Visitors from overseas, including these hikers from Germany, are often surprised by the vast expanse of land encompassed within the Adirondack Park.
Back in early October, I had the pleasure of leading a hike for a group of visitors from Europe. My guests were from both Germany and Switzerland, and this was to be their first hiking trip in the Adirondacks.
We decided on taking a rather easy climb, as the weather appeared questionable and the group was still adjusting to the time change.
It was a bright October morning as we departed the lodge, and piled into my truck. However, the sky gradually grew darker as the day wore on.
While driving to the trailhead, we passed numerous vehicle loaded with hunters, and eventually the conversation turned to the topic of hunting.
“It appears everyone is allowed to hunt in this country, are they not?” asked one of my guests.
“If they’re of age”, I responded, “And they have achieved a Hunting Safety Certificate. We have vast public lands, as well as extensive private lands available for hunting. Most private properties are reserved for the landowners, however some properties offer leases to hunting clubs.”
“I see”, he remarked. “I’m curious to know how much study is required of the hunter, before they are allowed to hunt?”
“Not a lot”, I replied, “I believe a majority of the hunters who take a Hunter Safety Training Course, receive a certificate.”
“Remarkable!” he remarked, before asking, “And how soon before they are allowed to go on the hunt? ”
“As soon as they leave the classroom.” I explained, “Unless they are under sixteen and too young, which requires they hunt with another licensed hunter.”
He appeared astounded, as he revealed, “It is not so easy in Germany! “Hunters must know their animals very well, as well as the lands they travel. They must also know their equipment, and how to shoot proficiently.”
Most applicants spend a year studying for their license, and about half of them fail their first exam. In fact, even the owners of private parks are required to study in order to hunt on their own land.”
Hunters must be respected, and respectful, since public lands are very limited. In fact, most hunters lease the lands they hunt, and typically, they function as game managers. In fact, if a parcel is less than 150 acres, a landowner who wants the right to hunt there, must compete with other hunters in bidding process.
Leases can cost upwards of $10,000 per year, for about 500 acres, and they require hunters to provide a game management plan, which is reviewed and approved by local officials. If the hunter does a good job of managing the land and the wildlife, the lease is usually extended.
My guests explained that German hunters are expected to memorize a wide array of game laws. They must be able to identify nearly every species of animal in the forest, as well as its sex and age.
Shooting skills must be precise, and they must also know how to develop appropriate wildlife management plans. German hunters are also required to practice elaborate hunting traditions, such as singing the proper song to honor the death of a prized stag, or offering a prayer to St. Hubert.
After explaining the intricate process of becoming a hunter in Germany, my guests were surprised to learn that St. Hubert is also honored in the states.
St. Hubert is the patron saint of hunters. He is also considered the patron saint for archers, forest workers, furriers and trappers, hunters and huntsmen as well as hunting as a profession.
He is commonly mentioned in the Adirondacks, and his name adorns churches from Tahawus to Keene Valley to Raquette Lake and beyond.
Saint Hubert, also know as the "Apostle of the Ardennes" was born in was born in 635 and died in 727.
According to legend, he was a renowned hunter and an accomplished poacher, who eventually repented his unsportsmanlike-like ways after observing a crucifix glowing between the antlers of a stag.
In fact, the image of a cross in a stag’s rack is still found on the label of Jagermeister, (Master hunter) a powerful liquor that is still bottled in Germany.
St. Hubert is also considered the patron saint of archers, forest workers, furriers, trappers, hunters and huntsmen as well as hunting as a profession.
Although I had attended Catholic school for a fair portion of my education, I was never told of the legend of St. Hubert.
It’s likely the management did not mention such notions in an effort to discourage any further youthful investigation into the elixir that bears his logo. You know, bad habits and all!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.