A couple weeks ago we were on the way out of Bushwhack and came across a bowhunter on his way into the woods. Anticipating having to explain why we were all carrying "mattresses," I was relieved when he simply asked if we'd had a good time. He also said that he'd seen one of us (either Vince or me) on the way out there the night before, but hadn't said anything because he didn't want to alarm us. It's a good thing he was a little more aware of his surroundings than we were! As we parted ways, he gave us the heads up that rifle and muzzleloading seasons were starting soon, which in his opinion posed much more of a risk to us than bowhunters, and encouraged us to wear bright colors for the next few months.
While hunting season is generally not something we take into consideration at places like Northwest Branch or Carderock, it's something we all need to be aware of when climbing in more isolated areas like Bushwhack and The Acre. Until recently, it's a safe bet that these areas have had far more traffic from hunters than from climbers, so as they're now adjusting to the additional pressure of having other people around, it's in everyone's best interest for us to make things a little easier for them. Here are just a few of the things we can do...
-Again, wear BRIGHT clothing. Half of us do already because we look better in the photos we all like to take, but right now it's especially important.
-If you're obviously the first one into the area for the day, park somewhere visible. A hunter seeing a car already parked when they arrive will have an immediate cue that other people are present.
-If your crashpad isn't brightly colored, consider tying something bright onto it.
-As you walk through the woods, conversation is a good thing. Normal volume is fine, somewhere in between scaring off the deer and being confused for one.
-If you like to bring your dogs climbing, or can't leave them at home, be sure to keep them close by.
-When you do encounter hunters, say hi. Be friendly. We're all there because we love being outside, and chances are good that the same hunters and climbers will be seeing each other for the next few months, so we might as well build a bit of a relationship.
I won't even attempt to list all of the different Maryland hunting seasons, but here's the 2012-2013 schedule. Stay safe out there!