The fall has always been my favorite time of year.
The cooler weather brings back memories of growing up in the Shawnee National Forest of Illinois during hunting season. For myself and many others, hunting has become a family tradition that involves great memories, stories, and providing healthy food year after year. I spent many days during the fall and winter months hunting deer, waterfowl, and turkeys, all while making great memories.
In order to set a positive example for future generations and continue building family traditions that revolve around hunting, it is important to follow the Leave No Trace principles. The following are tips from Leave No Trace about how to do so.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Most states require you to take a hunter safety course before you can obtain a hunting license. These courses go over firearm safety, ethics, and safe practices for hunting.
Check with land management agencies if you’re hunting on public land. Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations. Get permission to hunt on private land. Make sure you have the proper tags and licenses, and obey bag/possession limits.
Carry extra food, clothing, first aid, and be prepared for extreme weather. Tell your family/friends where you will be and when you plan on coming back.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
If you are hunting in the backcountry, choose a campsite that will have the least amount of impact to the area and keep your campsite small.
When using ATV’s, stay on established trails. Avoid driving through riparian areas and creating new trails. Leave gates as you find them, unless noted otherwise.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack out your trash. This includes spent brass, shotgun shells, and leftover food.
Drag gut piles away from water sources, trails, or highly visited areas, as they attract bears, wolves, and coyotes.
Wash yourself and tools away from streams or lakes using biodegradable soap.
Leave What you Find
Observe cultural and historic artifacts instead of touching/taking them.
Sight in your firearms at home or a shooting range, away from the area you will be hunting.
Use manufactured blinds instead of tree branches or other vegetation. Avoid transporting non-native seeds and vegetation.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
If you’re camping, try using an established fire ring or fire pan. If possible, use a camp stove.
Keep trash out of your fire, as it usually doesn’t burn completely and can attract wildlife.
Keep your fire small. Use sticks that are already on the ground and can be broken by hand.
Take only clean, safe killing shots, then properly retrieve and handle your game. If the weather is warm, clean and cool your game as quickly as possible.
Never feed animals, as it can damage their health, alters their natural behavior, and can expose them to predators.
Store your food and trash securely and only hunt animals that are in season.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t shoot near developed areas, near campsites, or across roads.
Be respectful towards other hunters and visitors to protect the quality of their experience.
Be aware of your firearm around others. Always keep it pointed in a safe direction.
Following these principles can help protect and preserve the areas we enjoy hunting, and ensures their use for future generations. Hopefully, you’ll have a successful season and make great memories!