Eagerly waiting for the first big snow of the year

With the conclusion of the annual big game hunting season in the bank, outdoor enthusiasts will be forced to seek alternative adventures until there is enough ice and snow to kick off the season for snowshoeing, ski touring, snowmobiling, free-skating, ice skating ice climbing, backcountry skiing and similar hard-water or soft-powder pursuits.

Following fast on tail of a relatively snowless hunting season, the arrival of the first significant snowstorm of the new season can’t arrive soon enough.

The effects of our warming planet are again glaringly obvious, as grey, green and brown are again the dominant colors of the local landscape.

Without the advantage of snowmaking, there is very limited skiing in the North Country, whether nordic or alpine. Fortunately, the snow guns at Mount Van Hoevenberg, Whiteface and Gore have been carpeting the Olympic venues with snow whenever the weather permits.

Although the usual crew of powder hounds have already been laying tracks on the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, the skiing is always equal parts up and down, and the view always remains the same, when it isn’t in the clouds.

Without the benefit of snowmaking, the backcountry ski season will remain on hold. Nordic skiers often have an opportunity to get in a few early season outings on the local golf courses or truck trails.

Until the snow falls or safe ice sets up, outdoor enthusiasts will continue to seek alternative adventures. There’s always bird watching or bird hunting. There are also open seasons for for varying hare, squirrel and ruffed grouse, which continues through falconry season.

In order to hunt small game with a trained raptor, hunters must possess both a falconry license and a hunting license. Licensed falconers may take small game from Oct. 1 through March 31 in any area of the state open to hunting these species EXCEPT:

¯Waterfowl may be taken only during the regular firearm hunting season or during a specific period outside of the firearm season as specified by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

¯Common crow may only be taken during the open firearms season. A licensed falconer may take both male and female pheasants anywhere in the state when hunting under a falconry license. It is an ancient hunting method that has managed to survive in the modern age.

For more information on falconry, contact DEC Special Licenses Unit, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4752 or call 518-402-8985.

Sentinel Range Wilderness

DEC recently released a Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Sentinel Range Wilderness. A public meeting will be held Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at DEC Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook.

The meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to learn more on the proposed management actions in the draft UMP and to comment on the proposals. The meeting facility is wheelchair accessible. To submit requests for specific accommodations, call 518-897-1361 at least one week in advance of the meeting. Written comments may be sent to Steve Guglielmi, Forester, DEC, PO Box 296/ 1115 State Route 86, Ray Brook, NY 12977 or emailed to R5.UMP@dec.ny.gov.

The Sentinel Range Wilderness is comprised of 23,874 acres of Forest Preserve lands that are located in the Essex County towns of Keene, Jay, Wilmington and North Elba. The lands consist primarily of rugged, mountainous forest land with relatively few ponds and wetlands. Mountain views are one of the area’s main attractions, as is hunting, fishing and rock climbing.

Hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and climbing are popular outdoor recreational activities in the wilderness. The summit of Pitchoff Mountain offers outstanding views of the surrounding area.

Recreational use occurs mainly on the trails to Pitchoff Mountain or Copperas and Owen ponds. Most visitors are day users, but some camping does occur in the Copperas Pond area.

Much of the area remains undeveloped. It is an area that provides outstanding opportunities for solitude, unconfined recreation and truly wild lands. As a whole, day trippers prefer to travel on trails, while hunters shun them.

In the effort to protect the resource, and enhance the visitor’s experience, DEC proposes group size restrictions limiting group sizes to address impacts to natural resources and visitor experience. Regulations will limit camping groups to no more than eight people and day-use groups to 15 people. This is consistent with regulations proposed in other wilderness UMPs.

The department intends to close several designated tent sites, and develop a new tent site, in accordance with Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan guidance and address impacts to natural resources.

If the UMP is undertaken, there will be three campsites and one lean-to left in the wilderness. Construction of additional campsites is limited by the steep slopes of the area, a limited number of trails and the amount of day use. Rock climbers will have to comply with a moratorium on the placement of fixed anchors, similar to other wilderness UMPs.

DEC will accept comments on the draft UMP until Friday, Dec. 22. The draft Sentinel Range Wilderness UMP is available for viewing and downloading on DEC’s web. Paper copies are also available for public review at DEC’s Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook, DEC Central Office in Albany and at the offices of the towns of Keene, Jay, Wilmington and North Elba. Copies are available in electronic format for distribution on compact disc and may be requested by calling DEC at 518-897-1291.


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