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On Biking: When riding in the woods, beware of hunters

Posted by Emily Files  November 16, 2012 12:06 PM

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Two years ago I was on Cape Cod for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. On Thursday morning I got up early and went out for a pre-meal ride in the woods. A thick mist shrouded the trails and muffled the snap-crackle-pop of the sticks that crunched beneath my wheels. At that early hour I figured I’d have the forest to myself.

When I got to the trailhead I noticed an official looking sign. It read: “Hunting Dawn To Dusk Except On Sunday.” I had no problem riding through the mean streets of Boston, but the thought of a peloton of hunters scared me silly.

So I did what any reasonable cyclist would do: I changed plans and rode over to the town conservation land. The trails there weren’t as challenging, but at least I’d be safe.

When I arrived at what I thought was a vegetarian-friendly glade I noticed a half dozen mud splattered pickup trucks in the parking lot. I hadn’t expected to see so many other bikers out that early, but I figured they, too, were avoiding those Thanksgiving Day hunters.

And then I noticed that none of the pickup trucks had a bike rack. Also, cyclists usually have bumper stickers that read, “My other car is a bike” or “Save Tibet.” These trucks were festooned with bumper stickers that read, “I vote and I’m pro-N.R.A.” and “Sure you can have my gun, just as soon as you pry it off of my dead fingers.”

I walked over to a man standing next to his pickup truck. “Good morning,” I said, “Nice day for a bike ride, isn’t it?” The look he gave me suggested that he thought otherwise.

Then I noticed a black lab sitting in the cab of his pickup truck. The corner of that dog’s mouth was covered in foam and there was mud on his back. And then I spied a few feathers on the ground.

Next to the feathers was what I thought was the strangest looking bicycle pump I’d ever seen. It looked just like a rifle. And next to that pump that looked just like a rifle was the skinniest turkey I’d ever seen.

That's when it finally dawned on me: He was not cleaning his bike, he was cleaning his catch.

“Is it safe to ride around here and are they still hunting?” I asked.

“Don’t know and yep. That’s a bright green jacket you’re wearing and they’re beating the path down low for pheasants (ah, so that skinny turkey wasn’t a turkey after all). So I guess you’re okay. But next week I’d stay away. They’ll be deer hunting with a shotgun. Those guys are crazy. They’ll fire at anything that moves.”

At that moment I realized that us non-hunting bipeds do not own these woods (except on Sundays). It also dawned on me that the skeet and target practice club down the road was there for a reason. Those guys did not hone their marksmanship skills for the sake of honing their marksmanship skills.

And with that realization I decided to turn around and hit the road and not the trail. That way I figured it was less likely that I’d be hit by a hunter. Sure, I was disappointed, but I wanted to make sure I was still around for dessert. Cathy’s pecan pie is that good.

And so I pedaled along the shore, far away from those hunters. The view of Nantucket Sound was just as good as the view from the trail. Even better, hunting season would soon be over, and in a few weeks I would be able to safely bike in the woods. Until then I decided to stay on the road. It just seemed safer.

Jonathan Simmons is an avid cyclist. His book, “Here For the Ride” will be published next spring.

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