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.
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 🙂
- 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.
This poor guy didn’t survive his encounter with a hunter 🙂
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 🙂