, which accounts for my avoiding the woods during hunting season, may not be fair, as the majority of hunters are likely safe and responsible outdoorsmen (or outdoorspeople for those few female hunters). My aversion to the backcountry during hunting season probably started at a young age with my parents (then again, does not most of our biases and insecurities start with them?), who put the kibosh on my forested adventures in central New York while growing up.

My parents’ fear of their precious little wildlife being shot was not entirely unfounded given the plentiful stories of people or domesticated animals being fatally shot or nearly so during past hunting season. Given the larger forested areas in the Adirondacks, this risk may not be as great, although a solo bushwhacker may be at greater risk unless they actively talk to themselves as they travel. They had just better have a lot to say to themselves.

In the past, I have witnessed much evidence of hunters gone wild. This irresponsible behavior from the hunting crowd included bullet riddled road signs, shot up trees, rubber gloves and paper towels discarded on carcass remains, cutting trees for large shelters and storing personal equipment (how the heck they got cast iron stoves out there I will never know). I could do without much of this behavior, and seeing it does not make me any more confident of my safety in the backcountry during hunting season.

Old hunter campsite near Deer PondHunting activity in the Adirondacks does not appear to be evenly distributed however. Remote areas, such as around Crooked Lake or Oven Lake, probably go largely unhunted, as the distance and aggressive terrain makes hauling a large animal carcass short of a Herculean task, reserved for only the most resourceful big game hunters. In addition, hiking trails are probably used simply as a means of getting from point A to B, as hikers most likely scare most game away.

In the northwestern Adirondacks, where I spend most of my time while within the Blue Line, the Pepperbox Wilderness and the adjacent southwestern Five Pond Wilderness appear popular with hunters. The Threemile Beaver Meadow area and around Deer Pond (both within the Pepperbox) are frequently used for hunting based on the presence of actively used campsites. The ubiquitous old logging roads and proximity to Stillwater Reservoir most likely account for the southwestern Five Ponds popularity with some hunters.

Instead of exploring the remote Adirondack backcountry during this fall season, I will stay home and dream of safer trips in the spring and summer. Crisp early mornings and nearly bug-free days will probably remain a dream until next spring. The beautiful blazing reds, blinding yellows and amazing oranges will come and go, while I hide from any possible hail of bullets.

But, at least my buttocks will remain bullet and arrow free, which makes for much more comfortable sitting while writing these articles. There is something to be said for that.

Photos: A hunter’s campsite near the Threemile Beaver Meadow, some poles cut for a large tent and campsite near Deer Pond by Dan Crane.

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Dan Crane writes regularly about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. He has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry for almost two decades. He is also life-long naturalist with a Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He is also the creator of the blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures.

51 Responses

  1. JR says:

    Seriously? Hail of bullets?
    You’re lucky to hear 3 shots on a Saturday and it’s
    usually someone sighting in their gun cause they fell.
    Get out there and enjoy. We’re nice people.
    I hike high peaks in the summer, hunt in the fall, and hike in the winter. I don’t understand the division of hunters vs. hikers. It’s the same dang thing, you’re just armed in case you are actually lucky enough to see
    a deer! Just my 2 cents.

  2. laurie says:

    Go take a hike! No really, go! Get yourself a nice blaze orange vest and maybe one of those snazzy orange caps and go enjoy the most beautiful time of the year to be in the woods. We certainly do!

  3. Dan'l says:

    I hunt state lands and use trails often and therefore encounter hikers throughout the season. Most often it is a pleasurable experience. The woods are there for us all.

    Laurie’s suggestion (above) is worthwhile. At the very least hikers should avoid wearing brown, black, white and gray. So many do. We live in the country and when I had a dog I set him up with an orange collar during the deer season in case he got out of the yard.

    Still, the only time the gun comes to my shoulder is when I see antlers AND the buck’s shoulder. As for the bowstring: there has to be a clear shot at an identifiable deer, not necessarily a buck, within 30 yards. Less with my recurve. Most hunters I know are the same way. Safety first.

