This post includes some affiliate links.
Autumn means hunting season in many parts of the country and, whether you live in a rural area where hunting’s a possibility or just take a day trip to the country for a leisurely dog walk, it’s definitely something to keep in mind. How can you stay safe on your dog walks and keep your dog safe during hunting season?
Know Your Local Hunting Seasons.
Hunting seasons vary from location to location so know your own area’s hunting periods.
There are different hunting seasons for different species (deer, dove, quail, etc.) and usually different hunting seasons for different types of hunting (bow, gun, etc.).
While most attention is paid to traditional hunting with guns, I also worry about bow hunting season–because you won’t hear a bow hunter or know that they’re nearby.
If you don’t know when hunting season is where you live, do a search for state’s parks and wildlife website or visit a local sporting goods store that sells hunting supplies and ask.
Make Yourself Visible to Hunters.
Tragically, dog walkers have been mistaken for deer in the past and shot. The best way to keep yourself safe is to make sure you are very visible with bright colors.
Since you’re taller than your dog, you’ll probably be the first one spotted by a hunter. Make sure you are visible.
Wear brightly colored clothing–red, yellow and orange are all good options. Remember: if it’s jacket weather, it won’t help if you’re wearing a florescent t-shirt if you have an olive green jacket over it. If your jacket isn’t bright, slip on a high visibility safety vest and wear an orange cap.
Make Your Dog Visible–And Make Sure Hunters Know He Isn’t Wildlife.
Even though your dog is walking with you (and hopefully you’ll be wearing those neon clothes), there’s always a danger of your dog getting away so make sure he’s very visible as well.
Orange safety vests for dogs are available in a variety of sizes. Just search for an orange dog hunting vest to find one for your dog; much like a lightweight dog raincoat, they just fit over your dog’s collar or harness:
You’ll also find wide florescent orange collars; even if you don’t want to one for everyday use, slip it on as a second collar during your walk.
Don’t have a safety vest or orange collar? Use a brightly colored bandana or make one from a scrap of fabric.
Time Your Walk.
Most hunters will be out in the morning hours just after dawn and in the evening just before sunset–so time your walk during the hours that aren’t as desirable for hunting like mid-day.
Also, try to avoid the first day of hunting season when the number of hunters might be at a peak–and when hunters new to a hunting lease might not be familiar with its boundaries.
Stay Visible in Dim Light.
Reflective trim helps keep you visible if a light hits the fabric (that’s why we added it to the design of our dog walking bag)–but you’ll also want lights if you’re in a rural area where lights may not reflect off reflective trim.
Since the time just after dawn and just before sunset are usually the most popular with hunters, you’ll want to make sure you are extra visible at this time. Carry a flashlight with you and clip a light on you AND your dog.
We use these small clip-on lights that attach to your dog’s collar or leash:
We also love lighted collars (we’ve had these Glowdoggie slip-on collars for years!) and lighted leashes.
Keep Your Dog on Leash.
One of the best ways to prevent your dog from being mistaken for a deer is by having him at your side. Keep him on leash–and leave the 20-foot-long retractable leash at home at this time.
Make Some Noise.
Let any hunters know you’re in the area. Whistle, sing, and talk to your dog (they’re good listeners!) as you walk.
If you hear gunshots nearby, an airhorn is an excellent way to let hunters know you are in the area. I carry a portable air horn like this in my dog walking bag during hunting season:
Get a Grip on the Leash.
Speaking a having a good grip on your dog’s leash before blowing the air horn, you’ll also want to have a good hold of the leash in the event of a gun shot.
Many dogs will bolt at the first sound of gunfire so, if there’s a risk of hunting, be sure to hold the leash firmly at all times or consider a hands-free leash like this crossbody/waist leash:
Know Where You’re Walking.
Know the area where you’re walking. Is any surrounding land leased for hunting?
And just because you’re on public land, don’t assume there will be no hunting. Some large parks and wildlife areas issue a limited number of annual hunting permits.
Some–like Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in our part of the state–close during designated hunting days but others–like the large wildlife management areas around many of our local lakes–issue some hunting permits during hunting season (and permit feral hog hunting year around).
Autumn is a great time to enjoy beautiful walks with your dog. With a few tips and some pre-planning, you can keep you and your dog safe on dog walks during hunting season and make some wonderful memories during this colorful season.