by Lawrence Furbish, Sanford Trails Committee
Some people have asked about the safety of walking on the Sanford Trails system during hunting season. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Sanford has a “No Firearm Discharge Zone” where discharging a firearm is prohibited. It runs from the intersection of Routes 4 and 109 in South Sanford to the intersection of 109 with Deering Neighborhood Road in Springvale, and it extends for 3/4 of a mile on either side of 109. However, it isn’t always followed, as hunters have been seen in some areas, especially along the Rail Trail above Oak Street.
- Discharging firearms is prohibited on the McKeon Reserve, a Mousam Land Trust property on Blanchard Road in Springvale.
- Hunting is prohibited wherever “No Hunting” signs are posted. However, in some cases landowners post their land but also give permission for some people to hunt on it.
- Hunting in Maine is prohibited on Sunday (but not in New Hampshire where it is allowed on Sundays).
The general rule in Maine is that if a parcel of land is not posted, it is open to hunting. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recommends that hunters ask permission, but they do not have to.
The times when caution is most important is the deer hunting season which runs as follows:
- Firearms – one day Maine residents only – October 30
- Firearms – anyone with a hunting license – November 1 to November 27
- Muzzleloader – November 29 to December 11
Having said all of that, for your own safety it is always a wise thing to wear some fluorescent (hunter) orange, a vest or hat or both, when in the woods or on trails during hunting season. It is safest to keep your dog on a leash, but if you are bird hunting or just want to let your dog off leash to run, put a hunter orange vest on it and perhaps a bell.
Try to avoid walking in low light times such as dawn or dusk. If you must, consider wearing a head lamp. If you see a hunter say hello loudly enough for them to hear you.
Most hunters avoid popular walking trails, but if the land is open to hunting, people can legally hunt from the trail. Hunters are people who enjoy the outdoors, carrying out traditions that have often been handed down for many generations. They must take and pass a safety class before they can get a license. The vast majority of people hunt very safely and are respectful of others in the woods. November is a beautiful time to be in the woods in Maine, but please be careful!