Friday, September 17, 2021

Recreation Highlight: Sharing Trails with Hunters

Hunting and trapping seasons are beginning to open throughout New York State. These activities are enjoyed by many as forms of recreation and a means of providing for their families. These activities can also benefit forest ecosystems by helping maintain healthy animal populations while reducing nuisance wildlife issues and, in some cases, decreasing transmission of wildlife diseases. Whether you are a hunter, trapper, or just enjoy getting outdoors in the fall, learning how to share public lands with other users will help keep you and fellow visitors safe.

Recreationists and hunters alike have a responsibility to keep each other safe during hunting seasons. Hikers and bikers are advised to dress in bright colors such as hunter orange, put bright colors and bells on pets and equipment like backpacks, bikes, and walking sticks, and keep pets leashed to discourage roaming. Horseback riders should dress horses in hunter orange and wear hunter orange while riding.

Whether you’re hiking in the High Peaks Wilderness or on a remote swath of State Forest, hunters have the same right to recreation on public lands as you do. Avoid interfering with hunters and trappers. Stay on or close to trails and give hunters space. Don’t attempt to scare game, sabotage a hunt, or tamper with traps, and never harass hunters or trappers. Not only is it disrespectful, it is illegal. Be aware that you might encounter hunters carrying firearms, bows, or crossbows on trails or in camping areas.

Hunting and trapping are legal activities that are critically important for wildlife management. Additionally, the sale of hunting licenses and gear funds important wildlife research and surveys and the acquisition and maintenance of many of the public lands we all enjoy. So please, be respectful of hunters, trappers, and all other State land users. Visit DEC’s website for more safety tips before heading into the woods this hunting and trapping season.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

24 Responses

  1. Ethan says:

    So in other words, anyone who is a non-hunting recreationist needs to make all of the concessions that benefit and accommodate hunters. Why didn’t you just simplify from the beginning?

    • Zephyr says:

      There should be one day a week, maybe Sunday like in Maine, when there is no hunting so that hikers can enjoy the woods safely. I understand there are very few accidental shootings, but one is too many. I have had the experience of standing in the parking lot at a trailhead putting on my hunter orange stuff when some yahoo decided to discharge his deer rifle right next to us. Unfortunately, there are hunters who don’t know what they are doing and others that just ignore safety regs. Luckily, most hunting accidents seem to be hunters shooting themselves or other hunters.

      • Richard Monroe Richard Monroe says:

        In response to your 1st observation: As a hunter- there are already significant limits on when (both in terms of season & time of day) and where it is legal to hunt, as well as myriad other hunter’s safety requirements, restrictions, limits & regulations . There are comparatively few restrictions during hunting seasons on the activities of non-hunters. Hunters must attend safety courses and be properly licensed. So do boaters. What about hikers? If there should be a day of the week when hunters can’t go afield- shouldn’t there then to be a day, say- Saturday- during hunting season, when hiking is forbidden? Would that not help address your stated safety concerns as well. It’s not just ignorant hunters (yes, unfortunately, they exist) who ignore safety & common sense in the woods, whether during hunting season or all the year ’round . And I would add, many, if not most, of those camps & trails enjoyed by today’s hikers & non- hunting outdoors folk, were 1st blazed by hardy Adirondack hunters, trappers, & guides.

        • Zephyr says:

          I’ve never heard of a hiker killing someone by accident. So you suggest that hikers be prevented from hiking in order to avoid the danger from hunters?

          • Boreas says:

            Frankly, I don’t recall a hiker being shot by a hunter either. Not saying it hasn’t happened, but hunters typically don’t hunt in areas that are heavily hiked or bushwhacked. Just not a good area to hunt – both for safety and game availability issues. Hunters are typically in more danger of themselves and each other – and that is a real, but manageable risk. Don’t hunt in crowded areas!

