By Bill Deaton
Since time immortal Sundays have been a haven for hikers during the month of November in the Keystone State. It was the one day of the week when non-hunters could walk the woods without the fear of getting shot. A common mantra but not one rooted in good data. While at one time, hunting related shooting incidents (HRSIs) did number over 100 per year, but have steadily declined over the past several decades. Since 2012 there have been fewer than 30 HRSIs per year inside the Commonwealth.
There were four hunting related fatalities last year in Pennsylvania, up by three from 2018. In most cases either “Victim in the line of fire” or “Unintended discharge” of the firearm is the cause of the incident. Similarly, most accidents occurred in heavy brush and during periods when lighting was poor.
Non-Hunters can still easily enjoy the woods anytime during hunting season, including the open Sundays, Nov 15, Nov 22, and Nov 29, by following a few simple guidelines:
- Dress Brightly: Hunters wear fluorescent orange, typically at least 250 square inches of it. It may not be mandatory for hiking, but it’s a good idea.
- Stay on the Trail: Most hiking trails are relatively free of overgrowth and hunters can typically see hikers using them.
- Avoid Game Lands: Although several major trails do cut through PSG territory, most Game Lands only offer short hiking paths. Typically, a DCNR trail can be found not too far away. While many DCNR lands are open for hunting as well, they do attract less hunters, especially in state parks.
- Make Some Noise: Chat with your companions or carry some bear bells. Bells on dogs is a smart notion too. Keeping the dogs on a leash as well will help them from being mistaken for game.
Hunters have responsibilities as well. Always identifying the target and knowing what is beyond is key. Treating a firearm as if it’s loaded and not pointing the muzzle at something not intended to be shot are solid principals too. Even with the additional three new days, it’s doubtful HRSIs will dramatically spike. Unquestionably, everyone should be able to enjoy the woods safely, together.