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If you are walking on trail, and a game trail heads off in an interesting direction is it ever a bad idea to follow it? If so how would you know when it is OK to follow a game trail?

This question assumes you have a good maps/GPS/skills and sufficient supplies. So getting lost and starving to death are not primary concerns.

Related Question How can I recognize a game trail?

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    Fresh bear sign might be one reason not to follow a game trail. You don't want to sneak up on a bear while it's foraging. – ShemSeger Apr 3 '17 at 15:28
  • not really a duplicate but relevant – user8348 Apr 3 '17 at 15:56
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    If you find scat on the trail that contains bells and smells like pepper spray, don't follow it. – Don Branson Apr 3 '17 at 19:31
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    Some animals - e.g. Tahr and goats, are very very good climbers. Their trails could lead you onto terrain you are not skilled of equipped for to handle. – user5330 Apr 3 '17 at 22:35
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    "When is it not a good idea to follow a game trail": when you meet an angry bear traveling the opposite direction. – dalearn Apr 3 '17 at 22:36
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Traffic Jams

The way that game trails are created is by animals walking on them and therefore you can have a higher chance of seeing them. Small animals will get out of your way but moose or bears would be a problem.

There really isn't a good way to tell that animals haven't been on a trail, since tracks can be hard to see, especially on hard packed ground. However fresh bear or moose scat would be a good sign not to go down the trail.

Also while game trails make sense to animals, they tend to disappear or wander or twist and so good navigation skills are essential. At the same time, they are usually the fastest and easiest ways of getting through dense forests if there are no human trails.

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    In other words, if you're a photographer... take the game trails! ;) +1, good answer. – anonymous2 Apr 3 '17 at 18:27
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The only negative that I can think of is an increased likelihood of stepping into a trap if trapping is legal in the area. While it is easy to find incidents of pets getting caught in a trap, there are reports of people getting caught in hunting traps too. Trapping is a charged topic, and there are even sites against trapping which purport to have lists of incidents. It seems like children are particularly vulnerable.

None of those incidents that I linked are strictly related to walking game trails, but traps are often placed in areas frequently traveled by the targeted animals so game trails logically are potential trapping locations. When I'm walking around I typically don't worry about traps, but it is something to be aware of, especially if you are with young children or pets. Then again I have never frequented areas where trapping was common. If you do live in an area that has trapping be vigilant, and if you see one trap assume others are around.

Overall I wouldn't consider this a deterrent unless the area was a known trapping area, and I had a curious dog with me. If both those conditions were true I'd probably stick to established trails. Otherwise, I say go for it!

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