September 15, 2023 at 5:40 a.m.

Fall brings user groups together in the woods, on the water

Outdoors Writer

Silent sports enthusiasts enjoy being out to view the fall colors. With the heat of summer being replaced by cooler temperatures and the smells of autumn in the air, there is arguably no better time to hit the trails in the Northwoods. However, fall also brings about hunting seasons. This means many user groups can find themselves occupying the same trails and waterfront areas. With that in mind, hunters and silent sports enthusiasts can find ways to co-exist in those spaces.

On the trails

For hikers and bikers, it is not uncommon to come across hunters once the season has started. They may be walking to or from their deer blind, walking trails hoping to flush out their quarry, or sitting in a favorite spot, waiting for an animal to come through. Silent sports enthusiasts need to understand that, just as with their use of the woods and trails, hunting is a legal pursuit and hunters have the right to be there as well. On the flip side of the coin, hunters, too, need to understand other user groups may be in the area and may be passing through a public area where the hunter has hoped to spot a deer, for instance.

There are a few things hikers and bikers can do to keep safe during the hunting season and to help hunters know they are there. Wearing bright-colored clothing is always a good idea. This will allow hunters and others to see a hiker at a distance and quickly establish they are a person, not a large animal coming through the woods. A blaze orange vest and hat should be enough to differentiate a hiker.

When hiking or biking with a dog, it is a good idea to find a way to make that pet stand out, too. Blaze orange vests and jackets for all size dogs are easy to find on the market today. Attaching a bell to Fido’s collar is a good idea, too. Pets should be kept leashed and close to their owner. This will make it easy for hunters to realize, even at first sight, that this is a pet and not an animal they may be looking to harvest.

Should a silent sports enthusiast come across a hunter in the woods, it is a good idea to identify oneself. A simple greeting is enough to establish a person is heading through an area. While it may be best to attempt to stay away from areas where hunters are known to be, all of those areas may not be known to the hiker or biker. Once a hunter is seen and contact is established, the hiker or biker should continue on their way and not linger in the area. Hunters will appreciate that level of respect, especially from a person who may not necessarily agree with their pursuit of game. Just as when coming across other hunters in the field, hunters, too, should take steps to not interfere with silent sports enthusiasts enjoying their time in the woods.

On the water

Waterfowl hunters and silent sports enthusiasts are bound to run across each other from time to time as well. A kayaker sliding into a bay in the early morning could very well find themselves in the middle of a set of waterfowl decoys. Of course, avoiding that situation is always the best tactic, but should a kayaker or paddleboarder find themselves close to a hunter on the water, they should make every attempt to navigate farther away from the decoys and continue on their way as quickly as possible. Offering up an apology is not a bad idea, either.

Again, silent sports enthusiasts may not necessarily agree with the idea of hunting, but it is a legal pursuit and hunters have the right to be on the water hunting waterfowl within season and following all of the regulations.

Bright-colored clothing is a good idea for these silent sports enthusiasts as well. This is especially true in the mornings and evenings and any other time when visibility is reduced. 

Anglers, too, may fund themselves sharing shorelines and shallows with hunters. The best course of action, if an angler happens upon a waterfowl hunter, is to move along and find another area to fish. The same can be said for hunters. Wading into the water to set decoys in the immediate vicinity of an angler who is already fishing an area is infringing on their right to fish. Both user groups should be courteous and friendly to one another, making for a good day on the water for all.

Fall is a great time to be outdoors and there are many popular recreational opportunities in the fall. This may bring many user groups into contact with one another, however. All groups should keep in mind that other groups also have the right to pursue their passions and work together to find amicable solutions to any spacial issues that may arise.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at [email protected].


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