If any of the numerous predictions that the whitetail rut will commence in full force this week can be believed, I'll be spending a lot of time in the woods.
Outdoor travelers should recognize that last week's long, long journey will be condensed this week, as the hours of daylight grow increasingly shorter.
As most hunters know, during the spring and summer, deer travel in family groups. However, deer movement greatly intensifies during the middle of November as diminishing hours of daylight serve to trigger the breeding season.
It is important for motorists to note the increased deer movement as well, especially since it continues throughout the evening hours.
The peak periods of deer activity occur during the morning and evening hours, which are also when most people are driving to, or coming back from work.
Changing weather patterns also tend to compound the situation, with limited visibility, snow and icy roads a standard for travel in the Adirondacks.
Most local residents can relate at least one deer/vehicle incident. Living in the Adirondacks, it's a fact of life.
Insurance industry surveys indicate that nationwide, deer/motor vehicle collisions have historically experienced an annual peak during the month of November.
Despite claims that blame hunters for the increased deer movement, bucks travel extensively during this timeframe seeking does, regardless of the hunting pressure.
At this time of year, a buck's wanderlust has more to do with lust than wander. A mature buck may venture a great distance to find a doe, or it may never leave its home woods.
The major factor for determining buck movement is the buck to doe ratio. Bucks will disperse during the rut, but the most dominant buck will usually be holding tight to his home turf. Younger bucks have been found to venture over 5 miles distance from their home areas, in search of does. While on this journey, it is important to recognize that a buck may show little fear of vehicles.
Deer caught in the road by an approaching vehicle may not move out of the way, even if the driver honks the horn. They've only got one thing on their minds at this time of year.
Drivers should slow to a stop to allow deer to cross, and wait. Remember, deer travel in groups, and if you see one, you'll probably see a few more.
Paint by number, hunt by color
Here are a few facts and statistics to ponder as your wander during the hunting season.
Colors are associated with a wide variety of causes and campaigns these days. We've got Red states and Blue states, which are named for their dominant political persuasion and we've got white for wedding celebrations and black for mourning.
But only blaze orange is recognized for it's international appeal. Although fluorescent orange clothing has long been considered essential gear among many hunters, in some states, the use 'hunter orange' is optional. Currently, forty states require hunters to use some element of orange material, while in the field.
In New York, where the use of orange is still not mandatory statewide, a study determined that 94 percent of all hunters involved in incidents where they were mistaken for game; were not wearing hunter orange. The figure is even more startling when you consider that 81 percent of New York hunters regularly wear hunter orange.
I know many hunters who claim the mandatory use of orange is an infringement on their personal freedoms. However, when an individual in possession of a high-powered rifle mistakes them for a game animal, their personal freedoms are also likely to be infringed upon.
Moose River Recreation Area
Following the uproar over a proposed closure of roads and road access campsites within the vast Moose River Plains Recreation Area, the NYSDEC revised their closure plans. Fortunately, instead of engaging in a prolonged battle, the various factions came together in cooperation.
With the help of the local Highway Departments from Old Forge, Inlet and Indian Lake, the DEC was able to keep the proposed roads open to travelers. The move made it feasible for hunters to enjoy another season in the Moose River Plains, just in time for the annual NYS Muzzleloaders Rendezvous, and also allowed leaf peepers to enjoy the fabulous fall foliage.
In researching the history of the Moose River Plains, which was originally acquired by NYS in the 1960's, I came across a letter written by Tom Monroe, the former DEC Region 5 Executive Director. It was interesting to note that the Moose River Plains was initially purchased by the state with sportsmen and women in mind.
In his correspondence, dated 11/16/77, Mr. Monroe explained,
"At the time of acquisition,..a big play was made by the department indicating the property was being acquired with hunters and fishermen in mind. To accomplish this end, the state acquired the property by two separate deeds (one for the property and one for the roads) The purpose of the second deed for the roads was so that access rights could be acquired as other than forest preserve and no one could question the maintaining of the roads for vehicular access. The deed for the roads states, " for the purpose of better promoting fish and wildlife conservation practice on adjacent lands."
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org