Last night, prompted by a Facebook post - I decided to go for a post work night-ride with some fast folks.
Several guys and a girl showed up at 6:30 - I think seven of us in total. As we were readying the bikes / equipment an officer showed up - declaring that the trails were for day use. He didn't claim that we must leave the premises, but kept stating "for day use".
The group carefully selected not to engage in much conversation - just nodding our heads and generally going about our business. It was evident that collectively no one knew what to make of the situation (including the officer). He went on to say that he had a lively discussion on the matter with a local. The group remained steadfast yet uneasy - which likely prompted the officer to raise the stakes:
"There's hunting in this area..." "You don't want to get mixed up with poachers"..
We considered parking at a nearby house to prevent any ticketing just in case there *was* a law against such behavior, but in the end it appeared there wasn't anything legal keeping us from carrying on. So we headed out and had a ball (until my toes froze about an hour and 15 minutes in).
Sitting in the safe confines of my house this morning - I started wondering how often mountain bikers end up on the wrong side of a hunters sights. In my imagination - some hunters might take pleasure in tracking unknowing "prey" - but when it comes down to it, the likelihood is slim that they'll shoot another human. Especially if they know it is a human.
So - a quick search online using the words "mountain biker shot hunter" in various sequences was conducted.
Results: Almost entirely about a poor fellow in NZ who was hunting with a close friend. The link to mountain biking: He was a prominent local mountain biker.
Growing up in Vermont during the late 70's / early 80's - I'd head for the hills well into peak hunting season with some concern tempered by faith. To make matters worse: No helmet, no safety orange and all by myself. By some modern-day accounts I should be dead. This isn't to say there isn't or wasn't any risk, or that my parents were bonkers. This history is provided as a worst case scenario. There were lots and lots of hunters where I grew up. They may have had more open spaces than this part of the world - but the density was at least as high. The state practically shut down on opening day.
So the question: How truly risky is biking in high population hunting areas during hunting season?
Does anyone know of an instance where a mountain biker was shot at? I know of hunter / hunter shootings - but have never heard of any mountain bikers being involved. Is it possible the motion & sounds of mountain biking don't trigger the same trigger reflex?
When people do get shot - what are the most common circumstances? In my mind maybe its dusk combined with the sound of a single snapping twig and slow motion. Who really knows?
About 10 years ago I was riding in Douglas State forest alone - donning a helmet and orange vest. The ground was icy / frozen over, and the bike made a huge racket crunching through frozen puddles. I came across a hunter - who stated that I sounded just like a deer running. To this day I wonder if it was another case of fear-mongering or if I was truly stacking the odds against myself a bit further in those conditions...
For certain, we can significantly reduce the risk wearing orange and riding in groups. The suggestion from the officer that we were at risk had no basis in reality. I think we all know that was motivated by something else.
After this post, who knows.. I might be the guy who gets it. All to the satisfaction of a society driven by linear thinking - and a common desire for some tasty drama.
Ya see, I have this irrational fear of Karma.