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There isn’t a time you shouldn’t prep before hiking. But, hiking during hunting season requires
extra caution and preparation — mainly because hunting involves using weapons and engaging
with wildlife that can be incredibly dangerous for an unsuspecting hiker. Hunters and hikers
share a mutual love of forest conservation, so treating each other with mutual respect is
important. If you plan to hike during hunting season, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s explore how to hike safely during California’s hunting season.
Know California’s Hunting Seasons and Zones
First, educating yourself on California’s hunting laws and seasons is essential. When it comes to
seasons, they’re categorized mainly by the animal, the weapon used to hunt, and the zone.
For example, in 2022, deer season in Zone A for Archery starts on July 9 and ends on July 31.
Archery bear season in all bear zones opens on August 20 and runs through September 11. And the rabbits and varying hare general season starts on July 1 and goes through Jan. 29, 2023.
You can also educate yourself more on seasons and specifics for each species when
hunting in California on the Department of Fish and Wildlife website. If you know where the zones are and when the seasons begin and end, you can avoid hiking in those areas during hunting season.
Some key things to keep in mind include:
● Popular hiking times — late spring and fall;
● Best and worst times to hike specific trails;
● Parking fees when hiking in state parks;
● How to spot poison oak that is common throughout much of California’s wilderness.
Get familiar with California’s hunting seasons and hiking must-knows before setting out on any
hike in the state. For example, if you’re in Mojave National Preserve, be aware that hunting is
allowed from June till January. However, hunters can’t discharge firearms within half a mile of
hiking trails. Or, if you’re in Angeles National Forest, hunters can’t hunt within 150 yards of trails.
In other words, don’t venture off the trail. Not only is staying on the trail when you’re hiking a
must when it comes to nature conservation, it should keep you out of range of hunters.
Map Out Your Hike
When you go on a hike, it’s crucial to map out your route. The last thing you want to do is
accidentally hike into a hunting area. You also don’t want to be unaware of the kinds of wildlife
living in the area you’re hiking in.
So, dig into some internet research about the particular hike you want to go on and its location.
Look up what kinds of animals frequent the area you’re hiking in, as well as research the
surrounding nature and terrain. Furthermore, be sure the hike isn’t close to any known hunting
Check for closures throughout your planned hike, as well. It’s a good idea to plan a couple of
alternate routes should you become unable to travel the primary one.
Packing efficiently is critical in safely hiking during California’s hunting season. You want to
ensure you have all the hiking essentials, such as:
● A backpack;
● Change of clothes;
● Backpack Plenty of food and water;
● Knife or multi-tool;
● Cooking and eating utensils;
● Sun protection;
● Garbage bags;
● Repair kit and tools;
● ID and money.
You also want to ensure you have safety items like:
● A map and compass;
● First-aid kit;
● Sanitation kit;
● Fire kit;
● Flashlight or headlamp;
● Emergency shelter.
The above items will ensure you’re prepared for your hike if something adverse were to happen
during it. Especially during hunting season, there can be freak accidents that occur. You won’t
want to be lost or without first aid items if that happens.
Be Visible and Vigilant
Aside from the basics, you must be visible while hiking. Wearing bright orange while hiking is
the best practice, especially if doing so during hunting season. This color ensures you’re highly
visible to everyone no matter where you are. Be sure your gear, like your backpack, water
bottle, and trekking poles, is also brightly colored or even reflective.
Many people don’t like to invest in clothes and equipment in colors such as bright orange
because they don’t wear or use them year-round and they take up space. However, it’s
important for you to stay safe while hiking during hunting season. Having a space to store your
seasonal clothing and equipment can help relieve these concerns.
In addition to remaining visible to hunters, you must remain vigilant during hunting season.
Accidentally hiking into an area where people hunt can result in serious injury. So, you must pay
attention to where you’re going and what’s around more than you would in any other season.
Tips for staying vigilant while hiking during hunting season include:
● Know your way back;
● Hike at a reasonable pace;
● Know when sunrise and sunset are;
● Know if you’re on state game lands;
● Reference your map and compass often;
● Know what to do if confronted by wildlife;
● Note what you hear and see at various checkpoints;
● Don’t listen to music through earbuds or speakers.
If you hear gunshots from wildlife hunters in the distance, stop, go back to your car, and search
for an area where hunting is prohibited, such as a state park or a national park.
Share Outdoor Recreation Spaces
This might be most important in hiking safely during California’s hunting season. Both hunters
and hikers have the right to enjoy nature and wildlife. Hikers and hunters can both be
A conservationist is a person who advocates for and does things to protect and preserve wildlife
and the environment. Hunters often work to ensure the species they hunt have habitats to thrive
in so that generations to come can continue the hunting tradition. Hikers do the same but for
Hikers and hunters must come together to share outdoor recreation spaces because both
contribute significantly to their flourishing.
So, greet hunters if you come across them. Grow relationships with them in your community.
Don’t scare away their game when you hike. And, take it upon yourself to learn more about how
hunting is beneficial for our planet.
Hiking is one of the best things for our bodies, minds, and souls. Whether you do it year round
or in specific seasons, it’s important to be especially mindful of hunting season. The tips above
will help you stay safe as you hike during California’s hunting season.
Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.