  4. I go hiking in areas that hunters are unlikely to frequent. I understand that you are nice people but… there are a significant number who are trigger happy, overeager to “get my deer/bear”. I’ve heard too many talk about getting off “sound shots” (heard something and shot at it) and read too many reports of hunting accidents, although I grant that mostly hunters shoot each other by accident, not hikers. There are a string of hunting accidents every fall.

  5. Paul says:

    “In my opinion, a hail of bullets and/or arrows whizzing by one’s head is uniquely qualified as the easiest way to ruin a back country trip.”

    I have been hunting my whole life. I do it a lot. I have been lucky I guess to never have experienced what you describe here even on a relatively busy hunting club. If we don’t see it hunting I doubt you would hiking. Just make sure Dick Cheney isn’t in your party!

    This is a good question:

    “How many hikers, bushwhackers or backpackers have ever been accidentally shot anyways?”

    My guess is none.

  6. Dick Millet says:

    Sure, it’s not a risk free activity but given the statistics, you’re safer hiking during hunting season than you are driving to the grocery store.

    • Paul says:

      Nothing is risk free. And I feel bad that Dan is scared away from hiking when he doesn’t have to stay away from the woods. But it sounds like he has made up his mind.

  7. Paul says:

    My guess is statistically speaking hunting or especially hiking near hunters is probably as safe as sitting in your house writing and watching breaking bad?

    Saw one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons recently. Two duck are flying next to each other. One says to the other “this is the time of year where guys randomly explode”!!

    • Avon says:

      Oops, Paul!
      Your paragraph 2 pretty much cancels out the reassuring effect of your paragraph 1, truthful though they may be.
      Those ducks don’t sound like they feel very safe at all.

  8. dave says:

    Before moving to the Adirondacks, I didn’t think much about hiking during hunting season.

    Since moving to the Adirondacks, I stay right the heck out of the woods during hunting season.

    There have been too many incidents – in fact we were talking about this with friends just the other day. Every year since we’ve been here someone has been shot in the woods during hunting season. It has always been either themselves or another hunter, not a hiker, but who wants to play around in the woods when people are shooting guns and sometimes hitting people, whoever they are, by accident?

    We personally know folks who have had their dogs shot, we also know folks who have had bullets ricochet off their porches.

    Add to that the stories of near misses, close calls, and confrontations that we hear about from our hunter friends and the folks we run into down at the local watering hole…

    No thank you.

    The chances of something bad happening might be low (though not nearly as low as some are suggesting here), but we’ve decided to make them even lower by just avoiding the situation all together.

    This is not an indictment against all hunters… we know there are plenty of smart, safe hunters. It is just a recognition that accidents happen, and that there is a small, but still uncomfortable for us, percentage of yahoos who walk around in the woods with guns this time of year.

  9. dave says:

    Having said that… there are some places where you can enjoy the outdoors without having to worry about hunting.

    Most State Parks operated by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation are not open to hunting. Check out their website for exact details.

    In the Adirondacks, I believe hunting is prohibited on the trail systems at the Paul Smith College Visitor Interpretive Center, the Adirondack Interpretive Center in Newcomb, and Henry’s Woods in Lake Placid.

    And there may be other municipal or non-profit trails systems out there that don’t allow hunting.

    We tend to stick to Henry’s Woods this time of year because it is also dog friendly.

  10. Wren Hawk says:

    With all due respect to the careful and ethical hunters out there, is is downright scary to be walking on state lands and have shots ring out from nearby. It just is. You don’t know who is firing, what they are firing at or how experienced they are. It’s a gun going off. There’s two responses for non-hunters (and many hunters I imagine): stay in or wear color and go out very thoughtfully.

    Yes, I’ve met hunters on a trail or bushwhacking and had perfectly pleasant conversations…but it’s likely not these folks I’m worried about. There’s always the possibility of an accident, but also there’s always a minority of less experienced and too cocky “hunters” out there too. As a woman who hikes and rides a horse alone often – always bedecked in orange and red in hunting season – i weigh carefully where I go and what my plan is when I become uncomfortable. I do go out, but as the hunting season progresses and gets to closing, I go out less. Why? Because those less experienced folks get a little desperate and because by then there’s often a lot of confused movement of large mammals in the woods that can be pretty disconcerting even to an experienced horse that knows how to behave when encountering a bear.

