Many hunters in Pennsylvania and in other regions across the USA are busy preparing for the start of large game hunting season. Horse owners look toward hunting season with a different perspective than the hunter, 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 must learn to balance the equation of the necessity:
- the right of the hunter to maintain the PA deer population
- the right of a property owner to provide a safe environment for their horses.
Those who do not hunt, must realize that hunters look forward to this season with great anticipation. A horseman can understand the prospect of deer hunting season by relating it to anticipation of taking a horse out on a trail ride. Therefore, hunters and horse owners must compromise to an agreeing relationship between each other during the upcoming hunting seasons.
Most horses are not fond of gunshots and may become agitated, scared and behave abnormally. 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, sometimes even in a charging motion. This can frustrate a hunter and can also put the horse in danger's way of a bullet's projectile. The best and safe solution, for the 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.
Some 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, it is suggested to not provide 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, horse owners are not urged to leave a halter on a horse when in turn out (can lead to injuries), they may during hunting season place a brightly colored red or orange halter making the horse stand out as a domestic "critter". Braiding some bright orange surveyor's tape in the mane and tail would help assist in distinguishing the horse from game. The best protection is confinement, but hunters must realize that horses need exercise and cannot be confined 24/7. Whether horses are confined in barnyard areas or in pastures, the owner is responsible to assist in making them visible so they are not mistaken for game.
In Pennsylvania, horse owners should limit their trail riding to Sundays, which is the off day of hunting, to avoid placing themselves in danger and spoiling a hunter's dream. In retrospect, it is baffling, why hunters spend the day before hunting season or the prior Sunday, sighting in their guns with repeated target shots. Do 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 rule book 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(s) 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 those 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.