            I saw a hunter on the Marcy Dam trail once before dawn. He was about 20 yards off the trail in blaze orange – as was I. I saw him, he saw me and we waved. That is the only hunter I recall SEEING in the HPW along a trail. Pretty tough place to hunt in general. But lowland area trails are certainly frequented by hunters, but often just as a route for easily getting into and out of an area before turning off onto a game trail, stream, or bushwhack into the backcountry.

            • Zephyr says:

              Hiker mistaken for turkey and shot:

              Woman walking dogs shot and killed:

              Sure, not very common, but still a concern, especially when hiking with children and dogs. Agreed, deep in the High Peaks not very likely to encounter hunters, but quite likely in many other parts of the Park where trails are much closer to roads.

            • Richard Monroe Richard Monroe says:

              Boreas, in general I agree with your comment. That Marcy Dam trail you reference is a perfect case in point. I hunted off that trail regularly as a boy & young man, back when hunters still wore wool hunter’s plaid & we could still park at the South Meadows Trailhead. I literally lived there for two summer seasons, up in the Colden Caretaker’s cabin. Shot my 1st buck up on a Phelps ridge off that old Marcy Dam truck tail trail in fact, hunting with my dad. He & I used to go in off that trail to camp& hunt every fall, same with The Ampersand Mountain trail. I wonder how all those hikers would react today if they encountered me & my shotgun dragging a field dressed 8 point down the Marcy Dam trail to South Meadows. Hunted rabbits &”partridge” (ruffed grouse) all the time with my friends there too. The few folks we ever ran into up there after Columbus day most generally, were all hunters. I tried to take my son in there to hunt once a few years back. But as you infer, hikers have usurped it now, without a thought taking from me a piece of my Adirondack heritage I simply now cannot safely share with my son. Same with Ampersand Mountain. Much the same up on Middle Saranac. So, for the most part, we’ve adjusted and moved, seeking out new “roads less travelled”. But to all the self righteously indignant anti hunters & hikers out there who’ve in recent years laid claim to these trails, I say “Congratulations. Enjoy my heritage. You’re welcome. Just remember who was there first.”

              • Zephyr says:

                It isn’t your “heritage.” The Adirondack Park is owned by all the people of New York, and hikers have just as much claim to hike as you do to hunt. By the way, some of us have been hiking there for a long time. I’m pretty sure I’m at least 7 years older than you, and have been hiking in the Daks since I could walk, but never hunted and have no interest in it. My Dad’s in his 90s–never hunted. So, it is our heritage too–and the heritage of the new hikers that you self-righteously look down your nose at. In any case, is one day out of seven of non-hunting for the vast majority that are not hunters too much to ask?

                • Richard Monroe Richard Monroe says:

                  Please don’t put words in my mouth. The “heritage” I refer to, is not the Adirondack Park. Of course that belongs to everyone. The “heritage” I refer to is hunting. My point is- when I was growing up- we could and did safely hunt along of all those trails. Now we cannot. Why? Hikers have claimed them. And some now (apparently) consider them to be their sole rightful domain. As to those Sunday Blue Law sentiments- New York State and most of the rest of the other states have already rejected & undone them. As to self righteousness- well, quite frankly, the above comment serves only to illustrate my point. I’s ironic really, most hunters that I know are quite tolerant of hikers go to great lengths to accommodate and adjust to their growing influx. Not so the reverse. It’s rather like the 3am diner waitress serving breakfast to a diner full of hungry hunters. “I hate hunting & all you hunters. But I make my wage off of the $ you spend and I’ll gladly take all your tips.”

                • Boreas says:

                  For working people, we wouldn’t want it to be Saturday or Sunday – usually the only two days they can hunt. These would also be the same days most hikers would be out. I doubt there would be any benefit to banning hunting on Wednesdays.