    While I think hunting is an important use of Park lands (though I am opposed to all trapping), I do at times wish a few of my autumn rides in and along wilderness areas could be hunting free. Not gonna happen.

    Stay safe all.

  11. Chris says:

    I read stories on the ADK Almanack all the time but have never chimed in until now. I think it is worth stating that there is a BIG difference between hunters and hikers. I have nothing against hunters as far as animal cruelty etc, etc.

    The BIG difference is this: When a hiker makes a mistake, he pays for it. When a hunter makes a mistake, generally, someone else pays for it. And the consequence is hugely different.

    You may be the most responsible gun owner in the world but you have to accept that whenever you fire your gun you are sending something potentially deadly out into the world and once it leaves the barrel of your gun you have no control over what happens to it. And if, god forbid, you do accidentally hit a person, you are causing harm to someone who did nothing wrong at all.

    When you go hunting with a friend you make a choice to accept the risk that you or your friend pose to each other due to the activity you choose to engage in.
    As a hiker, where is my choice. I should not have to consider and accept the risk of being shot when I venture into the woods.

    I wear orange when I go hiking in the fall, but it burns my ass whenever I have to put it on. Why should I have to deviate from my standard hiking clothes to protect myself from the risk presented by the hunters. Why am I at risk at all!

    The worst part about it is that, for most hunters, it’s a sport. There are subsistence hunters and I would never presume to deny them their right to put food on the table so that I can take a walk in the woods. But for most of them it is a sport, it’s for fun. Is it really worth endangering other non-involved people for something that’s a hobby?

    If you are looking for a rush, go skydiving, if you mess up, you pay the price, not an innocent bystander.

    Whenever we talk about “sharing” the woods we need to remind ourselves that there are activities that have no impact on other people who want to share, and there are activities that impact others. People use the argument that allowing snowmobiles is considered “sharing”. You get to snowshoe, why can’t I ride my sled? Remember, when you ride your sled, everyone within 5 miles has to listen to it. You are doing something that negatively impacts other people. When I go cross country skiing, I don’t impact anyone or anything unless I run into it on the trail.

    When you are hunting, you affect everyone who might be out hiking that afternoon. Everyone who decided to put on orange to go hiking changed their behavior because of something you chose to do. Every time someone gets a knot in their stomach when they hear a gunshot, that’s someone that you have had a negative effect on.

    I have a 2 year old that LOVES to go hiking. The fact that he would rather be out in the woods than watching Mickey Mouse makes me sooo happy. But when I have him in the backpack and I run across a tree stand or bullet holes or hear a gunshot, I get sick to my stomach. I can’t help but picture him slumped over in the pack with a trickle of blood coming out from under his cap. Or I think about me going down in the middle of the trail and he can’t understand why I don’t get up when he tells me to.

    I know, it’s silly and a bit over-reactive, but it’s happened to someone I’m sure. It happens down in Albany in the streets, where you never have more than 30 feet of clear flight. Kids get hit by stray bullets. It may be statistically highly unlikely, but tell that to the guy who happens to be the one in a million.

    The next time you are sitting in a blind on state land with hiking trails nearby, and you are ready to pull that trigger, think for a second about my beautiful kid in my backpack. Think about how you would explain to him what a gun is for and why he can’t go hiking with his Daddy ever again.

    I guarantee I will never have to have that conversation with your children because I made a mistake hiking. Can you say the same?

    • Marty says:

      Chris, when hikers make mistakes they often put many people and high cost rescue equipment at risk. Saying that hikers only put themselves at risk is a false assumption. How many rangers, EMT’s, ECO’s, Fire, etc. risk everything to save irresponsible and unprepared hikers in the Adirondacks each year. Many times it is the hunter with true wilderness skills and endurance that help to save these hikers who have “made a mistake”.

  12. Chris says:

    Sorry for the rant. Had to get it off my chest.

    • Paul says:

      Chris, no problem. This is why when there is a rare hunting related accident the hunter can and usually is charged with a crime. Again, someone really should chime in here with at least ONE example of a hiker injured by a stray bullet. Otherwise these fears are completely unfounded.

      “And if, god forbid, you do accidentally hit a person, you are causing harm to someone who did nothing wrong at all.” Like is often the case with an automobile accident. Given that there is a far greater chance of being injured or having yours or my child injured this way, automobiles should really give us nightmares.

