Fall is a busy time in the forests and woodlands of north Georgia.
Many visitors from metro Atlanta and surrounding areas come to enjoy the annual leaf color displays.
Fall is also a great time to take advantage of the numerous hiking trails and campsites available.
We also have to be aware that fall is prime deer hunting season. The official firearm deer hunting season in north Georgia runs through Jan. 1. There are many hunters out in the woods all the time during this season, especially on weekends.
Hiking and hunting areas often overlap. For example, even the Appalachian Trail often runs by areas that are designated for hunting, such as Wildlife Management Areas. This means that both groups share the responsibility to avoid interactions in the field.
All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1961, are required to complete a hunter education course before they are able to purchase a hunting license. The course emphasizes safety and responsibility, and has specific language that encourages extreme caution around heavily-used trail areas, such as the Appalachian Trail.
Every hunter has the responsibility to first identify a target before they pull the trigger. There are a few things you can do while hiking to help identify yourself as a non-target.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources strongly recommends that any hiker walking through a wooded trail during hunting season wear a blaze orange hat and vest. You can buy a hat and vest at Walmart for less than $10. Blaze orange is the recognized color for hunting safety. In fact, deer hunters are required to wear at least 500 square inches of it.
While on the trail, it is a good idea to make steady and constant noise. Talking with your hiking companions and whistling are good ways to make your presence known.
Don't forget to protect your pooch while hiking during hunting season. Dogs can easily be mistaken for wild game, so it is important to outfit them in bright colors also. Attaching a small bell to your dog's collar will also help distinguish it from wild game.
Hunting season awareness should not be limited to public recreation areas. Many of us have home properties that touch forest land and sit near land frequented by hunters. Never assume there are no hunters on your property just because you own it. It is still a good idea to wear a blaze orange hat and vest while walking through the woods.
Deer season is a relatively short period every year. This should not discourage you from enjoying nature during the fall.
Exercising reasonable caution and being aware of your surroundings can greatly reduce the chances of a hunting accident.
Please visit www.georgiawildlife.com for information on hunting season dates and which recreational areas allow hunting.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.