5 Things to Watch Out For in the Dark Woods

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Paying attention and keeping your cool when out hunting before sunup is key to anyone’s success, and safety. Here are a few thoughts on a few things to avoid…

hunting in darkness
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

by Jeff Johnston

ONE: Sticks and Pitfalls
The most dangerous thing you can do in the woods is to become so nervous that you get tunnel vision and begin “crashing through the woods.” If you do this, you may not notice a rock, a hole, or a steep ravine in your path. One of the common dangers while walking to your stand is to get a stick in your eye. Use a flashlight or wear a headlamp.

TWO: Your Gun or Bow
Make sure your rifle is unloaded and your broadheads are secured and covered while you walk in the dark. The chances of having to use your gun or bow in the dark are not nearly as high as the dangers of tripping with a loaded gun or exposed broadheads. Do not load your gun until you are safely in your stand with your safety belt affixed.

THREE: Tree Stands
Always make sure your tree stand is in good condition before using it. If you notice a loose step or something weird, wait until it gets light to climb and fix the problem, if you can. Never climb if the tree is icy. Always keep your gun unloaded and use a rope to pull your gun or bow up into the tree after you are seated safely with a safety harness attached.

FOUR: Streams
Never take a chance on crossing a deep or iced-over stream in the dark. If it is deep or swift-moving, find a new way to get to your stand in the daytime.

FIVE: Wild Animals
Most people who have been lost in the woods report “wild animals” as their biggest fear. Most of these people, however, never see these animals or come into contact with them because the real problem is their imagination. Sure, animals are in the woods, but they almost always avoid humans. If you are in known bear country, you should be aware of that fact, but coyotes, deer, bobcats, pigs and other animals are not to be feared. If you are in snake country, like South Texas, always use a flashlight to walk to your stand, and consider getting snakeproof boots for peace of mind. Realize that snakes can sense large predators and almost always slither off before hunters see them.

To control fear of animals, adjust your attitude. Instead of hustling to your stand, assure yourself that you, with your gun and your wits, are by far the scariest thing in the woods. You are the top of the food chain, the ultimate predator, and you should act like one. Slip quietly to your stand like you are hunting it. You will be less fearful, and you will see more animals once you get there. If you do see an animal, your best bet is to keep walking to your stand. If you have to, speak out loud. It will almost certainly run off.

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3 thoughts on “5 Things to Watch Out For in the Dark Woods”

  1. Using a flashlight or headlamp for ‘dark woods cruising’ is counter-productive. Night use of a light source trashes your NIGHT VISION for an extended time (seeing yellow &/or blue dots). Your best bet is to wear safety glasses…or wear a billed cap with the bill depressed…or hold your arm in front of your eyes. Always watch the ground in front of you! (Don’t allow anyone to follow too close behind you.)

  2. Seriously???

    “Do not load your gun until you are safely in your stand with your safety belt affixed.”

    “To control fear of animals, adjust your attitude. Instead of hustling to your stand, assure yourself that you, with your gun and your wits, are by far the scariest thing in the woods. ”

    Just try and forget your gun is unloaded, and if do you run up on a bear, you’re going to have to club the sucker to death with it!

  3. If there are other hunters carrying rifles, be sure to have your lantern/flashlight turned on as you walk to your stand. You don’t want to be mistaken for game by a slob hunter!

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