    • Bill Ott says:

      Chris, I had a post to submit, but when I read yours I thought mine was superfluous, and backed it out. You write well and I hope to see you reflect my thoughts again.

      Bill Ott
      Lakewood, Ohio

  13. Paul says:

    “The chances of something bad happening might be low (though not nearly as low as some are suggesting here)”

    Dave, look at the DEC report that was provided above. It says what the statistics are. No one is making them up. If you add hikers to those numbers they are going to drop even further. Getting shot when you are hiking basically never ever happens. But if you feel more comfortable avoiding the woods that is probably the best thing to do. Just also consider staying off the street when you are not in the woods there you should be much much more concerned.

    The stats provided above also show that per hunter the chances of getting shot are much lower now than they were years ago, so that is another comforting statistic. The trend continues to show that the number of incidents continues to drop.

    • Dave says:

      Paul, I am well aware of the DEC statistics.

      But given some of your comments here, I am wondering if you understand how statistics and risk are calculated.

      You don’t just look at the total number of incidents between two activities and compare them. That would make absolutely zero sense.

      That is why almost any analysis of risk you hear that involves a comparison to “walking down the street” or “driving to work” is almost always useless and meaningless. Why? Because EVERYONE walks down the street and drives to work. So even though there are a lot of incidents, the chances of it happening to you are still very very low.

      When it comes to hunting. On average there are 28 hunting incidents each year. When you consider that those 28 incidents are concentrated over just a couple of months, and that the number of people in the woods this time of year is fairly low to begin with, you begin to realize that the chances of this happening to you when you are out there are not as astronomical as you think.

      Let’s put it this way… In my town, I have never, ever heard of anyone being killed when they “walk down the street”. Since I have lived here, there have been no fatal car accidents in town either.

      There have, however, been fatal hunting/gun accidents in my town since I’ve lived here.

      • dave says:

        Just to elaborate on this some more.

        Instead of comparing total incidents between two activities, which again tells us almost nothing about how likely something is to happen to us, a more accurate way (but still an oversimplification) would be to compare the # of incidents that happen in relation to the # of people exposed to the risk.

        Think of it like this…

        Which activity has more risk?

        Activity A, where 5 out of 100 participants die.


        Activity B, where 50 out of 100,000 participants die.

        If you just consider total number of incidents, you would say activity B has more risk. And you would be wrong. You are far more likely to be involved in an incident if you do activity A.

        So, let’s say that 1 person dies – on average – in the Adirondacks in a hunting accident.

        Now, how many people do you think are killed in the Adirondacks by drunk drivers during that same 3 month span?

        I don’t know that number, but I bet it is probably pretty comparable. So, as we just demonstrated, you have to also consider how many people are exposed to drunk drivers and how many are exposed to hunters.

        Starting to see?

        While the # of incidents may be about the same, the # of people exposed to the risk in the first place is very different. Far more people drive than are out in the woods during hunting season… so if you participate in both activities (if you both drive and hang out in the woods during hunting season) the chances of being involved in a fatal hunting incident are not, in anyway, less than than your chances of being involved in a drunk driving fatality… indeed it is more likely the opposite.

        • Paul says:

          Dave, Yes, you have convinced me it is dangerous. The risk of being injured or killed by a hunter when hiking in the Adirondacks is real. Folks should definitly stay out of the woods during this part of the year!

  14. Chris says:

    Please don’t miss my point. I still intend to go hiking during hinting season. My logical self knows that the risk is very low. In fact I am going to take the little guy tomorrow.

    But my point is this…There are a million things to do with your free time: Skiing, mountain biking, skydiving, ride motorcycles, fish, swim, kickbox, rock climbing, etc.
    None of those things put non-participants in danger the way that gun related activities do. Sure, I may lose control while skiing and kill someone else, but it would be another skier who decided to accept the inherent risk of skiing beforehand.

    I can’t stop anyone from hunting, but at least be man enough to say: “I understand that by choosing to hunt I am endangering other people because of my choice of recreation. I believe that the risk is small and that, although there are many things that I can do to further minimize the risk, it will never be zero. I admit that consequence of a mistake, made by me, will be born by someone who is not a willing participant in my chosen activity but I am willing to take that risk so that I may engage in my hobby.”

