Although a recent stretch of Indian Summer days certainly provided a pleasant alternative to the cold, damp and gloomy weather that is so typical of November, the warmer weather had a negative impact on the hunt.
With the rut nearing its peak, the warm temperatures and bright days surely had a negative affect on deer movement. In such conditions, bucks don't wander as far, nor as often as usual. The cautious, more mature bucks may even limit their travel to nocturnal hours.
While there have been several fine specimens taken to date, most of the local buck contests are reporting low entries. The Rondeau Big Buck contest in Saranac Lake, which is one of the oldest operating in the entire region, had only two entries for the Regular Season as Nov. 16. The count was likewise at the Lake Clear General Store.
However, at the Ward Lumber Company in Jay, Mary explained, "Things are good here, we have 11 entries already, which is more than all of them last year. We are surprised that so many deer have been taken without any snow on the ground."
Ward Lumber, with offices in both Jay and Plattsburgh, often sees many entries. According to Mary, their biggest deer entered to date is a 202 lb, 8-pointer.
"What we really need now," an old time deer hunter told me, "is a good trackin' snow and some freezin' weather. That'll get the bucks on their feet and help to put some venison in my stew pot."
Sadly, I must report that DEC Region 5 experienced its first hunting accident of the new season on Sunday, Nov. 15. It occurred in the town of Plattsburgh when Gary Gambadora of Saranac discharged a 30.06 caliber rifle and hit Scott LaMare in the left leg.
Although there had already been a hunting accident reported in St. Lawrence County, the Plattsburgh incident is a first for the local region. And, it is one too many!
Champion Lands, Hunting Camps and the DEC
Good news coming out of Albany has been a rare commodity in recent months, but on the rare occasion that good word filters North, I'm pleased to share it.
On Friday, I received a DEC press release that detailed a proposed amendment to easements on the former Champion Paper Company lands. The proposed amendment is great news for hunters and camp owners that for years have leased Champion lands across four Adirondack counties.
The 139,000-acre land acquisition was completed by former Gov. George Pataki for $24.9 million on July 1, 1999. At the time, it was the state's largest preservation purchase in history.
The proposed action calls for a modification of three working forest conservation easements currently held by the DEC. These easements encompass nearly 110,000 acres of industrial forest lands.
The proposed agreement will provide the landowner with a permanent right to lease 220 recreational camp envelopes to hunting and fishing clubs and individuals on the easement lands. Each camp envelope will be limited to one acre in size.
It will also allow permit lessees to use motor vehicles on designated routes to access the leased camps.
In exchange for the easements, Heartland Forestry Fund III, which administers the Champion Lands, will convey the rights and title for 2,661 acres of lands to the state of New York, and will grant the public year-round access to and recreational use of the easement lands, which currently have seasonal restrictions until 2014.
The new 2,661-acre parcel within the Adirondack Park will be added to the state Forest Preserve in the vicinity of the Deer River Primitive Area in Franklin County. Also, a 515-acre parcel outside the Park in Franklin County will become a new State Forest. Together, these parcels will facilitate access to a previously inaccessible segment of Forest Preserve property, which will be open to the public for outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, camping and hiking.
The state's ongoing efforts to accommodate 'hunting camp lessees' on former lumber company lands has been a contentious issue in many corners of the park for a number of years.
While some have argued that such lands must be protected as Forever Wild, others contend that such 'working forest' lands are essential to the perpetuation of the forest products industry in New York state.
On former Champion lands near the town of Santa Clara in Franklin County, a number of hunting camps on leased lands have already been removed.
At the time of the purchase, many camp lessees in the Santa Clara tract were bitter with the state's agreement. After a bridge leading into the camps was burned beyond use, arson was suspected. When a DEC dump truck being used to haul camp remains from the properties later fell through a bridge leading to the camps, some suspected sabotage, though it was never proven.
Since that time, the state and Heartland Forestry, as well as The Adirondack Nature Conservancy have worked with a variety of other stockholders to explore options in efforts to maintain hunting camp leases.
Not only do these hunting camp leases play an important part in the traditional outdoor culture of the Adirondacks, they also serve to protect the land.
Hunters help control deer populations, which if not properly managed can severely limit regeneration by over browsing on new growth.
Additionally, camp lessees provide regular patrols of these properties. After all, they have a vested interest in protecting the properties from fire, invasive species, trespassers and other dangers. Camp lessees provide the eyes and ears that neither the DEC nor the forestry companies can afford to offer. And the land leases provide the camp owners with the opportunity to have a camp on lands that many could never afford to purchase outright.
It is such an obvious 'win-win situation,' it's astounding that it took nearly a decade to accomplish it.
Despite the obvious benefits of the effort, I expect at least one environmental advocacy group will announce a lawsuit or other legal challenge to the proposed easement modifications, if for no other reason than to prove, once again, that no good deed goes unpunished.
Written comments on the process will be accepted until Dec. 11, 2009 at 5 p.m. Address letters to Heather Carl at NYS DEC, Division of Lands and Forests, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4255 or Email: HFF3DEIS@gw.dec.state.ny.us
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org