Snow moths, aka Winter Moths often appear in the late Fall woods on warm days. The warmer weather often stirs them to come out from under leafy cover and fly about erratically. The sight of something white flickering in the distance, always seems to catch a whitetail hunter’s attention, especially when viewed out of the corner of an eye. I’ve spun around more than once to see nothing but a moth.
After enjoying one last, long day of hunting, I sat out on my back porch deck to watch the sun set. I stayed out long enough to see the stars begin to sparkle in the night sky.
It had been a good day to be in the woods and on the hunt. There had been adequate snow cover to illustrate the comings and goings of deer, and all sorts of other woodland creatures. Even a few winter moths were in the air, fluttering by and catching my eye with a I finished up the last day by taking the long route back to camp, which went up and over a long ridge that features stunning vistas of the surrounding hills and mountains.
I decided to go up there because I hadn’t climbed the ridge even once during the entire season.
The hike took me through some thick spruce, and lots of open hardwoods, but surely the finest part of my final journey was the time I spent sitting alone, atop a huge glacial erratic that is set on the edge of a wide open field of moss.
We’ve always referred to the clearing as the Big Grassy, even though the moss is so thick, it feels like you’re walking on a big, down mattress.
I guess my urge to hike over the hill was my one last chance to grasp for a little bit of the pieces and places that were still left in my season.
This year, I didn’t get into the woods near as often as I have in the past. It appears there were more responsibilities this year, and less time to escape them. It can’t be that I’m slowing down!
Overall, the season was a productive one, with a few nice bucks taken. The high point came when Poppy, the oldest member of our crew, took a buck on the first hunt of the morning of the season. The deer was promptly dressed, dragged back to camp and hung before the morning’s coffee even had a chance to cool.
When the Big Game Hunting season officially came to a conclusion on Sunday, Dec. 8, I expect there were many sportsmen and women celebrating another year of outdoor adventures.
Whether a tag was filled during their annual fall forays is likely inconsequential.
Too often, there is too much emphasis placed on the “take,” with little regard for the “give.”
After having spent many of my years in the pursuit of fish, fowl and game, I’ve come to realize and understand the true rewards.
Certainly, there are benefits of the wild harvest which may include medallions of venison loin, smoked wild turkey or fresh salmon. These are the tangible, and tasteful rewards of the hunt.
Such physical aspects of the wild pursuit and harvest are readily available. But what’s often overlooked are an equal measure of benefits that are rarely considered, except by those who share them of course.
Surely there are the physical health benefits achieved through long hours of hiking, climbing and occasionally dragging. There are also the important skill sets required in the process of putting together the necessary organization, planning and preparation to put on the hunt.
It has been widely acknowledged that any amount of time we spend in natural surroundings is more beneficial than a comparable duration of time spent indoors.
In fact, it is likely the camaraderie and regular tomfoolery of camp life that remains the most overlooked aspect of the sporting life. There is no sleep so deep to compare with a camp sleep.
Despite the usual snoring, wheezing and an occasional toot or two, there is nothing like a soft bed and a warm stove to restore the weary bones and sore muscles of a hunter who’s been busy tromping through the thick woods since before dawn.
Camp life is an experience that provides great stress relief, offers fine companionship and delivers a host of other positive benefits, including personal responsibility, punctuality and of course, compassion, communication and freedom.
Hunting camp is a most unique location where men can become boys and boys can become men. I’ve been reduced to tears on many occasions, when I was laughing so hard it hurt.
Unfortunately, less than 7 percent of the nation’s population continues to take to the hunt. Overall, participation levels continue to hold solid, due to the consistent influx of female hunters. All across the nation, traditional deer camps have been bringing in does to keep the numbers up. Hunters do indeed need to cross the gender line.
Hunting is an age old activity that helps to sharpen our senses, steel our resolve, improve our memory and hone our hereditary predatory skills. It is a natural activity Ithat requires regular practice to restore our innate hunting skills.
It also provides us with the opportunity to experience and explore the concrete matters of both life and death.
There is a unique change that comes over a person when they are far removed from typical human interactions. It is a process that’s been described as the “freedom of the hills.” It comes from a unique combination of primitive living and primeval adventure. Anglers certainly get a taste of it on occasion, but only hunters have to deal with it head on.
Freedom is likely the greatest reward a hunter receives in return for putting in their time in the woods. For many, it is the only such opportunity they have available throughout the entire year to shed the worries and responsibilities of everyday life.
For many, it provides welcome and well earned relief. And there are still a few intrusions from those who have to deal with cell phones, and those who have to deal with the folks who deal with cell phones.
Cell phones certainly provide a valuable purpose, but as an irate camper once pointed out; “If they can get ahold of you on the damn phone, they can get ahold of me. I go to camp in order to escape such intrusions.”
For those of us who continue to live by a sporting calendar, the seasons will continue to be defined by the outdoor activities that are available, rather than by some simple dates printed on an appointment calendar.
In the process, the seasons will continue to present new realities and provide unique challenges as weather patterns fluctuate, forests change and time passes more swiftly than before.
Through it all, there will remain only one core tenet, which can only be found huddled around a warm stove on a cold evening in camp. Camps may come and go, in all shapes, sizes and comfort ranges.
But it isn’t the physical structure of camp that provides the main attraction. It is the camaraderie of the hunt, of the shared chores, and the near misses that must be shared.
The season is officially over, and my next trip into camp will probably require skis. I’ll likely be back soon to seal up a few cracks; rodent-proof a few holes and pack out one last load. Then, I’ll sit and stare at the coals which glow in the stove and begin planning for next year’s adventure. Maybe I’ll start the year by climbing the far ridge, while I still have the energy.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.