    Also, I would love to hear a hunter confess: “I understand that whenever I engage in my hobby I make people who are sharing the woods with me nervous and uncomfortable. I understand that my choice of recreational activity has a negative impact on people whom I can not see or hear but I choose to participate anyway.”

    I don’t think there is anything at all inaccurate about either statement, and anyone who decides to hunt or shoot for fun should be willing to admit these things before proceeding. If you can’t admit it, then you are deluding yourself about the reality of the situation.

  15. Chris says:

    I was going to post some links to articles about hikers being shot by hunters, but quite frankly there are just too many. I had never even bothered to look it up until today, but a simple Google search fir “hiker shot by hunter” will bring up several pages of stories. It happens and it’s irresponsible to claim it doesn’t just because you haven’t heard about it.

    Also, we drive cars and accept the risk because it serves a practical purpose. Very few people hunt for practical reasons. Getting in a car accident is like one hunter shooting another. Two people engaged in the same activity and both knowingly accepting the risk.

    A hiker getting shot by a hunter is like getting in a car accident with a drunk driver. When I drive (just like when I hike) I have to accept that there could be a drunk driver out there (or hunter), but the chances of getting hit by one are small. It doesn’t change the fact that if I were killed by either it would be tragic and irresponsible.

    • Paul says:

      Chris, yes the drunk driver is a good analogy. And still a much more serious risk statistically speaking. Good point.

      • Dave says:

        Nope, not even close to being a higher risk… statistically (real statistics, that is) speaking.

    • Paul says:

      It looks like the last single incident may have been three years ago in Oregon. It looks like it was such a big deal that it is almost all the hits on Google. By any stretch of the imagination (even toady in the age of the Internet) it is a miniscule risk. But, like I said if you don’t feel safe I guess you are stuck.

      If you look at the DEC statistics it looks like even if you are hunting anything other than deer you are never ever going to get shot (again statistically speaking). Of course the same holds statistically for deer hunters as well. Again, don’t listen to me look at the stats, but you don’t have to be a believer. Some folks will never be of convinced of man made global warming either!

  16. John says:

    I suspect hunters are the least of your worries in life, but the discharge of a firearm nearby can make you worried. Myself, in hunting season I try to stay out of obvious and popular deer terrain–in other words, lowlands mostly. Once you start gaining significant elevation you lose most deer hunters. It’s too much work to drag a deer out of the mountains, and frankly most deer hunters are not hikers. Of course wear hunter orange stuff. I think if you take a few simple precautions you can get the risk down below that of driving to the trailhead. Frankly, NY backcountry hunters are generally more skilled and less trigger-happy than those in some other states where I have lived.

    • Paul says:

      John it takes nothing to get it below the risk of driving to the trailhead it is already way way below that. Again, look at the stats.

      • Dave says:

        Two of the most prolific hunters I know in this area both hunt at elevation in the High Peaks. One hunts regularly up on Tabletop.

        • John says:

          I bet the “prolific hunters” who climb places like Tabletop are pretty skilled at what they do, and they’re not the type to take shots at something they can’t see well. I’m not worried about those hunters. Still, the vast majority of hunters are not up in the mountains, and the vast majority of unskilled and dangerous hunters take the easier route of hunting near the road or where they can drive an ATV in. Besides, I rather like the look of hunter orange!

          • dave says:

            You are right, my impression is that they happen to be two of the safest, most ethical hunters around. I wouldn’t worry about them taking shots at things they haven’t identified.

            But here is the thing… one of the reasons why they hunt where they do is because they have told me they don’t trust the folk that hunt more popular and accessible areas. In other words, they hunt where they do in part to get away from other hunters and stay safe themselves!

            A year ago I recall chatting with one of them about an area I was hiking regularly. The response was “I wouldn’t walk around that area this time of year. I know who hunts back there and wouldn’t take the chance” — so you better believe we stay right the heck away from that area!

  17. Avon says:

    I wonder if the long, long article that says basically one thing got a little lost eventually? Or, is it just a subconscious Freudian slip, or an honest misspelling?

