"Wearing bright colors is always encouraged, whether it hunting season or not, and more so during hunting season,"
At the same time the bosque lights up with cottonwoods' fall colors, the mountainous forests around Northern New Mexico fill up with another sure sign of autumn: hunters.
But hunters are only one of the crowds that use the vast tracts of public lands in Taos County, both state and federal. To that end, officials with the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests are encouraging hunters and hikers to be well-prepared and extra observant before they head into the woods.
Getting lost is a big concern. Two hunters have recently gone missing in the Santa Fe National Forest. One hunter was lost Oct. 14 near Chicoma Mountain in the Española Ranger District but was found within 24 hours. The same day they were found, another hunter went missing around the San Pedro Parks Wilderness in the Cuba Ranger District but was found alive and well the next day, said Matthew G. Garcia, public affairs assistant with the Santa Fe forest. No hunters have been lost in the Carson National Forest so far this year, officials said.
"We urge that if you are to hunt in the national forests, establish a 'check-in/check-out' system with family members or friends," said Diane Prather, search and rescue coordinator for the Santa Fe National Forest.
"The fall months are especially dangerous with decreasing overnight temperatures and the potential for bad weather," read a press release from the forest.
"Because of the increased chances for injury or death from exposure, forest officials encourage visitors to prepare for fall hunting by wearing suitable hiking gear, such as insulated boots and packing extra clothing layers. Be sure to carry adequate water, an ample food supply and first aid kit. GPS is very good to have, but batteries can fail. Learn the area, carry extra batteries, study your maps, pack a compass and signal mirror. It is also wise to carry a safety whistle to let rescuers know your location over a greater area if you get injured and are immobile," it read.
Hikers and other forest users have to go prepared, as well. "Wearing bright colors is always encouraged, whether it hunting season or not, and more so during hunting season," said Carson public affairs officer Arnold Wilson. "Since hunts are forestwide, we encourage all users to be aware and respect other uses that occur in the forest," he said.
"Know before you go" by visiting the USDA Forest Service website, which provides forest users with information for a more safe and enjoyable experience: https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go. Leave No Trace is an agency partner that also provides excellent information about pretrip planning: lnt.org/learn/principle-1
Contact the local ranger districts or the forest headquarters for more information. The Carson can be reached at (575) 758-6200 and the Santa Fe at (505) 438-5300.
-- Cody Hooks
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