(c) 1996, Willis Lamm, TrailBlazer Magazine
Many hunters use rifles with scopes and they may detect you or your horse's movement, but be too far away to hear your horse's distinctive footfalls. Particularly in dense vegetation it is a good idea to generate some non-prey like noise.
A cowbell worn by one of the horses in the group should distinguish you from game. (Just hope no one is hunting beef!) Cow bells will also discourage bear from messing with you and their sound carries farther than bear bells. Rhythm beads with good jingle bells or small cowbells are also useful if the bells are clear enough to be heard over background noise such as footfalls and snapping twigs.
If you don't have a bell, sing a song or call out loudly every few minutes or carry on a conversation with your comrades.
Rhythm Bead necklaces with
Stick to designated trails. Most hunters should be aware of them and would rather be off in the bush. If you are riding in an organized event, don't wander off course on your own. Hunters will be expecting riders to be where they belong... with the group!
Avoid thickly forested areas. If you cannot avoid them, be extra cautious.
If you hear rifle reports, be doubly cautious, noisy and visible!
Hunters tend to be less active at midday and during this time the light is generally best to facilitate recognition of your bright colors.
If you trailer into or pass by a trailhead which is full of pickup trucks with empty gun racks, consider going somewhere else if you can, especially if you don't have bright attire.
Check with a local hunting supply or hardware store to find out what hunting seasons are currently open, where hunters tend to be most active and where there are areas where hunters are not allowed.
Some locales prohibit hunting on Sundays and holidays. If this is true for your area, these may be the best riding days for you. Don't assume that no hunting is allowed until after you have checked.
When riding in a state or national park or forest, hunting information is usually available from the appropriate headquarters.
Don't forget that bullets don't stop at park boundaries and poachers don't care where they are, so even when riding in protected areas, still do your best not to look like a moving target!
Proper preparation for adventures in deep bush country should include a call or letter to the appropriate agency responsible for managing the land. Even a good state road map should indicate if the area in which you intend to ride is a local, state or federal park, forest or preserve. In addition to requesting the usual information, trail map, etc., inquire about local hunting activities and see if the person giving you this information will note popular hunting areas on the map for you. This information should help you plan the safest routes, estimate riding times, etc. long before you arrive and will help prevent your stalling out in getting your ride started while you debate these issues.
As you enter the region of your ride and it appears that hunters are busy in the area, find out which season is open and where hunters are active. (Duck season shouldn't pose as much of a problem as bear season.) Good sources of information include forestry headquarters, fire stations, police stations, hardware stores, farm suppliers and any businesses that appear to cater to hunters. If the people at one of these specific locations don't have accurate information, they should be able to point you toward someone who does.
If you are concerned about your visibility and pass a hardware store, farm supply or lumber yard, consider shopping and making a purchase. Useful items include orange flagging tape, reflective sticky tape (for your helmet), a reflective orange safety vest, a cow bell and a flashlight. While checking out inquire about local hunting regulations and where you are most likely to encounter hunters. You might also get some useful tips about some great places to ride!