Waiting for spring to appear

Turkey tracks can be seen in the snow. (Photo — Joe Hackett)

Over the course of the past week, I’ve enjoyed a few days skating on the local lakes and ponds which were recently resurfaced by another cycle of thaw-rain-refreeze. I also had an opportunity to enjoy a few days of skiing in the backcountry, where the deep woods offered shelter from last weekend’s fierce winter winds.

The heavy snowstorm this week provided a needed boost to the snow pack that had been diminished quite a bit. Even before the storm, there was still enough powder in the upper elevations to make things interesting, especially on the north-facing slopes.

Most of the local fire truck trails were bulletproof last week, but they still had just enough crust and dust to make them skiable. Barring the surprise arrival of warm weather or rain, it appears the current snowpack will remain intact for a while.

Most of the recent thaws have been followed by a deep freeze, which has helped to keep the local lakes and ponds locked under a solid cover of ice. As usual, the only consistent weather pattern has been the apparent lack of consistency Although I plan to continue skiing and skating as long as the snow and ice conditions hold up, I’ve already been sorting out the tackle boxes. I simply couldn’t wait any longer.

I still have to restock the fly boxes and polish the spoons. However, I didn’t even dare to attempt to attack the huge tangle of tackle in my garage. That will require a more thorough reckoning.

Wild turkeys were declared extinct in New York by the late 1840s. Efforts beginning in the late 1950s, however, have successfully restored the birds to all corners of the state, including the Adirondacks. (Photo — Joe Hackett)

With all of the weird and unpredictable weather we’ve experienced lately, I want to have the tackle stocked, locked and ready to roll before the opening day of trout season arrives on April 1st.

When the trout season finally rolls around, I expect we’ll still be cursing the fickle weather patterns that have become a signature of climate change. It wasn’t so long ago that ice-out didn’t arrive until the second or third week of May. However, I was fishing on the ponds on April 1 last year, and we could have been out sooner.

But there’s really no need for such haste. I don’t like to rush things when I’m fishing. I like to have plenty of time to get geared up. I’m usually just as bumble-handed at 7 a.m. as I am at noon, so what’s the rush?

As the snowpack begins to diminish over the next month, it will provide an opportunity for wood walkers to enjoy a few weeks of shed hunting. Whitetail deer will shed their antlers every year before sprouting a new rack. Although they rarely shed their headgear in the same place at the same time, the possibility of finding a matching set is more likely to be found where well-used deer runways cross streams or similar obstacles that can jar their antlers loose.

Similar opportunities may be found where deer are forced to bound over a downed tree or down a steep hillside. Finding a matched set is like finding a four-leaf clover.

The shed racks don’t last very long after the snow cover melts away. Once they are exposed, the antlers are fair game for mice, squirrels and other rodents that gnaw on them for the calcium.

This is also a good time for hunters to traverse their hunting territory to see if the big one that got away actually made it through the winter. Locating a set of big bones in your hunting area also provides additional motivation to stay on the hunt.

With the current transition of seasons, I expect the Great North Woods will be relatively quiet until the spring wild turkey season opens with the annual Youth Turkey Hunt on April 22 and 23. The regular wild turkey season runs from May 1 through May 31, with a bag limit of two bearded birds per season, one per day.

NYS Guides Rendezvous in the Catskills

It appears I’ve been negligent in my duties as a lifetime member of the New York State Outdoor Guides Association for failing to spread the word that the NYS Guide Association’s 36th annual Spring Rendezvous is set to begin this weekend at the Frost Valley YMCA in Claryville, N.Y.

The historic Frost Valley property was founded in 1885 as Camp Wawayanda. It was the first overnight camp for boys in the nation. Located in the Catskills’ scenic Frost Valley, it has come a long way since those early days. In fact, it has likely become much more wild over the years. The property also has solid Adirondack connections that date back to the 1890s.

This year’s event will be the NYS Outdoor Guides Associations’s 36th Rendezvous. As always it will feature a variety of seminars, skills demonstrations and training programs that will mix easily with the natural fellowship and camaraderie that’s always evident whenever there’s a gathering of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts.

In addition to the many Adirondackers attending the Rendezvous this weekend, the Frost Valley property has a resident herd of Adirondack natives that have been in residence on the vast Catskill mountain property since the late 1890s. Those Adirondack guests are actually descendants of an original herd of 25 whitetail deer that were captured near Paul Smiths back in 1895.

The small herd of Adirondack whitetails were shipped via rail from Paul Smiths to Frost Valley, where they were released within the fenced boundaries of the sprawling private property in 1895.

That initial breeding stock of whitetails was responsible for restoring the population of whitetail deer all across the Catskills, and eventually throughout the entire Southern Tier. It was, and continues to be, one of the most successful wildlife restoration efforts ever achieved in the history of New York state. To this day, it is not unusual to find a small herd of whitetails settled in comfortably among guests of the property, which is truly their native land.