Cool weather and strong winds have recently combined to help defoliate much of the local hardwood forests. Without the camouflage offered by the typical thick, leafy cover, whitetail deer are much easier to spot.
However, whitetails will still travel primarily through the thick conifers or corridors of beech whips, which retain their leaves much longer than mature beech. Whitetails can blend into the beech whips and become essentially invisible. It's no wonder whitetails are referred to as the 'Ghost of the Woods.'
The rut has already begun in the Northern Adirondacks and bucks are already in the process of seeking does. Scrapes and rubs are becoming more apparent. While looking for love in all the wrong places, bucks will lose much of their natural wariness and a great deal of weight over the new few weeks.
It is the time to be in the woods as a combination of open woods and less wary, wandering bucks will certainly benefit the hunters. Throw a few inches of fresh tracking snow into the equation and it'll be a whitetail hunter's nirvana.
Coyotes on the prowl?
Know as a trickster, sneak, brush wolf or coydog, coyotes are again in the news.
According to news reports, last week a pair of coyotes attacked and killed Taylor Mitchell, a young, Toronto singer and songwriter as she hiked alone along the popular Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, in northeastern Canada.
Experts expressed shock over the incident, which most claim was completely out of character for a species renowned for its shy, elusive manner.
Although there have been reports over the years of coyotes attacking pets and livestock, and even a small child, it is extremely rare for them to attack and kill an adult.
"To me, this looks like two yearlings with very little hunting experience, very little experience with humans, probably very hungry, maybe a little bit desperate," explained Dr. Simon Gadbois, an animal behavior specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax "Coyotes are very discreet, very shy animals. They are also very curious."
If Mitchell ran from the coyotes or panicked, she may have triggered a predatory response in the animals. Gadbois revealed citing reports that indicate she had bite marks over her entire body.
In the Adirondacks, it is quite common to hear coyote songs on still, dark nights. The sound of their yips, yaps and yowls still carry for miles on the evening air, just as they have since the 1920's.
Yet, coyote attacks on humans are extremely rare. Despite a small number of attacks on people, most of these incidents have involved small children under 5 years of age. With over 3 million children bitten by dogs every year, the likelihood of a child getting bitten by the family pet is a million times more likely than by a coyote.
Coyotes exist on a diet that includes rabbits, birds, mice, chipmunks, grasshoppers or other small animals they can overpower. They also eat a lot of berries, which in late summer can constitute about half of their diet.
While many sportsmen believe that coyotes have decimated the Adirondack deer herd, the vast majority of their deer take consists of fawns.
Although coyotes can easily take down adult deer. "They're about twice the size of the western variety, weighing around 40 pounds," according to Gary Foster, a wildlife biologist at DEC Region 5. "They may not kill a lot of deer that way, but they can stress the herd and run them out of the area. We don't see a lot of the damage coyotes do during the season."
But, DEC readily acknowledges the impact that coyotes can have. According to Foster, "They're extremely wary creatures. It takes a good trapper to take coyotes consistently."
Hunting regulations for coyote have been loosened in recent years as trapping has not proven to be the most effective method of controlling the coyote population.
"We had a number of attacks on pets this past spring and summer. Coyotes are very adaptive creatures. We had some real problems with them this year in Saratoga and Fulton County and in the western park of the state."
"Rabbit hunters have reported losing beagles to coyotes and domestic dogs have been attacked as well. We try to reduce their numbers by hunting," explained Foster, "which is why we have such a long season. It goes from Oct. 1 until March 28."
Indeed, the rather relaxed hunting regulations for coyotes permit night hunting, with the aid of lights or light-gathering scopes. Furthermore, hunters are permitted to use electronic calls and even mechanical decoys while hunting coyote. Regulations even permit dogs to be used in the pursuit of coyotes.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org