Horses and Hunting
Posted: October 19, 2011
By Helene McKernan, PSU Extension Research Associate, Clinton Co.
Many hunters in the region are busy preparing for the start of large game hunting season. Horse owners look toward hunting season with a different perspective than the hunter may, for it is time for special precautions to ensure that horses remain safe during a time when both the deer and horses become “excitable.” Both the hunter and horse owner learn to balance the equation of the necessity and right of the hunter to maintain the PA deer population and the right of a property owner to safely maintain their property that is the environment for their horses.
I do not hunt, but those around me look forward to this season with great anticipation. I can understand the prospect of deer hunting season by relating it to my anticipation when taking my horse on a trail ride. Therefore, I would like to suggest in this article some suggestions that can contribute to an agreeing relationship between hunter and horse owners during the upcoming deer season.
If you own a horse that is not fond of gunshots it may become agitated, scared and behave abnormal. Extra precaution should be taken when handling and working around the horse during hunting season. Many horses will be aggressive and curious when unfamiliar objects enter their pasture, such as hunters, and instead of running away from the object may go toward that object. This can frustrate a hunter and can also put the horse in danger’s way of a bullet’s projectile. The best solution for a horse owner would be to confine the horse in a smaller sacrifice area or in their stalls during the peak times of the hunting season. Many horses have the same coat color as bear or deer and even though the hunter should be positive that they are shooting at the game in season, I would suggest not providing an opportunity for a mistaken identity to occur.
Since, the deer are rapidly moving through the area, fences surrounding a pasture can become damaged. Horse owners should take additional time to maintain fencing on their property during the hunting season. Hunters wear bright red/orange apparel to assist in helping others know that they are not game. Though, I do not urge anyone to leave a halter on a horse when in turn out, I would suggest that braiding some bright orange surveyor’s tape in the mane and tail would help assist in distinguishing the horse from game if the horse cannot be confined.
I would suggest that horse owners could limit their trail riding to Sundays, the off hunting day, to avoid placing themselves in danger and spoiling a hunter’s dream. In retrospect, it baffles me why hunters spend the day before hunting season starts sighting in their guns with repeated target shots. I’ve often wondered if they realize that they are alerting the deer of the potential danger for the following days and moving the deer from their usual habitat.
The hunter has responsibilities and should be familiar with the distance stated in the hunting regulations on hunting within a structure and/or in crop and pasture areas. Utmost the hunter should have permission to hunt on private property. By asking the farmer or horse property owner’s permission, most hunters will find that the owners also may be hunters and are agreeable to allow hunting on their property. This does not necessarily mean that the land owner wants to encourage hunters to develop a parking lot on their property! Hunters should park vehicles in an area that does not obstruct access for others and where they have permission to do so. The hunter should be respectful of removing all personal “trash” and respect the structures, fencing and any other objects within a property’s area. The property owners when knowing about a drive or hunt will take precautions to safely secure their horse or other livestock away from potential danger. If owners have their land posted or will not grant permission then it is the obligation of the hunter to respect their wishes.
In conclusion both the hunter and horse owner can agreeably survive hunting season if both make an extreme effort to work together. Often it takes concessions on both the hunter and horse owner to secure a safe mental and physical environment for all involved.