As we enter hunting season in Virginia, BRO is currently asking readers in our Switchback forum, “Should hunters and hikers share the same trail?” Unfortunately, as a timely coincidence, a 23-year-old girl was just killed by a hunter in Franklin County. The girl, a student at Ferrum College, was in the woods working on a science project, when she was mistaken for a deer. The hunter called 911 as soon as he realized what had happened. By bringing attention to this unfortunate incident, I am not intending to take a side on the issue. I instead bring it up as a reminder that while these different groups of outdoor enthusiasts coexist in the woods, it is important for both sides to be extremely cautious, so more tragic incidents like this do not occur.

Here are some tips for safety from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy:

For Hikers:

Know local hunting seasons—Specific dates for hunting seasons vary year to year and also by type of game hunted and weapon used.

Wear blaze orange—Wear a blaze orange hat and vest (and pack cover if backpacking), or hooded outerwear when hiking in fall, winter and spring.

Other Clothing Tips— Avoid wearing colors that could be mistaken for game animals—white or brown during deer seasons; red or blue during turkey seasons.

Be heard—Make sure you are heard before you are seen by whistling, singing, talking, etc., while you hike.

For Hunters:

Be alert for hikers and make your presence known to them—Many hikers are from urban or suburban areas and are unfamiliar with hunting.

Follow all hunting regulations—Hunting, possession of firearms, bows, and hunting knives are prohibited on National Park Service (NPS) lands acquired for the protection of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The use of off-road vehicles, including ATVs, is prohibited along the entire length of the Appalachian Trail.

Be sure of your target—On National Forest lands in 2002 and 2003, two Appalachian Trail hikers were shot by hunters who thought they were shooting at deer.