Hunting Safety Tips for Pet Parents

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Hunting season can be a dangerous time for our furry friends here in Maine and for many pet parents, the thought of venturing out for a nice walk through the woods suddenly seems not so fun. However, before opting to spend the entire season inside, try some of our hunting safety tips that will not only help to ensure you and your dog’s safety when out and about, but make you feel better about enjoying the great outdoors during the whole hunting season!

1. Know the Seasons for Your State
Autumn is prime hunting season here in Maine with some permits being issued out as early as the beginning of September. However, when hunting season specifically begins and ends can vary by state, so it’s important to research these dates and write them down in your calendar. If you live in the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has compiled a helpful list of websites that link you directly to your state or territory’s agency that manages fish and wildlife resources. It’s a great place to start if you’re feeling lost!

2. Research Prime Hunting Areas
It’s important to know exactly where hunters might be before you venture out with your dog and start walking trails or fields. According to the Portland Press Herald here in Maine, the southern quarter of the state brings in the most big-game between York County and as far as Waldo County. If you live in these areas it might be helpful to research where hunters are not permitted to hunt, such as parks or wildlife preserves where you and your dog can walk and play without worry. However, where hunters are allowed depends on your state’s individual regulations and if you’re still unsure or worried, follow the safety tips below.

3. Make Yourself Noticeable
Perhaps the best safety precaution you and your dog can take during hunting season is to make yourself stand out. Bright, neon orange is usually the color of choice for pet parents and it’s not a bad thing to go all out. A vest, bandana, and collar and leash combo are all good choices for you to dress your furry friend in before heading out for a walk or jog through wooded trails. It’s also not a bad idea to add a bell or blinking light to your dog’s collar for extra noticeability, especially if you’re walking around dawn or dusk. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to wear some orange yourself!

4. Keep Your Pet Close
While it may be frustrating for a dog who is used to walking free, keeping your dog on-leash at all times is a great way to ensure their safety during hunting season. Keeping them close to you and under leash control ensures that your best friend won’t wander too far off the trail or chase any wildlife through the woods. If your dog absolutely cannot be on a leash, make sure you have him under strict voice command and carry treats for insurance of his behavior. It’s also important to make sure he is wearing his tags incase he does wander off or gets lost. You can never be too careful!

5. Stick to the Trails
If you’re going to be walking out through rural or wooded areas during hunting season, make sure that you and your dog stay only on marked or well-traveled trails. Hunters tend to do their best work in thick, untraveled areas in the forest where animals feel safest and away from human activity. Because of this, it’s important to not venture off the path to find a hidden pond or let your dog lead you on a scent trail through the woods. Hunters don’t expect to find dogs that deep in the forest and it’s possible your furry friend could be mistaken for another kind of furry animal. It’s always safest to stick to the trail and travel in groups!

6. Let Yourself be Known
If and when you ever encounter a hunter during your travels, it’s important to let them know that you are there and that you will be passing by with your dog. Never assume that the hunter sees you first or that he identifies you from such a distance. Simply calling out to him or saying hello will ensure that he knows you and your dog are not game and you won’t run the risk or startling or sneaking up on him. A whistle can also be a helpful tool to carry if you don’t feel like calling out. Simply blow it as you walk by to ensure you and your dog will be noticed by anyone around you. And don’t worry about scaring away any of the hunter’s potential kills; you and your dog’s safety should always be the number one priority!

7. Always Monitor Your Dog
Even if you are not out and about with your dog on trails or in the woods, it’s still important for you to keep an extra eye on your pup during hunting season. Many dogs become frightened at the sound of gunfire and may try to bolt or hide if they are left unattended in the backyard or in a park. If you know your dog gets spooked easily, has a habit of chasing things, or can jump and dig his way out of your yard, it’s best to go outside with them so you can monitor their behavior and ensure that they won’t take off. And, as always, never let your dog out without proper identification. A tagged friend will make it home again!

You can never be too careful during hunting season and we hope that with these tips, you and your furry friend will have a safe, active and enjoyable autumn here in Maine!

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