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A hard lesson in hunting preparedness

November 1, 2014
By JOE HACKETT - Outdoors Columnist ( , Lake Placid News

It's been a relatively wet week in the local woods, which made for quiet travel and expanded views. A heavy carpet of leaves now rests on the forest floor, and even the whips have shed most of their fall finery.

Although the regular big game season - aka "rifle season" - kicked off just last weekend, it appears the whitetail rut is already in progress. In recent days, I've discovered numerous fresh scrapes, rubs and evidence of does gathered together, which are all signs of the "rut" or breeding season.

I've only been out in the woods for a few days this week, but I did have the opportunity to re-learn a valuable lesson regarding preparedness while on my way to camp. Since time was limited, I decided to toss a small daypack on my back before slinging a rifle over my shoulder and hustling out the door.

Article Photos

This photograph was the only shot taken at a buck that crossed paths with Joe Hackett during a recent hunt.
Photo — Joe Hackett

I was off to a new watch, where I had witnessed a lot of fresh sign the previous day. I was hurrying while I fumbled with my new camera. Deer hunters should never hurry, but I wanted to get set up.

With camera still in hand, I approached a slight rise on the trail. I knew I should put it away, but I wasn't even in the deep woods yet. The rifle was still on my shoulder.

By the time I realized my situation it was already too late, and the big buck was glaring at me from less than 50 yards away. All I could do was shoot a photo, so I slowly raised the camera and took the shot, and then another. The majestic creature stood still and continued to stare right at me.

I got the shot, and in an instant he was gone. I laughed and cursed, and carried on. It was a valuable lesson that I again learned the hard way.

I expect rifle slings are responsible for saving more whitetails than any single piece of hunting equipment. I've now been handcuffed by a rifle sling twice. From now on, it will remain in my pack until there is a buck on the ground.


Sporting etiquette

Last week's column concerning hunting etiquette resulted in an unexpected barrage of comments, penned primarily by members of the hunting community.

The intent of the column was to illustrate a few simple, yet unwritten rules that all sportsmen and women should exhibit and practice in their ongoing efforts to protect each other, fellow woodland wanderers and the game they seek.

I realize the use of the term "hunting etiquette" may seem an odd juxtaposition when coupled with the concept of sport hunting. However, I believe the term actually provides a powerful message regarding ethical hunting practices. If the practice of such responsible sporting etiquette is eventually responsible for saving a single life, I'll consider my job done.

Sprinkled with a bit of common sense, the ideal of responsible recreation recognizes that good sense and common courtesy are essential elements in providing all outdoor enthusiasts with an equal opportunity to enjoy the backcountry without spoiling anyone's experience.

Most experienced outdoor enthusiasts understand this concept quite well and they are often willing to invest the time necessary to enhance and conserve such opportunities for fellow backcountry adventurers.

In a sense, we don't really take to the hunt in an effort to kill something. Rather, we're attempting to restore an indescribable element of our heritage that still lingers in every hunter's soul. We utilize the process and practice of hunting to hone our instinctive skills in an effort to reclaim our heredity. Outdoor adventures are our means to escape civilization, and the ordinary orderliness of our daily existence.

We don't go off to the woods to escape from mankind, but rather to lose ourselves in the moment and restore a hidden bit of our past in the process. We discover it in the glowing coals of a campfire or in the sparkle of a million stars above. We feel it on the cold wind or hear it with the yip, yap and yowls of coyotes lingering on the hills around camp.

There's no way to properly describe the sensation since there is neither a distinct taste nor odor. But once it has been imbibed, you'll want to chase after it for the rest of your days.

It is the restorative scent of adventure, which sparks a primitive longing for the primitive times at the essence of every hunt. You will hear it rumble deep within and in the adventures you will continue to seek.

In the process, you will learn to walk with your head up and to fully utilize your senses. You will begin to listen and smell, and take the time to pause.

Sounds will come easily and you will again taste the wind. Natural signs will become obvious, and they will let you know when bad weather is on the air. Step up and step out: first come, first served.



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