Rob Burbank's Outdoors with the AMC: Fall hiking calls for proper preparation, care in clothing
BREEZING THROUGH an outlet mall a couple of weeks ago, I scored a deeply discounted fleece vest. While I wasn't in the market for an addition to my wardrobe, I had to have it. It was roomy enough to fit over a jacket comfortably, plush and warm, and - most important - blaze orange in color.
These are the days when hunter orange is the height of fashion in the woods. But more important than fashion, is the fact that this bright orange hue can enhance one's visibility and safety during hunting season.
The regular firearms season for deer opens Nov. 13 and runs through Dec. 8 in most of the state. The season closes Dec. 1 in Wildlife Management Unit A in northern New Hampshire. Muzzleloaders take to the woods this weekend, and that season runs through Nov. 12.
Hunters wear hunter orange clothing to be seen, and hikers should do the same. Canine companions should be outfitted with hunter orange, as well. While in the woods at this time of year, hikers are advised against wearing dark earth tones, such as brown or black, which might appear as game. Likewise, white clothing should be avoided, as it could be mistaken for the flash of a whitetail deer's tail.
"Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts. Make blaze orange your fashion statement when you head afield this fall. Wearing a fluorescent orange hat, vest or jacket makes you highly visible in the woods, one of several key safety precautions for hunters to keep in mind," says a news release on the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's website.
The site also notes that hunting-related incidents have fallen from an annual average of "21 in the 1960s to just over 3 in the current decade."
Hunters in New Hampshire are required to complete a hunter safety course before they can purchase a hunting license. Responsible hunters never fire unless they're sure of their target and what is behind it.
Hunters generally know which areas are frequented by people, and they'll often avoid such areas as they seek out habitat where game is likely to be found. It's a good idea to stick to established trails and avoid bushwhacking during hunting season. Higher elevations can provide good hiking terrain and rewarding views - and such areas are likely to see less hunting pressure, as game tends to be found at lower elevations. (Be sure to check visitor centers, websites and other sources of information in advance of your hike so you can be adequately prepared for trail conditions. Higher elevations have already received snow this season.)
Staff at outdoor outfitters can provide information on areas that are popular for hunting. They can also set you up with some new hunter orange clothing.
Fall also serves as a reminder of the importance of properly preparing for a backcountry hike. Days are shorter, darkness comes earlier and temperatures that may be mild at mid-day can turn wintry in a snap.
Be sure to plan your route, leave your itinerary with family or friends, and carry adequate clothing and gear to be protected from the elements. Essential items include clothing that will keep you warm, dry and protected from the wind; water and high-energy snacks; a flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries, matches or lighter; jackknife; whistle; first aid kit and repair kit; and map and compass.
A list of essential items and tips on hike preparation are available at hikesafe.com. Additional trip planning resources are available at outdoors.org.
Rob Burbank is the director of media and public affairs for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Pinkham Notch. His column, "Outdoors with the AMC," appears monthly.