With so many people crowding into popular outdoor spots during the COVID-19 state of emergency, state officials are asking hunters and others to be especially careful during the upcoming turkey hunting season.

“While hunting is a safe, healthy, and highly regulated activity in Massachusetts, we want to remind hunters, hikers, bikers, equestrians and others to practice both social distancing and common-sense outdoor safety when visiting open spaces," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides

Hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians are asked to be aware of the upcoming turkey hunting season, which runs from April 27 to May 23. They are asked to wear a bright orange cap when in hunting territory, to keep pets leashed, and to stay on the trails. People should whistle or talk to make their presence known.

Hunters and non-hunters alike should be respectful of other users of the woods and fields. Hunter harassment is against the law, a media release from the EEA states.

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Turkey hunters are advised to always treat their firearm as if it is loaded, to be sure of their target before shooting, to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, and to have the safety "on" with no finger on the trigger. It's also the responsibility of the hunter to know where and when hunting is allowed.

"Be safe, be seen. Avoid wearing red, white, blue, or black clothing – these colors are associated with male turkeys," the release states.

All users of state parks, state forests, and wildlife management areas are asked to keep their "social distance" from one another, to stick close to home, to avoid crowded trails, and to be courteous and respectful of others.

“We want to remind the hunting community to remember and practice all of the rules of safe hunting, ethics, and courtesy,” said Colonel Shaun Santos of the Massachusetts Environmental Police. “Likewise, non-hunters should stay on trails, make themselves visible to hunters, and be respectful.”

“We want people to know that hunting is a safe activity and that everyone should feel comfortable using the woods at any time of year,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon. “Hunting accidents among hunters are rare, and incidents involving non-hunters are even more rare.”

Hunting hours during the regular turkey hunting season start a half hour before sunrise and end at 12 p.m. Hunting on Sundays is prohibited in Massachusetts.

Hunting is allowed within the state parks and forests run by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and within management areas run by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, but there are restrictions.

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