It’s Hunting Season! How to NOT Look Like a Deer When Biking and Hiking

Every year there are unfortunate incidents during hunting season, and this year is no exception. A mountain biker on a popular French trail was shot and killed by a hunter who mistook him for a deer. So do your bit to avoid a similar tragedy, and that does not mean having to stay out of the woods.

by Tamia Nelson | October 19, 2018

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Last weekend in France, close to the border with Switzerland, a 34-year-old mountain biker was shot dead by a 22-year-old-hunter while the cyclist was riding a popular mountain track. The hunter is reportedly suffering deep shock, and his father claims that the young man mistook the cyclist as a deer. This tragedy is a sober reminder to all cyclists and hikers who take to the trails during hunting season to do what you can to avoid “looking like a deer.” I don’t know of any deer who wear “hunter” or international orange clothing. (I have never seen a deer that rode a bike, either, but that’s another issue.)

Most of the year, I’m happy to be mistaken for part of the scenery. In other words, I work hard at fitting in” any time I travel off the beaten track. This means that drab is the signature theme in both my wardrobe and my kit. The photo below will give you some idea of my notion of backcountry haute couture:

Blending In - (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop -

But between the months of September and December my wardrobe gets a makeover. Drab is out, and flash is in. The reason? This is the time of year when big game hunters are in the woods. And while many hunters are careful not to squeeze off rounds at targets they can’t identify, there will always be exceptions. In short, I don’t ever want to be on the receiving end of a .308 Winchester Silvertip. So I do my best to look like a walking pumpkin.

I recommend this approach to everyone who wanders in the woods as the leaves come off the trees, whether they’re hillwalkers, dog walkers, mountain bikers, or a family out for a picnic. In the next photo, you can see how I’ve accessorized my basic backcountry wardrobe to complete the pumpkin look. The hat goes on my head, the vest gets wrapped around my pack (a second vest adorns my torso), and the red gloves cover my hands.

Not a Deer - (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop -

If you’re a cyclist, wear an orange or hi-viz jersey, gillet, or jacket—or a mesh safety vest—even if you’re not winding your way down single-track. Many back roads are bounded by private hunting preserves or public lands popular with hunters.

Orange and hi isn’t everyone’s favorite color, I know, but don’t yield to the temptation to follow the lead of old-style deer hunters and opt for tradition over function. Those red and black check “buffalo plaid” jackets look eye-catching on the pages of outfitters’ catalogs, but international “hunter” orange is far more visible under lowering November skies. After all, red fades to black in low light. (I’m looking for a pair of orange gloves to replace the red gloves in the photo above, in fact.)

The bottom line? “Hunter” orange isn’t just for hunters. It’s de rigueur for anyone who travels in the autumn woods.

Read more: ’Tis the Season to be Wary! | Cycling Safety and Well-Being | Arming Yourself Against the Guns of September

This is How to Bicycle Through Hunting Season - (c) Tamia Nelson - Verloren Hoop -

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For half a century, Tamia Nelson has been ranging far and wide by bike, boat, and on foot. A geologist by training, an artist since she could hold a pencil, a photographer since her uncle gave her a twin-lens reflex camera when she was 10, she's made her living as a writer and novelist for two decades. Avocationally her interests span natural history, social history, cooking, art, and self-powered outdoor pursuits, and she has broad experience in mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.