This dramatic pairing of a brilliant crescent moon with Venus occurred in the night sky over the High Peaks.
Last week, I had planned to write a column about the effects that moon phases play in triggering animal movements.
The story, as I had it framed in my mind, was to focus on autumn’s harvest moon, which occurs on Sept. 19 this year. The harvest moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox.
I wanted to compare and contrast the frequency of game movements triggered by the arrival of the harvest moon with those that occur as a result of the hunter moon, which arrives 30 days later on Oct. 22.
Many sportsmen, and sportswomen believe the first full moon of autumn marks the beginning of the first period of whitetail wanderlust and the second full moon begins the most intense period of buck activity.
Bucks may begin attracting a harem shortly after the harvest moon, but they rarely begin to breed until the hunter moon has passed in October. Predictions for this year’s indicate the dates of Oct. 24 and 25 may be the beginning of the annual rut.
According to legend, Native Americans considered the hunters moon to be the ‘medicine’ that caused deer to be so reckless.
As a result of numerous scientific studies, evidence reveals it is actually the diminishing hours of daylight that triggers the whitetail’s mating season.
I was framing the story in my head last weekend, as I drove back from New York City.
We made the long trip south to LaGuardia Airport to send our daughter off on a flight, as she’ll be studying abroad this semester.
Rather than deal with the heavy traffic leaving the city on I-87, I decided to take the Taconic Parkway for part of our trip home.
At the sun set, the moon appeared as a silver sliver in the evening sky. And as it sunk slowly below the far horizon in the early evening sky, Venus appeared to be perfectly aligned with the rising moon.
But when the moon soon went down below the horizon, the evening sky turned as black as the paved highway.
The Taconic features two, two-lane roads that are divided by a narrow strip of land that features occasional sections of vegetation. It is similar to the Northway, but with far more curves, narrow lanes, closer shoulders and a lot more cars.
Due to the roads many curves and frequent hills, the high beams of approaching vehicles traveling are often aimed directly at the windshields of vehicles heading in the opposite direction.
Visibility is often reduced to near zero while traveling head on into a long string of vehicles going south.
And even though the hunter’s moon was still a month or more off in the future, the red eyes of a thousand critters were everywhere.
Before the pitch black of night completely enveloped the roadway, I had already counted more than 30 road kills.
It appeared deer were moving everywhere! They were on the median strip, on the roadside, and even in the pull-over, parking areas.
I saw more deer in just a half hour of driving than I’ve witnessed in three entire seasons of hunting in the Adirondacks.
I also saw raccoons, rabbits, a red and a gray fox or maybe a coyote, several porcupines, and more eyes than I could ever hope to identify.
It was truly weird to see so much game on the move.
After leaving the Taconic to pick up I-90, the number of eyes reflecting in my headlights began to diminish, but there was still plenty evidence of their passing, and most of it was splattered flat as a pancake on the tarmac.
Although no trucks are permitted on the Taconic, there were plenty of 18-wheelers traveling the Thruway. Very little of an animal is left behind after being run over by that many wheels.
We made a fast trip through Albany, and soon the time and miles went along at a quick lick from Saratoga Springs to Exit 30.
As I turned left off the ramp onto Route 73, the dashboard clock read 2:38 am. The sky was pitch black and yet sparkling with stars. I was getting drowsy and dreaming of a soft bed.
After cruising through the infamous intersection of malfunction junction, I saw very few critters, but one of them happened to be a big doe.
I encountered it as I was cruising along the narrow, winding hill that drops down through Chapel Pond Pass.
The old doe was piled up dead, in the middle of my lane and with no room to maneuver between the deer and the stonewall that serves as a guardrail. I was forced to drive right over it. Welcome back to the ‘Dacks — thud!
The initial contact sent our little Pontiac Vibe airborne, but it was a short liftoff.
The vehicle promptly returned to tarmac. I was notified by the screech of rubber as all four tires touched down at once.
I will admit it was quite a thrill in the dark of night, following a 16-hour journey to the city and back.
I pulled over in a parking lot at the bottom of the hill to inspect the damage, and fortunately, there was no apparent damage to the vehicle.
The tin and plastic had survived, but my nerves were shot.
For the rest of the journey, I slowed down to a snail’s pace. I continued to encounter more spattered critters and I noted many sets of reflecting eyes on the side of the road before I got home.
I now believe the best time to be on the hunt is not after the harvest moon, nor even during the timeframe of the hunters moon.
It seems to me the ideal time to be out is when the crescent moon first appears in the autumn sky. Unfortunately, it appears about a month before the big game hunting season begins.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.