When I took to the woods earlier this week, a heavy frost had carpeted the ground and the air was still. As the brilliant, morning sun slowly stretched across the landscape, the silence of the forest was broken by the sound of thousands of falling leaves.
As the sun's warming rays chased off the frost, leaves dropped to the forest floor by the thousands. In a stand of poplar trees, leaves floated to the ground like big, yellow snowflakes, drifting like goose down on the morning's thermals.
Within a few minutes of sunrise, the noise from the falling leaves grew ever louder, drowning out the scampering of small animals and wakening birds. In the distance, I could hear turkeys leaving the roost as I waited for the warm rays of the sun to creep down from the tree tops to my stand.
This moose has been hanging around the Signal Hill section of Lake Placid.
(Photo — Bill Kemmerer)
The low drumming of a grouse thumping its wings was likely an attempt to warm up rather than an attempt to attract a mate. I wanted to do the same, to get my blood circulating, but I waited patiently for another half-hour, shivering and silent.
I knew that archery season was nearing the end and I hadn't really put in much time until now. Stubbornly, I waited until it was obvious that no deer would pass this way today and climbed down from my stand.
As daylight hours become fewer and the air grows crisper, visions of whitetails will increasingly invade the dreams of sportsman. Many of the "what ifs" and "if onlys" of seasons past will be played and replayed as hunters toss and turn in their sleep in anticipation of Opening Day. Maps will be unfolded, diaries checked and arrangements made for the beginning of a new season of chasing whitetails.
Although the archery season has already begun, the opening of muzzle-loading on Saturday will signal the beginning of the deer season for many hunters. And when the regular deer season commences on Oct. 24, the woods will be in a far different condition than they have been throughout most of the archery season.
By then, most of the hardwoods in the upper elevations will have lost their leaves and the forest floor will be noisy. Frost will have settled in, and snow will remain evident in the upper elevations. Whitetails, which will have been hounded for three weeks, will grow more wary by the day. The really old bucks will begin to travel primarily at night, moving safely under the cover of darkness.
The first taste of snow, which had carpeted the ground earlier in the week, will likely disappear soon, though most hunters would welcome the prospect of continued snowfall. While winter has offered a valiant attempt to seize the season, it's quite obvious that autumn remains firmly in control of the land. Winter will wait.
Where does a 500-pound gorilla sleep?
Most people know the answer to the question: It sleeps wherever it wants to. If you ask Bill Kemmerer of Lake Placid, apparently so does a 600-pound moose.
For almost two weeks now, Kemmerer has had a cow moose in his yard on Signal Hill in the center of Lake Placid village.
"She's been eating constantly, and then just laying down," he said. "It's very interesting to watch her eat the leaves off a tree, the way she takes a limb in her mouth and pulls off the leaves off the branch. It's like she's sucking on a straw."
The cow, estimated to be about 3 years old, appears to be very docile, according to Kemmerer.
"She beds down right in the yard. We kind of expected to see another one, but that hasn't happened. If you want to see her, come by. But be quiet; she's usually sleeping."
The moose had left as of Wednesday, but Kemmerer offers sound advice: As the region's moose population grows, spectators should exercise caution. Although moose may appear to be rather lumbering or slumbering characters, they can quickly become very dangerous.
Know the warning signs
According to the Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife, moose are usually fairly tolerant of humans; however, people should use caution when encountering these magnificent animals. During the mating season from September through October, bull moose are often more aggressive toward people.
Females during pregnancy can be very aggressive and protective of their young calves. Males can act aggressively, especially during the fall breeding season, and will defend their territories. Rule number one is to never approach too close.
When traveling in moose country, leave the dog at home, as even a leashed dog will agitate any moose you encounter on the trails. Moose have a natural hatred of canines as they are often harassed by coyotes or wolves.
It is important to recognize signs of aggression which include a moose walking slowly and deliberately toward you, ears laid back, licking its nose with the hair on the back of its neck standing on end. If a moose is acting aggressively, abnormal or seems disturbed by your presence, back away slowly and leave the area.
Charges may only be "bluffs," warning you to get back; however, take this seriously as even a young calf could cause significant injuries due to its size alone. If charged, run and try to get a tree, vehicle or other large object between you and the moose.
A bull moose may use his antlers when it does charge, but it often kicks forward with its sharp, front hooves as a first line of defense and can kick out in all directions. They can reach speeds of up to 35 mph and have even been known to take on passing locomotives.
Say it ain't so, Joe
The 77-year-old world record for largemouth bass, often considered the Holy Grail of freshwater fishing, appears to have been broken. Officials of the International Game Fish Association are currently reviewing the record application.
The current record was established in 1932 with a 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass taken by George Perry in Georgia. For more than 75 years, it has endured all attempts to surpass it.
Despite such advances as Spiderwire, Gary Yamamoto Senkos and flippin' sticks that are utilized by a half-million anglers driving boats that look like Indy cars to compete in tournaments that comprise a multi-billion-dollar industry, there has never been a bass to top the old Georgia farmer's catch in 1932. Perry's catch remains one of the IGFA's longest held freshwater records.
Given the immense popularity of bass fishing, no one really expected such a historic record to be broken by a good ole boy named Bubba. However, no one could have guessed it would fall to Manabu Kurita, who caught a 22-pound, 4.96-ounce bass on July 2.
Worse yet for Bubba and his bassing buddies, the record bass came from Lake Biwa, a reservoir located near Kyoto, Japan. Adding insult to injury, bass are considered by the Japanese environmentalists to be an invasive exotic that should be exterminated.
Kurita caught the monster while trolling a live bluegill-type fish. Technically, the largemouth didn't break the record, since it was less than 1 ounce heavier than the old record. The IGFA requires records less than 25 pounds to be broken by 2 or more ounces, so if verified; it would remain a tie. So there's still a chance for Bubba and the boys.
(Editor's note: This article first appeared in Saturday's Enterprise print edition.)