    Anyway, “the sound of gunfire never fails to illicit …” really had me going.
    And while Chris (who seems to have gotten quite comfortable quite quickly with posting here!) expresses eloquently my own feelings about having to wear dayglo or wonder “what-if,” I have to say that the sound of gunfire never fails to elicit the willies in me, too.

    I feel gunfire has as much right to intrude on me and my kids as pop-up internet ads, tasteless porn advertising, and a drunk ranting obscenities in the street. I do not like it, Blam-I-am.

  18. John Marona says:

    According to the DEC web site the 2012 hunting season for all of NY had 24 accidents over half of which were self inflicted. 2 fatalities, bot of which were shot by members of their own hunting party, so I would guess your would be pretty safe out hiking in the woods of the adirondacks.
    I’m an Upland Game hunter here in Connecticut , I own a camp in the Adirondacks, and though I havent hunted in NY in several years I hike and paddle up north regularly in the fall, best time of year to be out in my opinion. Most dangerous part of the trip in my opinion is the drive up on the road, but you never mention this danger.

    John M.

  19. Harold says:

    Come on Dan, your tendency to write these over-the-top editorials may serve the purpose of generating editorial responses but, it’s getting a bit old. I’m not a hunter but I backpack, kayak and ski all over the Adirondacks, particularly in your northwestern region all year long and never have I had a problem with hunters. It’s just this sort of muckraking that instigates artificial schisms between hikers, hunters, skiers and snowmobilers. The vast majority in each of these groups of outdoor enthusiasts are reasonable and responsible people. There are morons representing all walks of life. Wear some bright colors, maintain a moderate conversation, step on a few dead branches. That should keep you safe. And, if that one in a million shot takes me out, at least I’ll be in the woods and not on a busy highway.

  20. John says:

    One further thought on this. I suspect hikers (and everyone else) these days are in much greater danger from hitting a deer while driving in the Adirondacks due to the reduced number of hunters. I believe I see a lot more deer along our highways compared to several decades ago.

  21. John Warren says:

    In the more than 8 years I’ve been in search of Adirondack news to post to our ‘latest news’ feature each day, I don’t recall a single deer-car collision that has ended in a fatality. There may have been one, but I don’t think so.

    There have been at least half a dozen “hunting accidents” in the region in that time that resulted in death.

    No professional search and rescue person has been killed during a rescue in that time that I can recall. I would definitely have remembered that.

    I can recall at least two DWI accidents involving the killing of others, accidents in which drivers kill themselves or others in their vehicle are more frequent.

    This conversation is interesting to me (a former avid hunter) because I often report that hunters are in the woods, but that “accidents involving hikers are rare” – at the same time I report frequently about the danger of colliding with deer, with no such caveat.

    Incidentally, deer – car collisions increase at this time of year because deer are on the move. I personally believe (though can’t prove) that a significant part of that movement is due to harassment by hunters.

    John Warren

    • John says:

      It’s mating season, so deer are running around a lot and not using much caution (same problem we have with teen drivers). Who knows if hunters have anything to do with it. Nationally, estimates are 2 million deer-car collisions per year:

    • Paul says:

      We may begin to see some fatalities with car moose collisions. That is more likely. And the moose population in the Adirondacks is living in close proximity to roads.

      My guess is that the culling of the deer herd in places like the southern tier of NY has a positive effect on deer car collisions and one that may offset the risk posed by hunters “pushing” cars onto the roads. Which I agree probably happens to some extent.

    • william Deuel,Jr says:


      During the rut a buck is on his feet 24 hours a day and can cover 10 miles a night looking for a hot doe. They lose a tremendous amount of their body weight , a 200 lb buck in september will fall off to about 170 lbs by the end of november between running does and fighting with other bucks. This can also cause some of them to not make the winter if it is severe. This year the peak of the rut should be around the 2nd and 3rd week of Nov. I bet if you look, this is when you would see the majority of car accidents.

  22. Paul says:

    It is true this is a very interesting discussion. I tend to see folks that are afraid of the rare chance of something happening to them here kind of like people that are afraid to fly. No matter what you try and tell them they still think that they have a good chance of being involved in that plane crash that almost never happens. When someone above described a sinking feeling they get when they hear a shot in the woods it is like that sinking feeling that a person afraid of flying gets when you hit some turbulence. Sit back relax the plane will get you there safely. and when you get there grab your hiking boots and hit the woods!

