Take steps to stay safe hiking and hunting

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is recommending that hunters and hikers practice a few basic wilderness safety precautions and dress for the weather when heading out into the woods this fall.
“Just a few simple actions can ensure that hunters and hikers are prepared for a variety of conditions and situations,” said Maj. George Scribner of Vermont’s game warden force. “A little preparation is all it takes to have a safe and enjoyable experience outdoors.”
Scribner recommends hunters follow the following basic precautions:
•  Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return, and check back in with that person when you are out of the woods.
•  Always bring two light sources and extra batteries. A simple flashlight can mean the difference between making it home safely and spending a cold night alone in the woods. A cell phone is not an acceptable light source, as the battery quickly wears down when the flashlight is being used.
•  Wear proper clothing and footwear, and dress in layers. Bring along a waterproof jacket and pants, as well as high-loft insulation for keeping warm. Avoid cotton clothing, which can easily soak up water. Instead, choose wool, down, or synthetic materials.
•  Bring food and water.
•  Pack a map and compass and familiarize yourself with the area ahead of time. A GPS unit is also useful as long as you know how to use it.
•  Create a small survival kit and bring it with you every time you head out. This should include several fire-starting devices such as matches and lighters, fire-starting materials, a large plastic bag for keeping dry, a good knife, a whistle for signaling, and extra non-perishable food.
According to Neil Van Dyke, Vermont’s search and rescue coordinator for the Department of Public Safety, there have been several incidences of hunters and hikers becoming lost in the woods for extended periods of time in recent years.
“If you’re heading outdoors in Vermont in late fall you should be especially well prepared for a variety of conditions,” said Van Dyke. “A pleasant, sunny day can lure people into being unprepared for changing weather conditions or freezing nighttime temperatures if they end up getting caught out after dark. Anyone heading out in the woods should be well prepared to survive until help arrives.”

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