When hunting game, hunters are required to wear orange. But when hunting Christmas trees you are not. During hunting season, does this present a needless increased risk? A local hunter thinks so. “I asked Fish, Wildlife and Parks about it and they referred me to the Forest Service. But when I asked the Forest Service, they referred me to Fish, Wildlife and Parks!” he said with frustration.
He said while hunting he saw 80-90 people, even whole families, striding around the woods during hunting season without orange while hunters hunted in the same woods. Then he realized, they’re hunting trees for Christmas.
When this writer hiked in the mountains of Colorado during prime hunting season, it was amusing to see my normal meadows turned into the wild outdoors. It wasn’t that far “in”, only a half mile straight up from my cabin at 8,000 feet, but nevertheless, there were parked cars all the way up the mountain on this boulder-strewn dirt road from Michigan and Idaho and lots of people tiptoeing through the trees.
I used to sit in “my meadow” and watch them from behind a tree, undetected. I realized how green some of these hunters or their children were-some appeared to be handling a gun in the woods for the first time. Most were diligent hunters but a few did not appear to be. As a precaution, I started wearing orange. Not only that, my dog always wore orange.
When I suited her up as fall hit, she always seemed proud to wear her vest. Since she was a big, sleek, red dog with a small head, I worried she looked too much like a deer. I can understand the concern that the local hunter expressed for people and pets alike being mistaken for game.
Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources admitted that more people are hunting deer and seasons for all different animals extend beyond deer so it is now recommending hikers wear vests.
Texas Blaze Orange Laws requires: “All persons on public hunting lands (state, national forests, and grasslands) during daylight hours when hunting with firearms is permitted must wear at least 400 square inches of hunter orange material with orange headgear, and at least 144 square inches appearing on both chest and back.” It exempts certain people such as those in motor vehicles and campgrounds and those hunting alligators.
Beartooth District Ranger Traute Parrie referred the issue to Mariah Leuschen, Public Affairs Specialist for the Custer and Gallatin National Forest. She said, “I see no problem with incorporating a recommendation into our messaging. Ultimately it does boil down to a matter of your own personal decision-making and safety.
We are unable to require people take the proper equipment for a hike (basic essentials) or bear spray although it is strongly advised. In Montana, I believe many folks are aware of the general rifle hunting seasons and dates, however they may not be as aware of hunting seasons for other animals outside the general rifle season. This is a fine idea for us to incorporate into advice.
We often offer tidbits on not harassing wildlife, trail conditions, food storage orders, 10 essentials for backpacking, leave no trace - this is another safety message that we can incorporate in releases...although yes, it is not required.
I know personally I wear orange both as a hunter, runner, walking with the dog (who also has an orange vest) during hunting season. Given this hunter's personal account, perhaps, yes, we can raise awareness more.”
Perhaps locals can promote an “Orange is the new green” campaign to give hunters a break. It’s a simple solution to reduce unnecessary risk during hunting season. Nobody wants to be a sitting duck.