        • JohnL says:

          Well stated Richard. There are a few ignorant hunters for sure. There are also a few ignorant hikers who leave crap (literally) and paper and trash in the woods. Hikers that go into the woods totallly unprepared and need to be hunted down and carried out of the woods by teams of rescuers who put their own lives in jeopardy. There are also ignorant dog owners who don’t clean up after their dogs, who let their dogs run free to scare and attack people or let them chase down and kill deer. Ignorance is rampant.
          Hikers that go into the woods during hunting season know that hunters are in the woods too. They’re making the decision that although there may be some very minute risk of an accident, if they follow reasonable safety precautions (orange clothing, etc), they will be fine. Personally, I don’t hike during peak hunting days, as much because I don’t want to interfere with the few days each year hunters have to be in the woods as any concern I have of being shot.
          P.S. Full disclosure: I am a hunter AND a hiker. I don’t trap, but I don’t have a problem with trappers that are following the law.
          JFTR, I take offense to anyone that says he’s comforted by the fact that it’s somehow OK if it’s only a fellow hunter who accidently gets shot in a hunting accident.

      • Richard Monroe Richard Monroe says:

        Additionally, a little online research will show that the “No Sunday Hunting” laws, like the Maine laws to which you refer (11 states still have some form of Sunday hunting restrictions), are the remnants of old puritan blue laws (like no drinking, opening of stores, or tilling of fields), enacted for the purpose of keeping people in church. Additionally, most recent Sunday hunting legislation (including here in NYS), has states moving to ease or eliminate Sunday hunting restrictions, not increase them.

  2. No, the article is simply stating that while you are out enjoying the recreational benefits afforded you, in large part by the funding raised by hunters and fisherman, you aren’t mistaken for prey. Pretty straight forward if you think about it.

  3. Scott Willis says:

    Trapping animals, that suffer a slow death, or chew off their own limbs as “enjoyable recreation”. Sounds like a lot of fun. What is wrong with these people ? Psychopaths.

    • M Leybra says:

      Totally agree. That couple of $100 K that DEC makes on trapping licenses doesn’t justify this barbaric, antiquated, additional, unnecessary cruelty imposed on wildlife trying to survive in their already shrinking habitat. Shame on DEC for continuing to allow torturing wildlife & calling it ‘management’ as if skunks & raccoons are ‘overbreeding’ in the Adirondacks, when it’s nothing but monetary greed.

  4. Boreas says:

    Most hunters that use hiking trails don’t hunt too close to that trail. If they do hunt close to a trail, they are pretty cognizant of the trail and would have decent visibility. Hikers typically mean wary or less game, so I tended to stay at least 100 yards from a trail when hunting. I would guess a lone hiker on a trail is more likely to be hit by a stray projectile than being mistaken for game. I don’t feel it is a significant danger, and just wear a blaze orange/yellow hat or vest – especially in times of poor visibility – dawn/dusk/fog.

  5. JB says:

    As Boreas said, in general, hunters are a responsible group of people who are subject to all sorts of rules and certification requirements to prevent accidents, including the big new blaze-orange rule this year. Along the lines of Richard Monroe’s comment, the problem is not so much the laws, it is that there are inevitably going to be bad actors, just as with anything else. There are people who are reckless and unethical, and there are many who disregard rules, laws and licenses altogether. Stopping that is not really something that can be done to any great degree with more regulations. There are some hotspots where the unethical types tend to gravitate towards, usually identifiable by copious amounts of litter and destruction, that the DEC is undoubtedly aware of. If not, call such behavior in.

    As far as trappers being “psychopaths”: trappers are well-aware of public sentiment towards them. Just as with anything, there are unethical people who briefly dabble in trapping animals purely for the thrill of the kill. But I would argue that there are orders of magnitude more hunters who go out on the hunt in any given year for a quick thrill than there are trappers who expend all of that time and money necessary to run traplines and keep at it year after year.

    Talk to any dedicated and seasoned hunter, and it is almost never going to be about blood-lust. That is an unsustainable young man’s game that mostly gets old and uninteresting after a few years. Talk to any dedicated and seasoned trapper, and it will never be about blood-lust. Period. There is no free meat, no big payout, no possibility of quick thrill–the only real reward intangible. As anyone who has ever met the real-deal knows, you can see in their eyes the passion and respect that the rare true hunters and trappers of old have for the animals.

