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This past weekend I rode at the SORBA CSRA Bike Fest at Clarks Hill Lake in east-central Georgia and the weather was absolutely perfect. This was my first time riding the Bartram Trail / West Dam and at the end of the day I clocked more than 22 miles in the saddle across the fast, flowy singletrack. SORBA CSRA is busy working on extending this section of the Bartram Trail to connect to other area trails and it won’t be long before you can string together 40+ miles of singletrack in a single ride.

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Anyway, it turns out it’s hunting season which means mountain bikers need to take extra precautions to stay safe on the trail. Bike Fest organizers did a good job spreading the word so I stopped to buy a $2 hunter safety vest on my way to the trail that day. I learned a few more tips about biking during hunting season that I thought I’d share here.

  • Avoid riding during dawn and dusk hours. It turns out this is prime hunting time, especially during deer season, plus the low light conditions make it difficult to make out colors and shapes in the forest. If you think you might be caught on the trail in the early evening, bring a light or two to make yourself more visible. The best time of day to ride during hunting season is mid-day.
  • Wear orange and/or bright colors. You can pick up a cheap orange safety vest at most outdoor shops and it’s well worth the investment. Avoid wearing camo patterns on your clothes, Camelbak, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a little noise. Hunters may not like to hear this but making noise with a bell or even your voice will let them know you’re not an animal. Several years ago I was riding with some friends and after beating everyone to the top of a climb I started yelling to let them know I was first. Little did I know there was a hunter in a tree stand not 20 yards away and he was pissed I had scared his deer. He fired his gun into the air to scare me and it worked. Hey, at least he knew I wasn’t a deer and he wasn’t aiming the gun at me ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Check for closures with local land managers. Some trails are closed to bikers at certain times to minimize conflicts with hunters. Make sure you know when those times are and observe them.
  • Be alert. Sure, hunters need to look out for us but it’s a good idea to look for them as well. Be particularly alert around forest clearings and look for orange hunters’ vests wherever you are. If you see a hunter, give a wave and make eye contact if you can.

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This poor guy didn’t survive his encounter with a hunter ๐Ÿ™‚

Be careful riding this fall, particularly if you ride in areas shared with hunters. And watch out for those leaves on the trail too – those things can be slippery and they usually hide the nastiest rocks and roots ๐Ÿ™‚

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# Comments

  • element22

    You should also mention that grunting while riding should be avoided…They might just think you a buck or something.. A flashing strobe is a cool idea..Now I know for sure that animals haven’t evolved enought to use those items as of yet..I also carry a Fox40 whistle just incase…

  • ChiliPepper

    No offense to what you posted Element, but if a hunter takes aim or shoots at an object due to a grunting sound and not visually recognizing the object first, then they do not need to be hunting. A good hunter only aims or shoots at what he/she can visually recognize first before taking aim or a shot at. When I did hunt, I would never take aim at anything until I positively recognized what I was going to aim at and shoot. This is the reason why so many individuals or groups have no business hunting or even owning a firearm. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against hunting or owning a firearm, just the hunters that have no respect to the ethics and rules for hunting. Ignorance of these ethics and rules is no excuse whatsoever, nor should it be used as a cop out either.

    I never ride where I know there is hunting allowed, orange vest or not.

    • AntEater

      Chillipepper, As a somewhat-former hunter, I agree with you completely. The vast majority of hunters are generally nice to deal with but the reality is that there are always a few out there that are not responsible, shoot at sounds, and/or hunt drunk.

      Personally, I will not go into the woods at all during deer hunting season around here (VT). My solution is to hit the trails well after dark with a good headlight. It’s actually quite fun in a different sort of way.

  • element22

    True your right…Umm do you remember back in Feb 06 a certain VP called Dick Cheney and a hunting accident…

    Thats all I am saying on the topic….

  • seenvic

    I see this as much a PR thing as a safety thing. When I see hunters and I have on orange, there is ALWAYS a pleasant exchange of hello’s. Usually followed by the hunter thanking me for wearing orange and telling me how many riders came by without orange on…..and they are idiots for being in the woods during hunting season and not wearing orange. I agree on the idiot thing….whether riding, birdwatching, hiking, whatever. If it is hunting season and you are on hunting lands, you should wear blaze orange. This isn’t hard to understand and not restricted to riders.

    Whatever you do, don’t wear white. Deer are called whitetails for a reason.

  • Goo

    @ chilipepper, accidents happen, and i think that being on a bike could be even worse because of the speed that you’re moving through the woods. and in many parts of the country, avoiding riding where there is hunting = no riding at all.

    that being said, all of my blaze orange is at home in wisconsin…. i need to go buy some more.

  • ChiliPepper

    All of you make great points, but I am sorry, just too many un-educated hunters out there, especially itchy trigger finger ones. You just do not aim or shoot at anything without positively identifying it first before taking aim and then possibly shooting at it or toward it.

    I live in FL, and there are some really dumb redneck or want-a-be redneck hunters here. They like to shoot at anything that moves, and that is my point I am making. You just do not aim or shoot at anything unless you have positively unidentified what you are aiming at or shooting toward. This is the reason they have hunting safety schools/classes. If you feel brave enough to ride while hunting is going on, then you are taking a huge chance no matter if you vest up or not. No offense to educated hunters nor riders whom choose to ride in the woods where hunting is going on.

    BTW Goo, I ride all the time during hunting season, but never ride in hunting grounds. Just saying bro!

  • trek7k

    Hey seenvic, where were you this weekend? I had hoped to see you out at Bike Fest leading the way! brianW was there and so was aabiking (though we never got to meet up). Good times and fortunately no run-ins with hunters ๐Ÿ™‚

  • seenvic

    I wasn’t able to make it out there.

    I had a wild day, but just had some other things to do.

    I was bummed to see you had come over for it and I had missed it. There were several people there I would have liked to have seen. That is always a fun, family event. I had looked forward to bringing my kids and having a bigtime.

  • John

    That’s a scary thought, having a hunter fire a gun when you’re not aware of his presence. I ran into a couple hunters during my ride yesterday, so I’ve been looking up the experiences of others. It’s a little scary that they are allowed to hunt on the same trails that we ride/run on. But I suppose that if I were a hunter I would think differently about it.

    Here’s an account of my experience: http://fluidglass.com/2010/11/going-riding-during-hunting-season/

  • toddhed@gmail.com

    Though there are a certain percentage of hunters who aren’t going to be friendly, a lot more are going to do what they can to be good co-users of the land. Just as we cyclists don’t like to get broad-brushed due to the actions of some that will do stuff like blow stop signs, hunters shouldn’t be all considered bad because a small percentage are tools. A good hunter recognizes that having mountain bikers in the woods is to his benefit, because it moves the deer, giving the hunters a better chance at seeing something.

    Another thing to consider is who’s paying for the land- in many cases it’s the hunters- here in Georgia, some years back, I was hunting grouse in the mountains on a WMA (wildlife management area). I’m both a cyclist and a hunter, but this day I was hunting. As I was walking, I was accosted by a trio of mountain bikers who loudly and vehemently proclaimed that I wasn’t allowed to be there, especially toting a gun. The true fact was that I had paid for a WMA stamp along with my hunting license, which is used to keep that land open for everyone, and they hadn’t- I was actually contributing to the resource that they were allowed to use. So, just because they’re out there doesn’t mean they’re evil- it’s often the case that they’re the ones paying the bills.

    We can all be good neighbors, if only we try. I will be wearing the orange jersey and making some noise, tho. ๐Ÿ™‚

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