Where to walk during hunting season

Plenty of Island properties restrict access to hunters.

Felix Neck Preserve provides protected trails where hunting is not allowed. —Caroline Brehman

The Island is famous for its picturesque walking trails that seem to wind endlessly through the thick woods, especially during the fall when the leaves turn their vibrant red and orange.

Deer archery season started on Oct. 7 on Martha’s Vineyard, and continues until Nov. 30, followed by deer shotgun season from Dec. 2 to Dec. 14, and finishing off with primitive firearms season from Dec. 16 to Dec. 31.

Even during hunting season, folks should feel safe and secure when taking their dogs for a walk or doing some leaf peeping on one of the Vineyard’s many nature reserves.

Thankfully, there are plenty of places to take a stroll during hunting season, where hunting is restricted and walkers are able to be totally at ease.

The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank is a great resource for all things hunting on the Island, including hunting applications and policies. They also offer a comprehensive list of properties on-Island that are nonhunting, and are considered to be safe for walking during hunting season. 

Felix Neck Preserve in Edgartown is a nonhunting property that keeps on giving, with great birding opportunities and a variety of brightly colored oaks and maples spread across a scenic and well-kept network of trails. It’s a great place to soak in the crisp air and immerse yourself in nature. 

To get to Felix Neck Preserve, park at Pennywise Preserve at the end of 18th Street South along Arbutus Park, and cross the street to get to the access road. Don’t park at Felix Neck Sanctuary to access this location. 

And of course, there is always Trade Winds Preserve in Oak Bluffs — a favorite for Islanders and their pups. Dogs must be kept on a leash, but folks can be assured that no hunting is allowed on this property.

To get to this gem, go straight past the Oak Bluffs fire station and onto County Road, and you will see airplanes parked in a large field. Park along the side of the road on the left.

Along scenic West Tisbury Road is the shiny blue disk of Sweetened Water Pond, where 

mellow terrain wraps around corridors of open field. Here, folks can bike, hike, and walk their dogs during hunting season without worry. As you drive along West Tisbury Road into Edgartown, watch for the rolling fields and a small pond on the right side of the road with a bike bridge traversing it. 

Whippoorwill Farm Preserve is another beautiful area to explore that does not allow hunting. A winding trail runs the length of the farm, eventually connecting to Old Holmes Hole Path, which runs north to Norton Farm and Blackwater Pond. 

Accessing this lovely walking trail is easy — drive down Old County Road past the intersection with State Road in West Tisbury. The farm will be located on the right side of the road, marked by an expansive open field. 

These are just a few of the many properties the M.V. Land Bank deems safe for walking during hunting season. 

But even though folks don’t have to worry about hunters on these select trails, the Land Bank land superintendent Ian Peach suggests wearing as much blaze orange as possible, and outfitting pets in the same manner. Throw on an orange hat and sweatshirt, and pick your dog up a blaze orange bandanna or vest to keep it safe as well.

Multiple Island establishments carry blaze orange, including SBS and Brickman’s in Tisbury, along with Good Dog Goods in Oak Bluffs.

“We definitely sell a lot of pet gear; we just sold out of protective orange vests for dogs, and will be getting more in soon,” said Isabelle Dupon of SBS. “A lot of people get the safety vests for pets, along with beanies and sweatshirts. It’s very popular during hunting season.”

According to Peach, Sundays are the best days to walk in the woods because there is no hunting allowed on Sundays. Also, hunters are most active at dawn and dusk, so consider avoiding these times if on a property where hunting is permitted.

For public safety, the Land Bank closes its properties that allow for shotgun hunting during Massachusetts deer shotgun season (Dec. 2 through Dec. 14).

“We want to make it safe and easy for people to walk all year round, even during hunting season,” Peach said.