In Alabama, fall is the finest time to be outdoors, thanks to the low humidity, cool air and brilliants colors that illuminate the woods. As you contemplate a sublime walk among the bright orange leaves, you also need to think about an orange of a different type—safety orange—becuase fall also marks the arrival of hunting season.
Throughout Alabama, many hiking trails pass through or run near wildlife management areas and portions of state and national forests where hunting is allowed. If you’re new to hiking, or you’re new to Alabama, it’s important to know some basic rules and follow some important tips with regard to hiking during hunting season. This information is not only important—it can literally save your life.
Be Familiar with the Hunting Season Calendar
In Alabama, hunting seasons vary for deer, squirrel, duck and other animals. Also, for each animal, the season includes separate categories, like bow season, rifle season, and the season for hunting with a dog. You can see how tricky it can be. Before you hike, check the website or contact officials for any national or state park, national or state forest, or wildlife management area. For Alabama information, you can also visit the website for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Know Where Hunting is Allowed
Don’t assume the park or forest you’re heading into prohibits hunting. There have been many tales of hikers heading out to a county park only to be turned around because it was closed for hunting. Also, some areas host special events where weapons are allowed. For example, the Brierfield Ironworks Historic State Park in Brierfield, Alabama, holds an annual bow tournament. While it’s a shooting competition and not actual hunting, you don’t want to head down a trail when arrows might go whizzing by.
Wear That Orange!
The easiest thing to remember is to wear your safety orange. It can be a hunter-orange jacket, hat, sweatshirt, or even a pack cover. Just wear orange and plenty of it. While most states require people to wear 400 square inches of orange in a hunting area, Alabama requires only 144 square inches. It’s a good idea to wear more than the minimum, so don’t skimp on this!
And Your Little Dog, Too
If you love to hike with your dog, don’t forget their orange, too. A hunter will never be able to tell the difference between your dog and prey as they scamper through the forest. There are many companies out there like Chewy.Com and L.L. Bean that make hunter orange vests just right for your pup.
Is there a Time of Day to Avoid Hunters?
The general rule of thumb is that the best time for hunting is early morning or late evening, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. In Alabama and many other states, people can begin hunting 30 minutes before sunrise and continue until 30 minutes after sunset. Just remember, if you hike early in the morning or late in the day when light conditions are low, hunters will have a harder time differentiating you from prey.
If you’re looking for a prime day to go hiking, be aware that Alabama does allow hunting on Sundays. (There are actually 11 states that prohibit hunting on Sunday.) Use your best judgment and read up on the rules so that you can hike smart. And by all means, talk to locals and park or forest managers to find out the best time to hit the trail with relative safety.
Let Hunters Know You’re There
If you hear gunshots close by or even in the distance, that’s your cue to let them know you’re there. Talk louder, whistle, walk heavy and stamp your feet. Make it known that you’re in the area, too, and that you’d like to pass through.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.