In a manner that typifies the contrary nature of the Adirondack region, a sudden burst of winter weather revisited the region just as the spring season was about to fully unfurl.
Birds had already returned, the wildflowers were up and the wily trout were on the prowl. Wild turkey were actively strutting and looking for a mate, while geese, ducks and loons had begun to festoon the local lakes and ponds.
Spring greens had already begun to grace the vacant hillsides, where the stark skeletons of the barren hardwoods stood naked against a backdrop of drooping spruce and pine boughs.
Thirteen-year-old Sean Moore, of Lake Placid proudly displays a 22-pound wild turkey that he harvested on opening day of the Youth Turkey season. The big tom sported a 10-inch beard. Sean was accompanied by his father, Bill Moore, on the hunt.
On the forest floor, wildflowers pushed up through the forest duff to produce delicate blooms of trilliums, trout lilies and a host of often unseen natural wonders.
Winter's ice had already departed, the lakes and the streams were running at mid-summer levels, clear and cold. Trout had been stocked in the rivers and anglers were out in force seeking native brookies on backwoods waters.
And then, ushered in by a brief evening storm, winter returned to deposit a nasty mix of snow and ice, as if to remind us with a cold poke in the ribs that nature is still in charge. We can never forget, and if we do, our comfortably uncomfortable surroundings will quickly remind us.
Although the spring turkey season doesn't officially begin until sunup on Tuesday, May 1, a number of lucky turkey hunters collected their longbeards last week during the annual spring youth hunt.
The youth hunt provides experienced mentors the opportunity to introduce new hunters to the sport and, most importantly, a chance to instill their ethics and reverence for the hunt.
There is no denying the fact that human beings are born to hunt. They are instilled with this need by nature and hardwired by genetic composition to be a predatory species. With an evolutionary tract that spans thousands of years, humans have become the planet's apex predator.
The hunting instinct exceeds both heritage and culture. It is our essence. We are a species that is motivated by a drive that is difficult to explain and yet impossible to ignore. And while some deny the urge to stalk and hunt, many choose to nurture it. They are the true hunters and the special youth hunt provides them with an opportunity to hand down their skills and wildwood knowledge.
Major components of this knowledge are special skills that a majority of people in modern society have long since lost.
Hunting has made us what we are today. It is an ancient activity that continues to bring us in contact with the natural world in the most natural way. Rather than being complacent observers, hunting allows us to become authentic participants in the wild cycle of the natural world.
Hunting provides humans with a complete immersion into the natural world. It is an activity that heightens our senses and satisfies an undeniable and indescribable primeval need in our soul.
The process of hunting turkey requires patience and long hours of waiting in the morning's stillness. It also requires an uncanny ability to outwit and deceive a wild creature in its natural environment.
Most of all, turkey hunters must learn to outwit their prey by calling the birds into shooting range. The big, clumsy, goofy-looking birds are not as dumb and slow as they first appear. In fact, they can disappear in an instant after picking up the blink of a hunter's eye from a distance of a football field.
If humans were endowed with comparable eyesight, they could read a newspaper from a distance of a quarter of a mile. But experienced hunters don't deceive a turkey's eyes, they attempt to deceive their ears by calling them into shooting range.
Our innate gift of communicating with wild creatures has never been truly lost, it has simply atrophied from disuse.
Although most humans have long since forgotten how to communicate with other species, there remain certain specialists like birders, hunters and animal trainers who have managed to maintain and hone this natural ability.
Calling is a unique hunting skill that is utilized by hunters to attract a wide variety of wild prey, such as coyotes, ducks, geese, turkeys, moose and even whitetail deer.
Calling prey is not a modern breakthrough in hunting skills. It is an ancient practice that dates back to at least 4,000 years ago when hunters discovered they could attract wild creatures into close range by mimicking animal noises, often a mating call or the sound of a prey in distress. Different birds and animals are attracted to different sounds, and it takes a good ear and a lot of experience to understand which call will attract which prey species at a particular time of year.