    The overlying culture of the newer generations has changed to such a degree that these types of sentiments towards nature are simply vanishing, and such an ethic or mindset is impossible to teach. It is indescribable and beyond any type of reason that is acceptable by our modern cultural standards. And have no delusion about it, there needs to be a socially justifiable “reason” for everything these days, to please our institutions, our tribes, our internet. In terms of existential threats to nature, the real threat is not the pastimes of tenacious old men; nature is damaged by the exploits of a society that must turn everything into social commodities of the current trend of the day–it always has been and always will be thus. Any social media trend that entails unicorns and rainbows vaulting over bucolic mountaintops should in fact be setting off alarm bells for people in today’s world. I have seen places utterly decimated far too many times by unicorns and rainbows, despite yet also because of the impossibility of their existence in the real world.

  6. Paul says:

    Anyone who is really worried about getting shot by a hunter when they are just out hiking should really avoid the outdoors. Hunters shooting hunters (which is far more common) is pretty much infinitesimally rare. But yes, you can occasionally find an anecdote here and there that some will always share.

    • Boreas says:

      For that matter, people have been shot in their homes by stray hunter’s bullets. More risk involved in driving to the trailhead.

  7. Paul says:

    The state keeps stats on hunting accidents so we now how few there are. But that is why people waste their money on lottery tickets they think there is a good chance it can happen to them.

  8. JohnL says:

    Lord help us if we live our lives being afraid of everything, because someone read somewhere, that some people somewhere are dying from stray gunfire. There’s an anecdotal horror story about every bad thing imaginable. Oftentimes, in fact most of the time, they’re untrue. Hence the term…..URBAN LEGEND.
    What Paul said above is so true, and it’s really pretty simple too. If you’re afraid of getting shot in the woods….stay home!

  9. Dan says:

    First, I’m glad DEC released this statement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ran into hikers while hunting who didn’t know it was hunting season and wished they had. Many hikers travel to the Adirondacks and associate hunting season with the Southern Zone where the rifle season opens a month after the Northern Zone muzzleloading season. So, a little awareness here is a good thing.

    Next, why can’t we just get along? I’ve spoken to hunters who wish hikers would stay out of the woods during deer season and some hikers who think hunters shouldn’t be allowed to use trails. C’mon, these are public resources for all to use.

    Don’t knock hunters and hunting. Although EPF funds pay for most of the Adirondack land acquisitions these days, for many years hunter dollars made a significant contribution to public outdoor resources. Today, outside the Adirondacks, most of the Wildlife Management Areas in NY are paid for and managed with hunter/shooter dollars through Pittman-Roberston funds, which is a Federal excise tax on guns, ammo and archery equipment that is reallocated back to the states and must be spent on wildlife programs. P-R funds often support non-hunted species. The recent Adirondack arial moose surveys were paid for by P-R funds.

    Finally, trappers are some of the best woodsman and conservationist I know.

    Lets just quit arguing, and have a great fall hiking and hunting season.

  10. Jason says:

    Relax and use good sense. There’s too much drama in the Adirondacks these days. Too many self-righteous folks on their soapboxes.

  11. M Leybra says:

    Hikers & hunters sharing woods on any given day is ridiculous & unless a hunter or hiker totally believes in DEC’s color orange, (as a magic-bullet) making them bulletproof. it’s comparable to civilians traipsing around in a battlefield. Hikers have safe woods all summer & it’s a matter of taking a risk to go hiking when fall hunting season starts. Yes, It would make sense to have a mandated one weekend off-day for hikers & one for hunters, a ‘safe day’ w/ no worry for a ‘hexadental.’ Other than that it’s a matter of choice to deal w/ the risks. Annually there’s more cases of stalking hunters accidentally shooting other hunters, but they knowingly accept that risk. Years ago when land was more rural & was a smaller human population, people ‘hiked’ their own property, mostly in the process of doing chores. It’s a different world today w/ everybody craving ‘using’ the shrinking pristine land left. And pristine public land will continue to shrink.

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