The leaves have changed and dropped, leaf peepers have gone home causing crowds to dwindle. It’s the perfect time to get on trail and watch the animals prepare for the winter months. November is hunting season here in Minnesota. Deer hunters have done their work creating game trails, working food plots, setting up stands and blinds. They’ve been waiting all year to get out in the stand, they are ready! And you should be too. Check out these November hiking tips to keep your hiking season going strong in a safe and considerate manner.
Know Before You Go
Deer hunting is all about conservation… and filling the freezer. With the conservation aspect in mind, there will be hunting permitted in some state parks around MN. Check out your destination prior to hitting the trail. Some parks have scheduled closures or limitations in the coming weeks for hunters to harvest the excess deer population.
Blaze orange is a hikers (and hunters) best friend in November. At a minimum, wear an orange hat, hot pink works too. Even better would be an orange vest. Obviously you don’t look like a deer walking in the woods, but safety first! Wearing orange will keep you visible to hunters and others in the park. If you’re trying to watch wildlife and are concerned about missing out by being too visible; don’t worry, deer can’t see this color. They can, however, see blue. Don’t wear blue if you’re trying to catch a glimpse of deer activity.
I am very pro “Never Hike Alone” and try to take my dog along whenever and wherever I hike. But dog’s have been mistaken for small deer in the past. It is obvious in the picture below that my Xena looks like a deer, especially when she frolics through the woods. Her color is accurately named “fawn.” Whether your dog resembles a deer or not, be sure your furry hiking companion is wearing a vest or jacket of orange or pink.
With the hunting seasons going on at the state parks, some parks are not closed but limiting areas to the public. Be sure to watch for signs and follow them to ensure the safety of both hunters and hikers. Check in at the park office before hitting the trails, they may have additional/updated information to make your hike a success.
This time of year we can have some pretty drastic temperature swings. It can be 65 degrees and sunny at the beginning of a hike and drop down to 30 degrees by sundown. Bring layers along and make sure to keep that orange hat on, even if it’s hot.
Autumn is the time of year when our sunlight hours diminish and eventually lead to the darkest day of the year, the first day of winter. Check the sunset time on the day you plan to hike. On a clear night, expect visibility for about half an hour after the sun sets. Ensure you’ve planned ample time to complete your hike before sundown. Shooting time also ends 30 minutes after sunset, with the limited visibility exit the woods before dark.
Be Considerate of Hunters
Even if you’re not a hunter, keep in mind that the whole point of hunting in the parks is to promote a healthy population. When deer become overpopulated it can have a devastating effect on the overall health of the deer population, native plant life, and other animals in the area.
Bucks in Rut
If a deer spots you in the woods, it will likely take off. That being said, if a buck does not leave in your presence, Do Not approach it. It could be injured, nevertheless, the velvet is off the antlers and they are in rut. A buck, even a young buck, can be quite dangerous. Give them space and let them go about their natural business. Nobody needs to be gored in the name of curiosity.
Wounded or Down Deer
Spotted a wounded or down deer? If you come across hunters looking for their deer, point them in the direction that you saw the deer. The goal of a hunter is to harvest their animal as quickly and painlessly as they can. Being unable find a wounded deer and end it’s suffering is a real blow to a hunter. Likewise, being unable to find a deer that is down is a waste. Be helpful and point them in the right direction.
Reporting a wounded animal to the DNR is another option. Keep in mind that this is a very busy time of year for the DNR as well and they do not have the manpower to respond to every wounded animal.
Reporting to DNR
See hunters in a No Hunting Zone or outside of the hunting season?
- Check the dates of the Zone you are in.
- Some parks in MN have different dates for their designated hunting season; those parks will be closed or limited to the public on those dates.
- Check with land owners to ensure they didn’t have hunters with permission.
- Remember that bow hunters can hunt until the end of the year and muzzle loader season starts after shotgun season.
- Do not approach poachers, this can be dangerous. Leave it to authorities.
If you are sure that you have a poacher on you hands: Report poachers to the DNR.
Enjoy the late autumn hiking season. The animals feel the change and pressure of the incoming cold. It’s the best time to catch wildlife preparing for winter. The deer are on the move, the squirrels are collecting nuts and seeds, some of the birds are heading south. It’s a much more active time of year in the woods than one would think. Simply sitting in the woods this time of year is great entertainment.