Photo: Steven Williamson of New Hampshire is proud of his first woodcock.
Every fall, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts make a fashion statement when they don a bright, blaze orange article of clothing before they head outdoors to hunt or hike.
Fluorescent orange hats, vests or jackets make you highly visible, one of several key safety precautions for anyone enjoying the autumn woods.
"Wearing blaze orange has definitely been shown to decrease hunting incidents across the country," says Josh Mackay, Hunter Education Program coordinator at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. "It is important for outdoors enthusiasts generally, but especially for hunters, because the overwhelming majority of hunting-related incidents involve members of hunting parties."
Mackay stressed, along with wearing blaze orange, the top safety rules for hunters are controlling the muzzle of your gun at all times, and positively identifying your target—and what is beyond the target—100 percent of the time.
New Hampshire has an excellent record for hunter safety. The average number of hunting-related incidents per year has gone down each decade since mandatory hunter education classes became required in the 1970s.
While most hunting-related incidents do not involve non-hunters, it's a good idea for hikers and others outdoor enthusiasts to think about safety, wearing blaze orange, sticking to established trails, and reviewing and sharing plans.
If you’re not hunting, then check out the Hike Safe guidelines—a hiker responsibility code developed and endorsed by the White Mountain National Forest and New Hampshire Fish and Game, as way to prepare for a hike any time of the year.
Find a complete set of guidelines and helpful information to consider before you hike at http://hikesafe.com/.
The guidelines are simple. No matter whether it’s a short hike or a multi-day trek, be aware and follow the hiker responsibility code:
• You are responsible for yourself, so be prepared with knowledge and gear. Become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.
• Leave your plans; tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you return and your emergency plans.
• Stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
• Turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. You can hike another day.
• Emergencies happen. Even if you are headed out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life-threatening. Don’t assume you’ll be rescued. Know how to rescue yourself.
Thoughtful planning and honing outdoors skills can keep you safe.
When you begin a hike, be sure to take everything you need. You should always carry your own backpack.
Don't make someone else carry it. Your pack doesn't have to be heavy to hold everything you'll need.
For a day trip you should carry a whistle, a garbage bag (if you make a hole at the top, slip the bag over your head and you'll stay warm and dry), water, trail food—enough for the hike and an extra meal, warm clothing such as a fleece jacket or vest, and a flashlight. Add a space blanket for good measure.
Remember, good hiking shoes are important. Never hike in sandals.
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— From the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
— Photo Courtesy Sean Williamson, New Hampshire Fish and Game