September is a busy month for hunters, as seasons open for squirrels, waterfowl, migratory birds, and white-tailed deer. As hunters begin scoping out prime locations and setting up blinds and tree stands, pet owners need to be aware of the risks of wandering through a hunter’s domain. While ethical hunters will not shoot unless they are absolutely certain of their target—and have assessed what is around that target—accidents can occur.

As you and your four-legged friend head outside, follow our Adamson Veterinary Services team’s tips on hunting season safety.

#1: Outfit your pet in blaze orange

There’s a reason hunters put on blaze orange before hunkering down in thick brush. Blaze orange or pink are two of the most visible colors when placed against a green backdrop, and can be seen from the farthest distance. Before heading out on a nature hike, outfit your pooch in a blaze orange vest, collar, and bandana for maximum visibility. Also, choose bright clothing for yourself, especially a brightly colored hat.

#2: Keep your pet on a leash

Regardless of how well your pet listens when faced with a bolting deer or darting squirrel, they should be kept on a leash or in a confined area when outside. Accidents can happen, and the lure of running wildlife may be too strong for your pet to resist if they are off-leash. When walking across open fields or in thick woods, opt for a shorter leash to keep your pet close by your side. Leave the long line at home until hunting season is over.

#3: Watch your pet for noise aversion signs

The earsplitting sound of gunshots can trigger anxiety in a pet with noise aversion. When shots are fired, you may notice your pet:

  • Pacing
  • Trembling
  • Vocalizing
  • Hiding
  • Clinging to you
  • Eliminating indoors
  • Trying to escape
  • Becoming destructive

Pets who display these signs when gunshots go off are often scared of other loud sounds, like thunder, fireworks, construction, or heavy traffic. If your pet has reacted negatively to thunderstorms and July Fourth fireworks shows, they likely will be anxious during hunting season if you live near an area frequented by hunters and can easily hear gunshots.

While guns can be fired from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset, the majority of shots take place early in the morning and late in the evening. Wildlife head out to forage around dawn, then return to their bedding areas at dusk, so hunters who set up along these routes have the best chance of filling their tags.

If your pet requires sedation for noise aversion, ensure you give it to them early in the morning, especially on the opening day of hunting season.

#4: Keep your pet away from animal carcasses

Prevent your pet from roaming in known hunting areas, where they could be drawn to a deer carcass or the organs from a field-dressed animal. Eating rotting carcasses can expose your pet to a host of pathogens—including bacteria, viruses, and parasites—that can make them seriously ill. Some of these pathogens also can infect people, so it’s best to steer clear of these areas.

Pets also can discover piles of wildlife feces as they explore hunting areas, which can expose them to parasites and to diseases that can be transmitted via the fecal-oral route, or through bodily fluids, including roundworms, leptospirosis, and distemper. 

In addition, predators and scavengers are drawn to animal carcasses. If your pet ventures too close, they could be viewed as competition for food and attacked.

#5: Avoid hunting areas altogether

Overall, it’s best to avoid known hunting areas altogether. Stay out of protected parks and fish and wildlife areas, especially if you plan on exploring off the trails. Instead, use hunting season as an opportunity to continue socializing your pet to the sights, sounds, and experiences offered by urban areas. You also can work on your pet’s obedience skills, asking them to sit, heel, and focus on you as they walk past distractions.

If your four-legged friend is set on exploring the great outdoors during hunting season, ensure you protect them from any parasites that also may be hunting. Give our Adamson Veterinary Services team a call to refill your pet’s parasite prevention.