Here in Sauk County, there is a gun deer “Holiday Hunt” kicking off Sunday, Dec. 24 through Jan. 1, 2018. This means that once again Devil’s Lake State Park visitors need to use caution and may not want to hike or walk dogs in some areas of the park.
Here are some tips for hikers during this time of year.
Know the dates – In addition to Deer gun season, there is archery as well as waterfowl and other small game seasons. Here in Wisconsin, you can check dates here.
Know if hunting is allowed in the park or natural area you intend to hike in. The answer at Devil’s Lake State Park is YES. So you need to know where hunting is permitted. Please review this map, the grey areas are non-hunting zones. What’s important here is that hunting IS allowed in the Steinke Basin area which is a very popular dog walking area AND a spot where hikers have learned over years that there is no enforcement of dog leash laws. So this is an accident waiting to happen.
If you’re planning to hike the Ice Age Trail be aware that some private landowners who host sections of the Ice Age Trail may close the portion of the Trail that runs through their property during hunting season. Also, the rule is that no hunting or trapping is allowed within 100 yards of the Ice Age Trail, but I wouldn’t bet the life of my family or pets on it. You can learn more about hunting and the IAT here.
“Private Land” signs are placed at any point where the Ice Age Trail enters private land, most often at a road crossing. Landowners and/or Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers also often place “Segment Closed” signs (with dates of the closure) at Trail access points.
Wear brightly colored clothing. Blaze orange and pink are the colors of choice. Also dress your dogs in bright colors as well.
Make noise. Just like hiking in bear country, be heard. For what it’s worth, you can’t hear bear bells from a distance anyway, so don’t bother trying that one!
Stay on the trails. Respectable hunters will know where the trails are and stay safely away. Mostly. Keep in mind that hunters are obviously watching for motion in the woods, so being off trail and bushwacking this time of year is unwise.
Avoid hiking at dawn and dusk. These are prime hunting times because it is when deer are most active. However, there has been info going around this year that deer have been active all day. That “news” will probably translate into more hunters out during mid-day as well. So don’t assume you’re safe just because it’s midday.
Be safe out there!