The focus of this week's column will likely remain out of focus, as there are simply too many outdoor related options to pursue in depth.
Although the month of March typically heralds in the spring, it appears the winter weather intends to linger on a little longer, which is fortunate for the many pinheads and free-heelers who will soon gather in Keene Valley to celebrate the 11th annual Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival.
Hosted by The Mountaineer, the benefit event always attracts a lively and active crowd of outdoor enthusiasts, and it supports the New York State Ski Education Foundation's nordic racing programs and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, stewards of the popular Jackrabbit Trail.
As usual, the fine guides from Cloudsplitter Guide Service in Keene Valley will lead participants on a variety of backcountry adventures, and there will also be demos and mini clinics available to the public.
Sponsors for the event include Backcountry Magazine, Julbo and Dynafit. Additional sponsors Black Diamond, G3, Garmont, Madshus, Mammut, Marmot, Outdoor Research, Primaloft, Scarpa and Voile. Most of the sponsors will offer demo gear for participants to try free of charge at a Demo Day, Saturday, March 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Otis Mountain in Elizabethtown. Participants will be able to try out the latest skis, boots, skins and more. There will also be free clinics on skinning, telemark skiing and more.
Otis Mountain, located off state Route 9, about 4 miles south of Elizabethtown, was my hometown ski center, and it offers a wide variety of terrain, trails and some great memories.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has announced the recent big game hunting season established a new record for hunter safety, with the lowest number of hunting-related injuries ever reported.
According to DEC reports, the 2012 season included 24 personal incidents with just over half being self-inflicted. Sadly, two of those fatalities involved hunters that were shot by members of their own hunting party.
It is important to note the importance of mentoring, which may have been responsible for insuring there were no hunting-related incidents reported during the first youth hunt for deer conducted over the Columbus Day weekend.
Although the total number of hunters has declined by nearly 20 percent over the past 50 years, the rate of hunter-on-hunter related injuries has decreased by more than 70 percent.
Currently, the average of 5.3 incidents per 100,000 hunters represents a significant decrease from the 19 incidents per 100,000 during the 1960s, when there were also a lot more hunters in the woods.
While it appears hunter safety training programs have proven effective in reducing hunter-on-hunter injuries, there has been a steady increase in self-inflicted injuries due to the popularity of portable tree stands. From 1987 through 2006, 2.73 people per 100,000 licensed deer hunters were injured from a tree stand fall, and seven people died.
The rates increased steadily from 0.59 in 1987 to 7.08 in 2006, and increased most significantly with age, with the highest rate of injuries occurring among the among hunters ages 40 to 49, with a fatality rate of 1.4 percent.
Rightful gun rights
While I'm on the topic, New York-licensed handgun owners should be aware of a law that prevents news organizations or anyone else from using the Freedom of Information Law process to access the public records of all New York pistol permit holders. Records are available at every County Clerk's office in the state and they include the name, physical address and make and model of all registered handguns of all residents of that particular county.
Recently, a newspaper in the Hudson Valley used a Freedom of Information Law request to obtain the names and addresses of every Westchester and Rockland County resident currently in possession of a gun permit. The Journal News made the information available to the public on an interactive map established on their website.
Essentially, the newspaper provided every potential thief, home invasion specialist and other bad guy in the region with a list of where they could illegally procure legal handguns. The records even provided the make, model and caliber, as well as the total number of handguns available per household.
Fortunately, there is a very simple process to ensure the records of individual New York handgun licensees are no longer available to these Freedom of Information requests. There is a form, known as a NYS Firearms License Request for Public Records Exemption, which is available online or upon request at any local county clerk's office.
A generic copy of the form is also available online at www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/departments/clerk/Documents/FOIL Exemption Form.pdf. It only takes about a minute to fill out the form, stamp it and toss it in the mailbox. At the same time, handgun owners can toss away a lot of worry.
No good deed goes unpunished
Recently, Protect the Adirondacks, an environmental advocacy group announced plans to sue the DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency in an effort to prevent grooming equipment from being utilized on a new, 12-mile long, community connector trail which runs through the Moose River Plains.
The corridor was recently developed to provide a connection so that sledders, bikers, skiers and hikers can travel safely between the communities of Old Forge and Raquette Lake. The route was established after several historic routes that went through the Moose River Plains were closed or abandoned as a result of some rather contentious revisions to the Moose Rivers Plains Unit Management Plan.
The grooming machine in question, has been utilized regularly on the connector trail system to ensure the meager snow pack remains intact, and to provide a safe and enjoyable network of trails for winter travelers.
Snowmobiling is the region's most significant economic activity during the winter season, and a groomed connector trail allows sledders, who have historically concentrated in and around the community of Old Forge, to spread out to the periphery areas and spread the wealth.
Generally, I try to refrain from bashing any of the environmental groups, but in this instance, a good old, "I could've had a V-8" slap in the side of the head may be in order. What are they thinking?
Do doped fish get the munchies?
I may have discovered why the perch have been so voracious during the recent ice fishing season. I've heard many tales of anglers leaving the ice with several 5-gallon buckets full of perch.
The answer may have been uncovered in a study recently released by Sweden's Umea University, where researchers discovered that wild European perch ate faster, became bolder and acted less social after exposure to an anxiety-moderating drug known as Oxazepam.
According to the report, the residue of many drugs can be found in natural aquatic systems as a result of being excreted or simply flushed down the toilet. It is more common than most of us would want to believe.
In the study, researchers dosed wild perch with amounts of Oxazepam equivalent to those discovered in Sweden's rivers and streams.
Researcher Tomas Brodin, a lead author of the report published in the February issue of the journal Science explained, "Normally, perch are shy and hunt in schools. This is a known strategy for survival and growth.
"But those who swim in Oxazepam-tainted waters became considerably bolder, and the affected fish left their schools to seek food on their own, a behavior that can be risky. They also ate more quickly."