Safely and respectfully sharing the woods

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

The New York State DEC encourages every outdoor enthusiast to wear blaze orange, pink, or another bright color, especially during fall and winter. Doing so allows individuals to be seen more easily and from greater distances. In addition, wearing bright colors makes it easier for Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Police Officers, or other rescue personnel to find you in the event of an emergency. When not actively engaged in hunting, pet owners are encouraged to have their dogs wear a blaze orange, pink, or another bright color vest or scarf. Dogs should stay leashed at all times.

With hunting and trapping seasons beginning soon, DEC encourages outdoor enthusiasts to respectfully share the woods and follow commonsense safety precautions. Most public lands in New York are open for multiple forms of recreation, meaning outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds will be sharing these lands. Whether you are a hiker, hunter, nature photographer, mountain biker, or trapper, following a few simple measures can make your choice of recreation safe and enjoyable while sharing the outdoors.

Trapping seasons are open throughout the fall and early winter. Although it’s a rare occurrence, traps set for furbearers (such as raccoons and coyotes) can also capture dogs that are not under control. Trapping is a highly regulated activity, and the regulations are strongly enforced. Trappers are required to take an educational course before getting a license, and DEC works closely with the trapping community to encourage trapping techniques that minimize risks to non-target wildlife and other animals like dogs. Keeping dogs on their leash is safer for the dog and for other people and gives pet owners peace of mind.

Hunting is among the most popular forms of wildlife recreation in the state, drawing nearly 700,000 New Yorkers and more than 50,000 out-of-state visitors. Hunting is a safe and economically important outdoor pursuit, helping to manage wildlife populations and promote family traditions while fostering an understanding and respect for the environment. Hikers should be aware that they may meet hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment on public trails. Hunters should, likewise, recognize that they may encounter non-hunters while afield. Hunting accidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare.

DEC maintains hiking trails in many areas of forest preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill parks, as well as in-state forests, wildlife management areas, and unique areas open to hunting. Find a place near you by visiting the DEC website, checking out DECinfo Locator, or downloading the NY Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife App. Many trails are also accessible to people with disabilities. Check out DEC’s YouTube playlist on how to plan and prepare for your next hike, and the Fish and Wildlife playlist for more information.

Hunters looking for solitude can minimize disturbances associated with other forms of recreation by following a few tips. Before a season opens, while scouting for the perfect hunting spot or stand location, take the time to check if your planned location is a popular one. It’s best to avoid crowding other hunters. If your location is near a popular hiking spot, you may experience noise from other people recreating outdoors. If your preferred spot becomes too crowded, it is a good idea to have an alternative location already identified.

DEC and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (State Parks) are encouraging New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. DEC and State Parks’ recommendations incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases and encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. In addition, DEC and State Parks launched a new hashtag—#RecreateLocal—and encourage New Yorkers to get outside and discover open spaces close to home.