Hunting seasons are upon us. In upstate NY, bow hunting season for deer just opened and various bird and water fowl seasons are now open. In addition, coyote season here runs from October 1 to March 27.
You can find out your local hunting seasons by contacting your state or regional Department of Environmental Conservation. Town and county clerks are often in charge of selling hunting licenses and can also tell you.
Why is this important for you and your Belgian? Our dogs can easily be mistaken for coyotes and even deer. A Belgian Tervuren, Laekenois or Malinois bouncing away from someone with the tail raised at all, showing the lighter color underneath, could be mistaken for a whitetail deer bounding away. And of course, even out walking our Belgians on leash we get asked if they are coyotes or wolves. A friend's recessive black Tervuren with a heavy coat has even been called a bear!
So what can you do to keep your Belgian safe? First, do not let your Belgian run loose unless you know the area and it is posted against hunting. Switch your walking and hiking plans to state and town parks where hunting is not allowed. Avoid wooded areas that fringe on hunting areas.
Make sure that you wear bright orange or red and put a safety vest on your Belgian. Our dogs even wear the vests when out in our pasture walking with me that borders land where people hunt. My personal experience is that bow season is safer than rifle season - if for no other reason than the fact that bow hunters get closer to their prey.
Vests can be elaborate or very inexpensive. Cabelas vest attaches to the collar and around the loin area with velcro straps. The Dog Vizvest is sturdy and washable. Muttmart also has a bright orange safety vest.
Talk loudly or even sing so it is obvious that someone is out in the fields and woods. You can always claim to be singing to your dogs. It is better to be thought of as eccentric than to be shot!
If your Belgians are used to ranging widely, keep them in closer. If you end up walking near wildlife management areas where there might be bird hunters, keep your Belgian on leash. You don't want to interfere with a hunter or their dogs. Some states also have laws about dogs running loose in the winter months to prevent dogs running down deer. Especially with the appearance of our Belgians, you don't want them out chasing deer. Laws may allow for them to be "shot on sight".
At least in my area, our local hunters are often hunting to literally put food on the table. Plus we have problems with deer overpopulation in some areas. Whatever your feelings on hunting are, we all need to cooperate. So plan your walks carefully and outfit your Belgian.