By Dan Watson, former NPS Volunteer Coordinator for the NCNST
With the coming of fall foliage and cooler weather, trail volunteers and recreational hikers can expect to encounter hunting activity along the North Country Trail for the next several months.
Because the North Country Trail crosses through a diverse compilation of landowners, including numerous types of public lands, many sections of the trail are open to hunting.
Trail users should keep in mind a few simple things when out and about in the months ahead, to ensure their personal safety as well as optimize their own enjoyable trail experience:
Beware of private lands that allow hunting.
Some sections of the trail cross private lands where the landowner may temporarily post against hiking during the hunting season. Please respect these landowner rights and take an alternate route.
Know the hunting seasons in the region you’re hiking.
Hunting seasons, dates, and regulations differ from state to state, and even from one year to another within the same state. Familiarizing yourself with your areas hunting seasons and regulations each year will keep you “in the know” on what hunting activity you may encounter on the trail.
Find hunting seasons by state here:
In many areas, the earliest hunting seasons involve bow hunting for deer, waterfowl hunting, or even certain types of small game hunting. Typically in bow season, hunters wear camouflage clothing and in firearms season hunters wear additional items of blaze orange. Be aware that hunters may not be readily visible to you as you move along the trail.
Make yourself (and your dogs) visible.
You, however, should be readily visible to hunters. Regardless of the current hunting season, it’s always a good idea for trail users to wear bright clothing such as orange.
Trail users who bring their dogs along for company should always keep them on a leash. Trapping seasons often coincide with hunting seasons, and dogs may be attracted to baits or scents used in trapping activities. A brightly colored bandana or other “dog apparel” is another thing to consider for your pet.
Avoid hiking during high use hunting times.
If it’s important to you to minimize your possible contact with hunters along the trail, avoid the “high use” hunting times—opening day of various seasons, weekends, and morning/evening hours. Hiking during mid-week in the middle hours of the day will minimize your contact with the largest number of hunters.
If you observe what you believe is illegal hunting activity, call your local conservation officer to report your observations. Do not confront suspected violators on your own.
Remember that the majority of hunters are folks much like yourself—people who are simply recreating outdoors in their chosen activity. The fact that hunters may be in the vicinity of the trail should not preclude you from using the trail… it’s just another variable to consider in your decision-making process.