Finally, the weather pattern has begun to look and feel more seasonally appropriate. With November looming on the near horizon, it's about time the area's peaks were white-capped and the ponds sealed over solid with ice.
We're already a month into the big game hunting season and the woods are still brown and crunchy. Gone are the days when local hunters could rely on having an adequate cover of tracking snow during the month of October.
However, the warmer weather sure is nice for the kids who may actually get to show off their Halloween costumes, rather than having them hidden away under layers of jackets, vests, hats and gloves.
Sean Moore, a 14-year-old from Lake Placid, has already earned a reputation as an experienced woodsman and hunter. He took his first wild turkey at the age of 12, and recently harvested a trophy 8-point buck during the second annual New York Youth Deer Hunt.
Fortunately, there's finally snow on the peaks and Ron Konowitz from Keene reports he's already enjoyed nearly a week's worth of fresh powder while skiing on the Whiteface toll road.
As the days continue to grow shorter, darkness will arrive before the evening news and outdoor travelers should be aware of the diminishing daylight hours. That long hike that was so easily accomplished just a few weeks ago will likely require a flashlight for the return trip by today.
Hikers, skiers and other woodland wanderers should be aware the big game hunting season is now in full swing. Many hunters will be in camp, while others will access their hunting territory on a day-trip basis.
If you are traveling in the deep woods at this time of year, it is important to dress appropriately in bright colors and make your presence known. If you travel with a four-legged companion, be sure he's got a bright collar and keep 'em close at hand.
Most hunters prefer to avoid trails as they really don't wish to interfere with your pleasures, and they don't want you to intrude on theirs.
The kid and the vet
A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to visit with outdoor professional Jim Zumbo, who has enjoyed a 40-year career as a professional hunter, outdoor writer and television personality.
Fortunately, I didn't have to travel too far for the visit, as Zumbo was visiting to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his graduation from Paul Smith's College.
Zumbo also enjoyed an opportunity to visit with Saranac Lake sportsman Bob Brown, who is a high school buddy from their hometown of Newburgh.
Zumbo has enjoyed a stellar career in the outdoor industry. It began shortly after he was hired by the U.S. Forest Service after graduating from Utah State University.
His first position was working with an old bounty hunter in Utah to exterminate mountain lions and other dangerous predators.
His qualifications? He knew how to shoot, how to chew tobacco and he quickly learned how to ride a horse.
He explained, "Every forester knew how to chew; it was an occupational requirement."
Prior to the visit, Zumbo spent time in Maine helping out with a Wounded Warrior moose hunt for veterans. He compared hunting moose to his favorite quarry: elk.
"It is a comparable species. You really need to have at least two guys just to get the meat out."
Zumbo also offered sage advice on hunting and hunting camp traditions. "I like to cook, and I learned how to cook well because I didn't have to wash all the dishes."
"I like to walk when I hunt, I'm not a tree stand hunter. But you know what really gets me excited is good old grey squirrel hunting. It's great training for hunters: you're observant, you learn to listen and to stalk. It's a great way to sharpen your eye."
As for deer hunting, he explained, "Go on the hunt when it is still so dark you can't even see your hand. Wait until the very last two minutes of the legal hunting time, and never, ever look at the antlers."
Several weeks after Zumbo's visit, I ran into an old friend who showed me the photograph of a beautiful buck his son recently took during New York's second annual Youth Deer Hunt.
The buck's big rack was nearly as wide as the proud hunter's grin, and he had good reason to smile. It was the buck of a lifetime.
After speaking with the hunter, who is certainly thrilled with the accomplishment, I got a feeling there'll be plenty more for Lake Placid's Sean Moore.
Over the years, his father Bill has shared a few of Sean's hunting accomplishments with me. Bill knows I'm an avid proponent of getting local youth involved in the outdoors and so is he.
I recall seeing the photo of a big gobbler that Sean harvested during the Youth Turkey Hunt a couple years back when he was just 12 years old. As a teenager, Sean's interests are varied. He is a three sport athlete, playing soccer, baseball and hockey, but even in this age of video games and virtual reality, Sean would rather be outdoors.
"Sure, I play video games," he admitted, "but I'd throw them right out the window if I had a chance to go hunting."
"That clinches it for me," I thought. "I really like this kid."
Later, when I asked Sean what his favorite hunt is, he claimed, "It's tough to say, because I really like turkey hunting, but I'd have to say deer, especially now."
However, in my eyes the finest accomplishment is the fact that at age 14, Sean is already a safe, capable and ethical outdoorsman, and yet he's not even old enough to drive a car.
When asked to describe his finest hunting experience, Sean didn't even hesitate, "I'd say it was going down to our camp in the Catskills and getting out with my cousins. Down there, we get to fill a few doe tags, and they're usually all over the place down there.
"My dad really taught me a lot about hunting. But what I think is interesting is not just the hunting stuff, but also the history. You know, you want hunters to be around for future years."
It wasn't the answer I expected, but it was the pure truth. It's also indicative of the character of this young man.
Certainly, he's got the right to be proud of his accomplishments, but there wasn't even the hint of a boast in the entire converation. However, I really wanted to hear about it, so I asked him again to describe the story behind his big buck.
At first he seemed hesitant, before finally explaining, "Getting a buck like that might not have happened if it wasn't for the youth season. It's probably the biggest deer I'll ever take in my life."
Then he paused to reflect for a moment and continued, "Or at least one of the biggest. When I saw that deer walk by, I was shaking so hard the whole tree shook."
"Really? How did you control it?" I asked.
"I like to hunt in stands because you can see the deer before they can see you," he revealed. "I usually take two deep breaths and then I release it on the third. But it's hard to stop the adreneline."
Digging deeper, I pressed Sean for his best advice for new hunters. He replied, "Just have the patience, be still and put in your time. It will happen, your opportunity will come."
"Any other tips or hints?" I asked.
"Yeah," he replied. "I put up a trail camera to see where the deer are moving and when. I saw pictures of that buck on my camera. I knew where he was coming out and I knew when. I just had to be patient and I waited."
I expect he's very happy that he did.