  23. Joe C. says:

    It is unfortunate that you and many others feel the way you do about enjoying the Adirondacks during hunting season. As an avid lover of the Adirondacks, their deep rooted history, and their spiritual meaning, I am also a hiker,fisherman, and hunter in our Adirondack wilderness areas. I understand that hikers have had bad (unfortunately) experiences with hunters while enjoying the wilds of our wilderness areas.
    While I may not spend as much time in the mountains as some readers of this forum (averaging 18 nights & 90 days a year) I personally look forward to hunting season and the peacefulness it brings. I have never been awaken during an Adirondack woods night during hunting season by fireworks, dogs barking, and loud parties like I have so many times while hiking and fishing. Nor have I ever been threatened by unleashed dogs, had rocks rolled down trails unto me, been run off trails by wildly running down hill hikers, nor had a campsite raided with items stolen during hunting season. My camp sites are always left cleaner than I found them unlike most hikers and day users that I have followed. I do not think that all the mangled green vegetation around camp sites for firewood, burned lean-tos, stolen/borrowed boats and canoes from camp sites, toilet paper and waste in and near hiking trails, and talk loud enough to be heard by every living thing with-in a half mile of the trail systems I have witnessed can be contributed to hunters.
    I do agree that hunting has too many accidents. Hunters shoot each other in open farm lands and wooded areas inside and outside the Blue Line. Thankfully hunters shooting another hunter is still not acceptable in our society, unlike what has become acceptable in our urban jungles. Shooting at sound and movement are not what I or any hunter has ever been taught. I thankfully do not recall ever hearing of a hiker being struck by a purposely aimed or erratic rifle, shotgun, or archery shot in the Adirondack Park.
    For the Adirondacks to remain safely available for all users of this wonderful gift of outdoors we have, we must all work on respecting each other and our individual diverse love of the wild areas. We all have a responsibility to maintain this wild area for generations to follow.
    I hope that everyone reading this forum takes advantage of the Adirondacks during every free moment that they have and during each of the twelve months of the year. There is so much to see and enjoy outside. We are safer in the woods than we will ever be with our current society and world status. Statistically we all have a better chance of being shot by a co-worker, family member, or terrorist than a hunter.
    Be safe and enjoy the Adirondacks!

    • william Deuel,Jr says:

      I was going to write something similar but your post is so well done there is no need.

    • JB says:

      AMEN!! I also cherish the back country in the fall while hunting/hiking. I realize everyone has their own perspective and we have all heard stories of bad encounters with hunters. However, in the 35 plus years I have been roaming the ADK’s, I have never, ever felt threatened by nor afraid of another hunter accidentally shooting me or anyone else for that matter, especially with an arrow. Frankly I am far more worried about twisting an ankle or poking my eye than I am of a bullet or broad head. I am truly sorry that there are folks that are so terrified of everything that they can’t just go and enjoy themselves. I get it that there are people that do not agree with hunting, but please don’t use that as an excuse to stay home and watch another rerun. Well said Joe.

  24. Tom says:

    I have no objection to hunting, but would prefer to hike without having to worry about it. There is no hunting in Connecticut, where I live, on Sundays. Perhaps some “days off” during the hunting season in the Adirondacks could be established so that hikers with any concerns can plan to go out those days. Such an arrangement can also give hunters the possibility of fewer hikers when they are out, which could perhaps enhance their experience and/or success. I have always had cordial interaction with hunters in the woods, but I don’t think they were any more happy to encounter me than I was to see them.

  25. Bill Ott says:

    I encountered a couple hunters in November a long time ago. One of them gave me a candy bar. In the middle of the night, feeling chilled, the candy warmed me up. I will never forget that small kindness.

