Hiking During Hunting Season: 5 Safety Tips.
Generally, the hunting season in France extends from early September to late February. This autumn season is also conducive to forest walks and mushroom picking, so walkers are likely to share the forest with hunters. To avoid accidents, which unfortunately still occur too frequently, great caution is necessary! Here are 5 safety tips for hiking in the forest during the hunting season.
1- Get informed beforehand.
During the All Saints' holiday and throughout the autumn, thousands of walkers take family strolls in the forests of France. However, during this period when hunting season is at its peak, great caution is required to avoid being mistaken for game.
The first safety advice for hiking during hunting season is to gather information in advance about the days and hours of hunting in the area where you wish to walk.
Attention! The hunting calendar is not the same throughout France. The opening and closing dates are determined each year by prefectural decree and therefore vary from one department to another. To find out these dates, you can visit the website of the National Federation of Hunters (link below) and enter the department where you plan to go hiking.
If you want to walk in a state forest, you should gather information on the website of the National Forests Office or ONF. Some departments, such as Isère and Haute-Savoie, have developed a website or mobile application to indicate the days and locations of hunting.
Once on site, you can also inquire with the town hall or hunting associations to find out where the hunts are taking place. However, it remains difficult to know in advance the places and times where there is less risk of encountering hunters.
Keep in mind that hunts usually take place on weekends, early in the morning or at dusk. Therefore, it is best to avoid long walks in the forest at dawn and in the evening, as soon as the sun sets and visibility becomes poorer.
2- Wear colorful clothes to make yourself visible.
Always for visibility reasons, the second safety tip is to wear light-colored or flashy clothing when going for a walk during hunting season.
To avoid being mistaken for a target, don't hesitate to wear your brightest hiking clothes and to put on a windbreaker and a brightly colored cap.
If you plan on walking at dusk, make sure to equip yourself with at least a headlamp and, if possible, reflective clothing designed for cycling... Being visible is essential to avoid accidents when sharing nature with hunters.
3- Stay very vigilant during the walk.
Following several incidents involving hunters, the government announced at the beginning of 2023 the creation of an application to geolocate ongoing hunts. However, for now, this application is not yet operational.
That is why the utmost vigilance is necessary during hunting season to ensure your safety while walking in the forest. Listen carefully for any shots and keep your eyes open! "Hunting in progress" signs are installed on main roads, but not necessarily on small trails.
If you come across one of these signs, you have the right to continue your path but you must be very cautious! The best solution is to change your route, which is why it is important for hikers to have identified an alternative route in advance.
If you encounter a hunter wearing an orange vest, notify yourself as soon as possible and do not hesitate to go talk to them. They can help you continue your walk safely by informing you if there are other hunters nearby and which area they plan to move to. Hunters, who are familiar with the area, can guide you on the safest path to avoid danger.
On the other hand, when approaching hunting dogs that bark during the hunt, it is better to stop and wait for the dogs to move away.
4- Do not stray from the marked trails
Another safety tip for hiking during hunting season is to always stay on marked trails. You are less likely to encounter risks when walking on paths used by forest rangers and hikers rather than wandering off the beaten path.
In areas where there may be hunters, it is best not to venture deep into the forest for mushroom picking or Sunday family walks. Instead, prefer routes in open areas to be highly visible and easily identifiable.
Also, remember that it is safer to walk alongside buildings as hunters are not allowed to shoot towards houses or roads.
5- Always have your smartphone with you.
Finally, the last of the 5 tips for hiking safely during hunting season is to always bring your smartphone with you. The smartphone will allow you to react quickly if you witness or become a victim of an accident.
In this situation, you should do the following in order:
• Alert the hunters of your presence by shouting or making noise with a whistle to avoid further accidents.
• Call for help and provide your precise location using the GPS on your phone.
• Try to provide the best possible care for the victim, applying pressure to stop bleeding, covering them, and reassuring them until help arrives.
If you are anxious and very cautious, you can easily find a survival blanket to bring in your hiking backpack at large retailers like Decathlon or Nature & Découverte.