Westsylvania: Wear orange and enjoy late fall
The young man burst out of the underbrush at the tree line and ran down the cleared utility right-of-way to an orange-and-white “control” marker that looked like a small box-kite, suspended from a tree. Stopping just long enough to punch his control card, he was off again, running through the woods to the next destination on the course.
This man was orienteering, a sport where people use map-reading and compass skills to locate a series of plotted, fixed points. Because participants are timed, the serious competitors run as much as possible.
And this young man seemed very serious. He not only ran hard but was dressed for the strenuous effort, wearing sturdy running shoes and lightweight nylon of tan and gray.
Mountain bikers’ clothing tends to be specialized too — lightweight polyester jerseys and spandex shorts that provide freedom of movement yet prevent chafing. While cyclists’ clothing often is bright with bold designs and splashy colors, they are less visible than they think they are while moving through the woods.
Hikers, and especially backpackers, tend to be subtle both in presence and clothing. Used to long periods of introspection, many move along quietly, wearing gear and comfortable combinations of cotton and nylon that are earth-tone or soft-pastel in color.
But right now all of these outdoor enthusiasts are inappropriately dressed — if they aren’t overlaying everything with florescent orange on their heads, fronts and backs.
This is the heart of hunting season. Small game season is in through Nov. 27 (and in again later in December and January). Bear season starts Saturday and continues Nov. 22-23. Turkey is in-season through tomorrow, then again Nov. 25-27.
Of course Nov. 29 is Pennsylvania’s biggest unofficial holiday: the first day of rifle season for deer, which lasts through Dec. 11. Flintlock season follows from Dec. 27-Jan. 15.
Traditionally this was a time when hunters — and few others — were in the woods. But as other forms of outdoor recreation grow in popularity, message boards and e-mail lists are debating the question: Should recreationists stay out of the woods out of respect for hunters?
Tom Fazi’s answer was: “There’s plenty of room for everybody.” However, Tom — who is Southwest Region Information and Education Supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission — added: “We always recommend that people wear florescent orange so that hunters can see you.”
On state game lands 250 square inches (basically a cap and vest) of florescent orange is required, whether people are hunting or not. Orange also should be worn by dogs and horses.
Even off games lands, wearing orange around woods or fields during the hunting seasons is a good idea. The reasonâ¢ Hunters may be nearby. They may have permission to hunt posted land. They can hunt portions of state parks. And state and national forests are open to hunting. That covers just about all of our woodlands. Certain hunts even are permitted on Sundays.
Tom added a couple of common-sense suggestions: Consider staying away on the opening days of seasons, such as bear this Saturday, and the first two days and the two Saturdays of rifle season when many hunters will be in the woods. Try to minimize excessive noise. And if you see hunters, avoid them if possible.
“The same thing goes for hunters,” Tom said. “Other people can use the game lands. Hunters don’t have exclusive rights just because it’s hunting season.”
The Game Commission’s message for everyone is to be seen, be safe and be considerate. There’s enough room for all of us to enjoy our natural heritage in our own way – at the same time.
For more information on hunting seasons and regulations, visit www.pgc.state.pa.us or pick up a hunting digest from any license-issuing agent. Purchase of a license is not required.