This question is definitely one that resonates with me. My great uncle was shot and killed by a hunter while out hiking one fall afternoon in the Adirondacks. The hunter mistook him for a deer, and in an instant, his life was gone.He left behind a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a young pregnant wife. While that situation was extremely traumatic, the fact of the matter is hunting accidents still occur today.Not only that, but as our society moves toward a “greener” stance, including adherence to Leave No Trace Leave No Trace ethics, we should look at some of the practices hunting entails and how hunting affects other individuals who share the same trails.Gutting a deer and leaving its entrails (a common hunting practice) is hardly adhering to LNT ethics, especially when my fellow backpackers even pack out their used toilet paper. The primary issues here are safety and respect for the environment.I also like knowing that I can enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature without having it infringed upon by sounds of gunfire, fear of death, or the sight of deer entrails. It might sound like I’m anti-hunting. I’m not, even given what’s happened to my family. I do, however, believe that hunters and hikers should have separate, designated areas for their respective activities. That way accidents can be avoided, and both groups can freely enjoy their desired activities.
—Jason Collier, Charlottesville, Va.
The question of whether hunters and hikers should share the same trails is a matter of safety and fairness. Hikers use trails throughout the year, whereas hunters are limited to hunting seasons. Mixing the two activities, especially during hunting season, can increase the risk for accidental shootings. Although I’m not a hunter, it seems unfair, and likely frustrating, to a hunter if an unexpected hiker were to disrupt an opportunity for a successful hunt. As an outdoor enthusiast, I do enjoy taking some risks that I control. Unless hikers restrict their activities to exclude hunting seasons, mixing hunters and hikers on the same playground introduces too much uncontrolled risk.
—Tom Conaway, Springfield, Va.
Hunters should be restricted to areas that are away from regularly used hiking trails. Unless hikers want to wear blaze orange there could be an accident if Bubba has had one too many brews. Maybe certain trails could be temporarily closed during hunting season to deal with overpopulation of certain species in targeted areas.
—Rodney Carter, Charlotte, N.C.
As a trail runner, I dread the arrival of hunting season. It’s extremely uncomfortable to be in the forest and hear gunshots, wondering if I will be the hunter’s next victim. It’s scary to think about what could happen, especially when hunting is allowed in popular, trail-dense areas. I’ve come across men with guns several times at Bent Creek while the forest was teeming with other runners, bikers, children, and dogs. I cannot comprehend the desire to kill another creature, especially under the pretense of sport and personal pleasure. I love being immersed in nature and being a part of it, not cruelly taking from it by the repulsive act of killing animals. Hunting should be restricted to private land or the most remote regions of public forest where there are few trails and users.
—Natalie Payne, Asheville, N.C.
I don’t like hunting, I don’t really want to be around people out in the woods looking to kill things. But why limit each other’s outdoor experience by regulating what trails we’re allowed on? We only have so much non-developed, non-ruined landscape left in the Southeast. Also, hunters may be valuable friends when some area needs to be protected.;
—Jon Livengood, Knoxville, Tenn.
I have no problem with hunters and hikers sharing the same trail. Just don’t mistake me for a bear or some other animal. Also, I’m pretty aware of where to go and what not to do during hunting season. I just avoid hiking or camping in areas where hunters consistently visit.
—Keith Davis, Waynesboro, Va.
Having been both a hunter and hiker I hear both sides of the argument. The simple fact, however, is that hunters and hikers are both out to enjoy nature, although they have different ways of doing it. Most hunters I know are extremely safe individuals and would not have any trouble distinguishing a noisy hiker from a sneaky deer. This is just another example of hunters and hikers unnecessarily butting heads. Hunters and hikers both want a clean safe environment for themselves and their children to enjoy.
—Bo Painter, Roanoke, Va.;
While the mountains belong to no one, and I do not believe we should limit where people can and cannot explore based on their intentions (walking, biking, or hunting), I do believe there should be some sort of guidelines. Perhaps it should be mandatory to wear a certain type of clothing, or perhaps times of the day could be designated specifically for hiking and biking.
—Nikki McDuffee, Standardsville, Va.
Hunting is a necessity when it comes to controlling some animal populations. The amount of deer in my area is getting out of control. I see them continuously being killed by cars. We have admittedly let development creep into what was once wild land, so animals don’t have as much space, but now we are getting into a matter of public safety. Deer darting across neighborhood streets are a major hazard that have caused accidents and taken lives. I am all for hunters helping with this situation, and if they have to use the same trails as hikers to do it, then so be it.
—Sean Winters, Ruckersville, Va.