any tips for paddling during hunting season?

For me this is the season where gunfire becomes common in many of the areas where I paddle and even where I walk the dog. Gunfire makes the dog start shaking and I also prefer not to be close to it. I have nothing against hunters or target shooters and in fact I have enjoyed target shooting in the past. I’ve had lots of “close encounters” with hunters over the years while I am out paddling and none were ever a problem for anyone…except the one time my buddy and I had a shotgun pattern land right next to us but that’s a different story.

So today I am walking through the farmer’s field to the local put in with my canoe on a cart (and wearing my blaze orange hat) and as we launch there is a shotgun shot nearby so the dog is shaking for the entire paddle. When we get back there’s another shot so I have to put her on a leash or she will run all the way home…so as I pulled the canoe cart she pulled me like a tugboat.

Two weeks ago we were paddling up the Paw Paw and had an older man and his wife idling along in their powerboat and following us FOR A MILE and we finally got to the more wooded area where we could lose them and…gunfire! This time it sounded like many shots from a pistol. Pretty much in the middle of nowhere and a mile walk from anywhere so a bit of a Deliverance scenario. So we turned around and headed back, following my rule of “head AWAY from the gunfire”, and the dog was shaking the whole way back.

I guess I just have to stick to the more public spaces for a few weeks, or leave the dog at home.

where I live state parks limit hunting (national forest, state forest, wildlife management areas ,national river allow hunting) so I head to state parks when I want to avoid hearing gunfire. Typically I go out of state during the week of Thanksgiving (first week of deer season).

Don’r ride a bike through a group of hunters…

I have a hunter orange boonie hat from Cabella’s. It makes me feel better. My wife refers to it as “that thing”. LOL.

One time last Winter we heard gunfire while paddling. As we rounded the bend there was this couple shooting into the river. Blew the whistle and they stopped.

My brother and I encountered that on the Withlacoochee . We stopped until they quit. Never saw them.

Go to the coast and paddle the marsh.

Give random single blasts of the whistle that should be on your PFD. It lets them know there’s someone in the area to avoid shooting and scares away the wildlife they’re so intent on shooting even if you’re in the way.

What are they hunting? If it is birds, marshes could be a very bad idea because you are sitting about duck height in a canoe and usually with some high weeds on either side.
If it is deer, stay in the middle of any rivers so you are less likely to look or sound like one stopping to drink.
Might be a plan to encourage the dog to bark.

If you are paddling anywhere inland in New Jersey, you are likely safer skipping anything freshwater and taking your chances with the Great Whites. I lived in a fairly developed area of suburbs in my younger years. and about the only thing the damn fool hunters wouldn’t shoot at was a police car with lights and sirens running. Everything else, including my brother on his bike (on a road) and peoples’ kitchen windows, was fair game. Happily they missed my brother.

. Many of our marshes are sanctuaries.

Flack jacket

I think the least likely place to be confronted with hunters and gunfire is a couple miles out in the Pacific, but then there are a bunch of other things to be concerned with. Now and then there will be gun shots along the river, but I trust that most hunters know better than to skip bullets across the water with houses everywhere these days. My greatest concern in hunting season is still the nutty drivers on the road to where I intend to launch my boat.

Tom, it sounds like your main problem is with the dog. Not the dog’s fault - many are stressed by gunfire, fireworks, or thunder. Ours will either find a “hole” to hide in or climb on our laps, if even a cap gun is heard. We have had mixed results with natural “sedatives”, but your vet may have an answer if you must bring the dog during hunting season. Personally - I leave the dog home if I’m going to be around hunters or fireworks. I don’t need her trying to be in my lap while I’m paddling.

I haven’t had any trouble with hunters along the rivers. There may not be any reason to blow a whistle to scare game away from you. Critters don’t want to hang around you and your canoe regardless. Different species may act differently, but around here, all the ducks and geese tend to move off ahead of the canoe, unless they are hiding in the tules. They see you coming on the water or they see you from above. Hunters here have actually expressed appreciation on slow days, because we move the ducks by them for a shooting opportunity. Otherwise, we are just passing through and cause them only a brief break in the action. Never have I had a conflict with waterfowl hunters. Those guys with the fly rods are another story…

Yeah, I’ve had bird shot land near me. If it goes up, it has to come down somewhere. But most of the energy is spent by then and is no more dangerous than hail. It’s a good idea to wear a hat anyway.

