Are there any good parks to hike in around this time of year where you don't have to watch out too much for the hunting programs? I usually wear orange during the late fall/winter anyway, but with the hunting programs going on, and their somewhat confusing dates and times, it's hard to know if it'll be safe to roam the parks even in bright colors. It's not usually the shotgun hunters I'm worried about, you hear them when even from a distance when they shoot something and just keep away from where the sound comes from. I'm more worried about those bow hunters. You may not even see them, I'm sure they're pretty quiet and even though they're supposed to be courteous to anyone else using the trails, I'm sure they'll be less than happy if you wander into a "kill zone" and scare away that prize deer they've been stalking for an hour.
Just wondering if there are usually a lot of hunters out now or if they're really that big of a hazard. I know Hunterdon parks say as a default, restrict non-hunting visits to sundays because hunting isn't allowed then but for other parks, it's not always so obvious if there's going to be hunters there already or you'll encounter them sometime along your hike...
As an occasional hunter as well as a hiker, maybe I can help. Right now, in Hunterdon and South Morris, two seasons are in progress: Permit Shotgun, which runs til Feb. 7, and Winter Bow, which ends Feb. 16. At that time all deer hunting ends.
In the meantime, wearing orange is a good idea, I wear mine, while in the woods, whether hunting or not. Paying attention to the clock is also important. Deer are most active around sunrise and sunset, so that's when most hunters are out. Many, if not most hunters are out of the woods by 9:00 AM, and may return in the late afternoon, so you can time your hikes accordingly.
For a hike recommendation; on New Years Day we visited Stephens State Park in Hackettstown (hunting permitted). Pretty much had the place to ourselves, putting the first footprints in the snow along the White Trail. See Trail Conference map # 126 for details.
Hi Erik - Morris County has the same rule as Hunterdon, that county parks are no-hunting on Sundays. We generally just always wear orange in season, and while we try to avoid hunting parks it just becomes really difficult to plan hikes around that – especially factoring in that some trails are closed still from Sandy, or there can be snow cover (if hiking in snow is not your thing).
So we usually just end up going anyway, and Brom's note about hunters being active early/lake in the day is true. We actually seldom encounter any.
For a Morris County park with no hunting... have you tried Jockey Hollow? Lewis Morris that is next to it gets closed for hunts, but Jockey Hollow is in Morristown National Park and has enough trails to make a really nice hike.
We also have lots of info here: Hiking in NJ During Hunting Season.
Hope that helps a bit,