For sports fans, autumn is a time of overlapping seasons. As baseball season rushes toward the playoffs and the football season kicks off, it quickly becomes apparent that hockey season isn't too far behind. With basketball just around the corner and NASCAR still motoring along, it is a difficult time to decide what to watch and who to cheer for. Sometimes it's best to simply drop the remote control, skip them all and settle for the excitement a local high school football or soccer game.
Outdoorsmen and women suffer through a similar dilemma at this time of year, when geese fill the fields and ducks frequent the marshlands. Gun dogs begin pacing to get out in forest or field on the scent of pheasant, ruffed grouse or woodcock, while turkey strut about during a fall season that holds promise of a taste of the wild for Thanksgiving.
Landlocked salmon will soon begin their annual move up the rivers as brook trout begin to sport the magnificent splendors of spawn colors. For the same purposes, lake trout will move into the shoals as brown trout seek deeper pools on the streams.
In the deep woods or the farm fields, the river bottoms or mountaintops, big bucks and black bear will continue to stalk the woodlands. The seasonal transition is apparent on the hillsides, as a multitude of contrasting colors continues to creep across the usual green clad landscape. Heavy frosts will accelerate the process but most enthusiasts are willing wait and see it unfold incrementally.
As apples fall from the trees and mushrooms continue to sprout on the forest floor, the seasonal bounty of forest, field and stream becomes increasingly apparent. At the same time, the decision of which activity to pursue grows increasingly difficult by the day.
It is a time of grand opportunity and great indecision. Each day, the breeze grows cooler and the days get shorter, as wood smoke begins to scent the mountain air and a old, familiar mustiness greets those individuals returning to the woods for an annual, autumn jaunt.
There is a draw that brings us back into the fold of the forest, it is a sportsman's drive. Even dogs can sense it. They yip and pace at the back door with the first appearance of a shotgun. They know it is their time too.
This indescribable draw of the season does not solely affect just sportsmen and women. It beckons to all members of the outdoor community, from hikers to paddlers, bikers to birders and beyond.
Whether a photographer or a leaf peeper, a rock climber or a trail runner, the autumn woods beckon. And we simply must answer the call. For we recognize that autumn will exit before before too long.
Soon, the ski season will overtake the landscape, encapsulating it in cold, drab monotones as winter begins to settle in. Autumn offers a sampling of the best of all seasons, with bluebird days backlighting a snow capped mountain peak backdropped by a colorful landscape that yields a bounty of natural harvests.
Forget about sports, put down the remote and pull yourself out of the chair. Now is the time to get out and enjoy the finest season of the year, the High Holy Days of the Woods and Waters.
Don't gulp the season down all at once. Sip autumn's days slowly and savor them for a time when winter's bitterness is in command of the land. Quench yourself in fall's fullness and experience the season as it ripens, it is truly the sweetest time of the year.
Who is the average American hunter?
According to the most recent National Survey on Hunting and Fishing, conducted in 2006, 87 million US residents aged 16 years and older participated in wildlife related recreational activities. This number represents nearly 38 percent of the entire US population.
A total of 12.5 million people described themselves as hunters, with 86 percent primarily pursuing big game, 38 percent seeking small game and 18 percent hunting migratory birds such as ducks and geese. This figure is down from 13 million hunters in 2001.
The average big game hunter was about 45 years of age and devoted at least 15.5 days to the pursuit of big game and about half of that time to small game.
Hunters come from all economic backgrounds, with annual incomes ranging from below $20,000 to over $100,000. Combined they spend nearly $23 billion dollars annually on their pursuits according to the most recent survey.
The number of non-hunting, wildlife watchers in the country is estimated to be over 71 million people. The annual expenditures from this group is roughly equal to the combined expenditures of both hunters and anglers. The total for all groups combined is $122 billion dollars and sportsmen account for roughly $64 billion of this total.
The vast majority of hunters indicated that they were initiated into hunting before the age of 20, usually by a father or a father figure. Hunters who are initiated by a father or father figure hunt more frequently and are more likely to hunt avidly throughout their lifetime than are hunters who were not initiated in this way.
Motivation for hunting varies with the largest percentage (43 percent) hunting primarily for the sport and/or recreation. Twenty-five percent of hunters hunt primarily for the meat, 21 percent of hunters hunt primarily to be close to nature, and 12 percent of hunters hunt primarily to be with family and friends.
Although only about 7 percent of Americans hunt each year, a large majority of Americans, nearly 73 percent, approve of hunting. We are a nation that retains a pioneer ethic. Despite a steadily decreasing number of outdoor enthusiasts, a majority of US citizens still support our traditional sporting pursuits.
Of the current 12.5 million hunters, 1.3 million are women. Research has revealed that between 1985 and 1990, the percentage of women who went hunting more than doubled, while the percentage of males who went hunting during this same time period declined by 16 percent.
Although rural, white males remain in the majority of all hunters, the increase in the female hunting population have been attributed to the basic changes in attitudes and changing roles of females in general within American society. Women constitute the fastest growing segment of the hunting fraternity.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org