Deer hunters? I don’t know what that’s about. I never hunted deer in a river or a lake, and I haven’t seen anyone doing that here. I suppose it happens somewhere. None of the hunters I know are fond of the idea of fishing a dead deer out of the water.

I am a hunter and often in the woods during hunting season. I wouldn’t let hunting stop me from paddling.

As for the whistle scaring deer I suppose if it saw you blow the whistle it might run otherwise I doubt it would react other than to stop look and listen. A whistle would let hunters know you were there thought. Wear visible clothing and PFD, and play a radio on low volume as you paddle should be more than enough to alert hunters near the river if you are concerned about it. There are crazies year round not just hunting seasons. Paddling wildlife sanctuaries and open water are both ways to avoid hunters.

Tom, you might want to check up on how hunting dogs are trained not to be gun shy.

I really appreciate everyone’s comments and ideas.

@tdaniel said:
where I live state parks limit hunting (national forest, state forest, wildlife management areas ,national river allow hunting) so I head to state parks when I want to avoid hearing gunfire. Typically I go out of state during the week of Thanksgiving (first week of deer season).
I had not thought about state parks and I will look into it since there is one nearby.

@grayhawk said:
Don’r ride a bike through a group of hunters…
I’d be happy to avoid hunters but unfortunately they tend to hide.

@tjalmy said:
I have a hunter orange boonie hat from Cabella’s. It makes me feel better. My wife refers to it as “that thing”. LOL.
Yes, I have a blaze orange hat, a blaze orange vest, and a bright yellow windbreaker. I prefer the yellow windbreaker since for some odd reason I don’t want others to assume that I am a hunter too.

I like the whistle idea. I would only use it when I’ve already heard gunfire nearby since I don’t want to piss people off. I already give the dog loud and frequent commands when we are in areas that may have hunters. And yes Celia, I do sort of encourage the dog to bark sometimes.

Well magooch I love the idea of going offshore. I’m a canoe person but the idea of serenity during hunting season could make me look at something offshore capable (at least for hunting season). And while I agree that “most hunters” know better than to skip bullets across the water, “most” isn’t a lot of comfort and I’ve seen exceptions.

Steve, I do agree that in general it’s easy to get along with hunters. I also apparently flushed a goose that a guy shot out of the sky and then it landed within 10 feet of my boat (in Ann Arbor!). More fun for the hunter than me. And when I tell people about the shotgun pattern that landed near me everyone says that we should not have worried because the pellets would have little energy. I do not agree…and even though the hunter was over 100 yards away the pellets hit with a WHOOOOSH! and each pellet made a nice splash about a foot tall. I can’t believe that some jerk would fire a gun when he could actually see people in his sight picture. Also just FYI Zoey does indeed have her calming collar and also her tight fitting comforting coat that do help during thunderstorms…it’s just pretty easy to get surprised by gunfire this time of year; sometimes when I walk her I have to take her to three different places just to find one spot without gunshots. And I don’t know about hunters looking for deer IN the water but I know I’ve paddled right under hunters in tree stands.

I’d say … kevlar boat, kevlar clothing including hat, and kevlar outfit for dog.

I also use a whistle in black bear country when I’m hiking solo, or with a group and it’s windy. Every so often, or coming around blind corners on the trail avoids either of us being startled.

Can’t say I really care if it scares away the deer, though I hope it causes moose to move on because those massive creatures can get pretty ornery too! I doubt it would scare a partidge/pheasant. They just love to hide in the brush waiting to ambush you and scare the crap out of you.

I suspect your crack about deer is lakes was about my post, but I am sincerely confused about how you got someone shooting at a deer in the middle of the water from what I said about being nearer shore where a deer might stop to drink. Perhaps the deer in Idaho only drink from ponds and rivers where paddlers are banned?
The distance that bullet can go with dangerous velocity is at least the width of smaller rivers and streams that otherwise make for nice fall paddling around here.

Not knowing the hunt culture in your area, the only suggestion I can add is to rig up a neon-striped pole and pennant with some bells attached, maybe a cowbell. That would produce more of a steady sound than blowing a whistle. Let the boat’s movements in the water act as sound generator.

How about attaching some jingle bells to your dog’s vest? Gets louder the harder she shakes!

Keeping the whistle handy would still be good, plus it is required anyway.

Dress up like a cop. Unfortunately this is almost universally illegal.

Mount a cannon on your bow? Ok, now we’re just getting silly.