Last week, I posted to my friends that I'd be riding at Rustler's Gulch if anyone wanted to join me. A few of them answered back quickly that I better be careful, because it's hunting season.
Yikes!! What to do?
I had images of people shooting from every tree. I had images of getting shot. I had images of my horse getting shot. But I told the girls who said they'd like to go with me to give me a little time to research. (This is my year of looking at challenges and not automatically saying NO.)
One of my friends found this wonderful article from TrailMeister. The gentleman who started TrailMeister, Robert Eversole, lives in our area. He's a wealth of information. I highly recommend reading this: Hunting Season Safety: Five Tips To Stay Safe On Horse Trails During the Hunt.
Tip #1 Be Bright!
Tip #2 Make Some Noise!
I tied a cowbell to my saddle horn and it made some tinkling sounds during the whole four hour trip. But whenever we were hidden in brush, I picked it up and rang it loud and proud.
(Leah did not look terribly excited about it, but she didn't complain much. By the end of the trip, she seemed to have figured out what I was doing, and looked happy at my ringing. Oh, that keeps us from being Cougar dinner. Ring away!)
*Backtrack: I also spent about 2 minutes that morning, before we left, walking up and down the aisles of the barn ringing the bells to desensitize Leah and Penny while they were eating their breakfast.
Tip #3 Be Knowledgable
I spoke to a lot of people beforehand, and everyone who knew that area said it was hunted only by special permit or invitation. They said that on a Wednesday mid-morning, it would be even less busy.
They were right. We didn't run into one hunter until we were leaving at 4:30 pm. Turns out, hunters prefer morning and evening.
#4 Be Prepared
Part of preparation is making sure your horse is desensitized to the sound of gun shot. At our house, we have our own shooting range, so that was NOT a problem. Our neighbors all have shooting ranges, too. Every day, you will hear gun shot within ten acres of us. My horses are all used to it. Tumbleweed was a bit scared at first, but even he is deaf to gunshot now.
#5 Be Friendly to the hunters.
As we left, we ran into hunters who were just starting out. They asked us if we'd seen deer. We told them no. In fact, I think we had scared every living thing in Rustler's Gulch clear to Canada, with all that bell ringing and talking and laughing!
So, don't miss out on an opportunity to ride during hunting season. Just be extra cautious and prepared for what you'll meet.