Public hunting areas offer a great chance to view birds and wildlife and spend quality time in the great outdoors. But maybe you’ve heard that it’s not safe to hike or bird watch in the woods during hunting season? The good news is that hunting is a very safe sport, and with a little knowledge and preparation, you can confidently enjoy birding during any hunting season. Here are some tips on how to view wildlife safely:
- Watch what you wear. The more visible you are, the safer you are. Wear a brightly colored piece of clothing that can be seen from all directions. Good options include hunter orange hats and safety yellow vests. Avoid wearing colors that blend with the environment or are the color of game species: green, brown, black, or white.
- Know which hunting seasons are open. There are open seasons every day of the year across the Great Lakes region but there are a couple of rules of thumb to know when hunters will be out and about. Opening day is the busiest for most hunting seasons and many hunters stop going out after the first week. You can find all of your states hunting seasons online at your local Department of Natural Resources website.
- Know the lands you use. Hunting can happen on any public or private land that gives permission. Most public lands and private conservation lands have resources online to help you find out when and where hunting is allowed. When in doubt, contact the property owner.
- Stick to the trails. Hunters will generally go well off human used paths to look for game so there is less hunting on established trail systems.
- Don’t be out after dark. Dawn and dusk are often the best time for hunters to find their quarry as they move between feeding and resting areas. Heading out during daylight hours means you’ll be seeing fewer hunters.
- Protect your four-footed friends. Be sure to keep your pets on a six-foot leash and have them wear a high visibility vest. Many state-managed public lands generally require pets to be on a leash regardless of the time of year to protect our wildlife and wild places. Using a leash also protects your pet. The less pets look like a wild animal, the safer they are.
- Support state wildlife lands. Historically, hunters have supported state lands conservation around the Great Lakes region, especially in states like Michigan. However, hunting is in decline nationally, which means there are fewer resources for the restoration and maintenance of state-owned lands, many of which double as Audubon Important Bird Areas. Non-hunters can support the managed care and conservation of state lands through programs like Michigan’s Adopt-A-Game Area Program, or purchase a federal Duck Stamp to contribute to the conservation and acquisition of wetlands within the National Wildlife Refuge System. Your federal Duck Stamp doubles as a free entrance pass to all National Wildlife Refuges.
- Guest author Karen T. Cleveland is a Game Biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
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