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Hunting season

No, I don't mean KOM/QOM hunting season. I mean real hunting - heading out into the woods with a deadly weapon in the hopes of filling the freezer with meat for the winter. In Colorado, archery season kicks off at the end of August and goes through September, depending on the type of animal. Muzzleloader hunting is in the middle of September. And finally, rifle season for big game such as deer and elk started October 1 and depending on where you are, runs through November 20. Why are those dates so important? Because the middle of September through the middle of October is also prime leaf season and fall riding season. Riders from all over are converging on the mountain trails for the final alpine loops and golden singletrack. And most of them aren't thinking about the hunting season or the precautions they should follow to stay safe. That fact became quite clear last year during a late season trip to Salida and Fairplay. We met several groups of hunters, all decked out in their orange. And us? Nothing. I had to scrounge for something bright to wear for my long run.

So what should runners and cyclists do to be safe during hunting season? Hunters are required by CO law to wear at least 500 square inches of blaze orange above the waist, in addition to a hat that can be seen in all directions. And the orange camouflage seen in the sporting goods stores doesn't cut it - it hast to be solid. And as of August, fluorescent pink is also a legal color for hunters - as long as they follow the same rules for the orange. Obviously, every state is different and these are just the CO rules. I would encourage everyone to research what is required in your area or where you plan to travel - some states also require hikers to have some amount of orange on their gear. Think about that - 500 square inches of orange in addition to a hat. That's a lot - and the bright Enduro baggies, helmets and bikes don't always cut it. Runners are even worse - with most clothes being on the sedate side of the color scheme. We need to take a cue from the hunters and make sure that there is something blaze orange in our riding and running gears during hunting season.

Blaze orange and Fluorescent pink - two colors highly recommended for wearing during hunting season.
 Here are some other tips for riding and running during hunting season:
- Know when the hunting seasons are and in what areas. Different areas of the state are open for hunting at different times.
- Be aware of other vehicles in parking areas and at trailheads. If there's an unusually large number for the area, there may be hunters around and you need to be aware.
- Make some noise like talking or using a bell. Sound travels and voices are a good clue that the movement isn't coming from an animal.
- Wear bright clothes. Reds, oranges and yellows are all good choices. If in doubt, getting a blaze orange hat or buff is never a bad idea. Even putting a blaze orange vest over your pack would help
- Along those lines, put away the tans and browns, and the white helmet. A while helmet over brown clothes and the rider having fun on the decent closely mimics a deer running away. If you don't have any other color helmet, tie some florescent flagging to your helmet to add some color.
- Don't forget about your trail dog! Invest in an orange vest for your puppy if you plan on taking him with you during hunting season.
- If possible, avoid riding at dawn or dusk during hunting season. That is prime hunting season and the low light makes it even harder to discern objects. Make sure you have lights if you are going out in the afternoon and might be caught out after dusk.
- Be courteous. While mountain bikers and trail runners have year round access to trails, hunters have small windows in which to pursue their sport and hopefully fill the freezer. And the tags and licenses are usually pricey...
- Check for closures. Some areas close trails during hunting season to ensure safety and provide for a better hunting experience. Make sure that your travel plans and riding plans won't be impacted by any potential closures.

Ready for hunting season? I am now! Same hat as in the prior photo.
Don't let the fear of hunting and hunters keep you inside during the prime leaf peeping and fall riding or running season. Just take some precautions to be visible. Common sense goes a long way in staying safe.