With the big game season beginning Nov. 21 throughout much of the southern part of New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos is encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to respectfully share the woods and follow some common-sense safety precautions this fall and winter.

“One result of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increase in the number of people participating in outdoor recreation as New Yorkers are looking for new adventures,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Since most public lands in New York are open to multiple forms of recreation, outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, including hunters and trappers, will be sharing these lands. Whether you are a hiker, hunter, nature photographer, mountain biker, or trapper, following a few simple measures can make your choice of recreation safe and enjoyable while sharing the outdoors with others.”

DEC encourages all outdoor enthusiasts-hunters and non-hunters alike-to wear blaze orange, blaze pink, or another bright color, especially during fall and winter. Doing so will allow these individuals to be seen more easily and from greater distances. In addition, wearing bright colors makes it easier for Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Police Officers, and other rescue personnel to find lost, sick, or injured people afield. Pet owners are encouraged to dress their dogs in blaze orange or pink or another bright color vest or scarf. Dogs should also stay leashed at all times.

Trapping seasons for many species are open throughout the fall and early winter. Although a rare occurrence, traps set for furbearers like raccoons and coyotes can also capture dogs that are not under control. Trapping is a highly regulated activity and regulations are strongly enforced. Trappers are required to take an educational course before getting a license and DEC works closely with the trapping community to encourage trapping techniques that minimize risks to non-target wildlife and other domestic animals. Keeping dogs on a leash is safer for the dog, for other people, and gives pet owners peace of mind.

Hunting is among the most popular forms of wildlife recreation in the state, drawing an estimated 600,000 New Yorkers. Hunting is safe and economically important, helping to manage wildlife populations and promote family traditions while fostering an understanding and respect for the environment. Hikers should be aware that they may encounter hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment on trails. Hunters should likewise recognize that they may encounter hikers and others enjoying the outdoors. Hunting-related shooting incidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare.

Hunters looking for solitude can minimize the disturbance associated with other forms of recreation by following a few tips. Before a season opens, when hunters are scouting for the perfect spot or stand location, take the time to check if the planned location is a popular one. Avoid crowding other hunters and recognize that if a hunting location is near a popular hiking spot, noise can be a factor. If a preferred hunting spot is too crowded, identify an alternative location ahead of time.

DEC maintains hiking trails in many areas of forest preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill parks, as well as in-state forests, Wildlife Management Areas, and Unique Areas open to hunting. Find recreation options by visiting DEC’s website, or checking out DECinfo Locator. Many trails are accessible to people with disabilities. Check out DEC’s YouTube playlist, with tips for how to plan and prepare for a hike, and DEC’s Hunter Education playlist for more information.

Hunting within State Parks.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation offer many places to hunt, including 81 parks, three historic sites, three golf courses and 50 boat launches that provide chances to hunt a variety of different wildlife including big game, small game, turkey, furbearers, waterfowl, and migratory bird species. In addition to a valid hunting license, all hunters wishing to take advantage of select hunting seasons within State parks will need to obtain a regional hunting permit for each individual park. Trapping is not allowed in State Parks. For information, visit NYS Park’s website.

PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL

This past summer, DEC and State Parks launched the PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL Campaign to encourage all New Yorkers to recreate safely, responsibly, and locally and to always treat fellow outdoor adventurers with respect. During the State’s ongoing response to COVID-19, New Yorkers across the state want and need to get outside for a nature break, which is good for physical and mental health. The campaign includes common-sense guidelines for smart and safe recreation, incorporating social distancing and wearing a face mask, planning trips ahead, choosing a destination close to home because public restrooms and restaurants may not be open, and visiting at off-hours. The agencies are also encouraging New Yorkers to take the pledge and use the hashtag #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal when sharing their outdoor adventures on social media.