  26. Tony says:

    I am confused about the purpose of this article, I feel the whole purpose of it is elicit fear in fall adventurers, which to me is something that is both inappropriate and unfair to the persons reading. This is doing more harm than good rather than publish your own persanl fears possibly discuss the safety measures which may be taken by hikers during hunting season. That said, ethical hunters will take all the safety measures neccesary to NOT SHOOT something which is unattended, know your target and everything behind it, that is something that was taught to me before I ever held a gun or bow in my hand and have always remembered this. I am both a hunter and hiker and have been in the woods in fall as both and have never had a bullet or arrow (which if you had done any research on this is CRAZY to even include an arrow in the fear which you are pushing on others) come any where near me. You must also remember every time a hunter or fisherman buys a license a portion of that money is going towards research (even of animals they do not hunt or fish) and keeping these lands that we are all using open for our use. I am very disappointed in the fact that this article was published, I could be more understanding if there was some research done on this but there just clearly wasn’t. I hope that you think before you write something like this again, it really does affect people in ways you probably have not considered.

    • John Warren says:


      Of all the hunters I’ve known over the years (myself and my entire family included), I don’t think there’s a single one who didn’t tell people to stay out of the woods during hunting season, or that there were places they wouldn’t hunt because there were people hunting there they didn’t know and /or didn’t trust.

      Not everyone believes the way you do. In fact, after this piece was published I started asking all my friends who still hunt – and surprise, surprise, the same result.

      It’s not unusual for hunters to avoid certain areas where others are hunting, why should it be a big deal for hikers to do so?

      That said, what’s really disturbing about your comment is the tone you’ve taken that the author is somehow at fault for having this opinion, that it’s wrong of hi to express it, that he didn’t think about before he wrote it.

      You can disagree with people without turning them into an enemy.

      • Tony says:


        My apologies to the author if my tone was in some way malicious. I intended no malice by it, just thought that it would be helpful to the people who are possibly new the adk’s and are considering a fall trip. This article came off as being based on a individuals opinion not on facts surrounding those opinions. I understand that from your previous posts that you are on both sides of this argument and I can deduce that you are interested in the facts here not the opinions of a individual. I may be on the “hunters side”, if there is or should be a side to this, but I am interested in facts not opinions and when someone forms an opinion and decides to write an article to an online paper, it is not helpful to people who are interested in gaining some knowledge of the outdoors. I am in no way saying that he does not have a say or shouldn’t have an opinion but shouldn’t there be some facts in this article? My wife actually discovered this article and told me that she “was not happy we were hiking last weekend”, I asked her why and she pointed to this article. Of course i reminded her that we took all the safety precautions we could, wore blaze, talked and made noise as we walked through the woods. That got me thinking about my above mentioned opinion on this article, not only does this fuel these “artificial schisms”, as some else put it, between the users of these great natural wonders, people will read this and form an opinion based on someone else’s opinion not on facts. I do apologize for the tone but I just am not interested in telling my wife and others that they will not have “bullets and arrows whizzing by their heads” during the fall hunting season, I am more interested in giving them facts and letting them know what they can do to protect themselves in the woods.

  27. keith silliman says:

    I am both a hunter and a hiker. Until recently, i have not encountered a hiker while hunting. I have run into a hunter while hiking.

    I tend to hunt in remote areas, usually with a dog, for waterfowl and upland birds. Given the access points where I go, I can be pretty certain if I have any company in the woods.

    Yesterday, I decided to go grouse hunting with my dog. We headed over to Loon Lake Mountain, with the intent of walking up the Tower Road. I usually park at the road and start walking. Before hunting, I drove over to check the new trailhead. I did not anticipate finding eight cars and a schoolbus in the new trailhead parking lot (I think the increased usage can be attributed to the press release DEC put out earlier this month). I chose to hunt elsewhere.

    When I hike, I usually have two dogs with me. They wear blaze orange collars and small cowbells. They are off lead, but I keep them close.

    I am in a hunting club with some friends who share my approach to hunting. I have quit a hunting club in the past when some of the members did not meet these standards.

  28. Bill Ott says:

    Just came back from 2 weeks in 5-Ponds. One car at Inlet (mine), one couple on river on way up (came in from Lowes, 2 days), one large group encountered on river yesterday. Met no one in wooods, heard no gunshots (some sonic booms, however). Still wore vest. Just think, the whole 5-Ponds to yourself (except for those others who also think the woods is theirs alone), and Sliding Falls was amazing.
    Bill Ott

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