Learning to adapt to changing weather patterns
As another big game hunting season looms on the near horizon, hunters will again most likely be confronted and confounded by the obvious lack of snow on the ground, especially in the upper elevations. In the good old, pre-global warming days, Adirondack big game hunters could always count on a fresh dumping of snow to highlight fresh deer tracks on the ground.
As cold weather conditions arrived and snow was in the air, it was easy for hunters to read the signs that deer left behind. With knowledge of the travel corridors, and rutting, mating and feeding areas, it is often easy to find deer. However, the difficult part is seeing them before they either see, scent or hear you, which they can accomplish at distances of nearly a mile away.
In this regard, man does not have the upper hand, which l suppose is the charm of the endeavor. If it was easy, everyone would be a hunter.
Armed with such information, it was easy for hunters to set hunters on a watch while others pushed the animals out of the thick cover to the waiting watchers. It was, and still is, an effective tactic.
However, to accomplish an effective drive, all of the participants must work together to push the deer in the correct direction. This is not an easy chore when the wind is shifting, the snow is deep and the drivers are tired.
The deer certainly have the upper hand — or hoof — in this annual game of cat and mouse. In the effort to mask their presence, hunters will go to great ends that include bathing in scent-free soap and washing their clothing in the same. They will also put deer scent on their boots, or hang scent bombs in the areas they will later hunt.
The deer drive requires hunters to set up a group of watchers that are located near active deer runs or traditional breeding or bedding areas. Once the watchers are in place, the drivers will slowly advance to push the deer toward them.
In most old hunting camps, the routes of all of the old deer drives have proper names — such as the Butcher Shop, Poppies Rock or Break Back Ridge –and extensive histories. In many cases, the locations of various watches is a closely guarded secret. The locations often overlook natural pinch points that funnel deer into open shooting lanes.
These locations are actually handed down from father to son, like a trade secret. It is a much easier task to accomplish when there is a current record of the comings and goings of the entire herd. This is only available when their their tracks are recorded in fresh snow and the dark backdrop of the deep forests betrays their natural camouflage.
With the ever-increasing warming patterns of recent rears, heavy rains have replaced the traditional deep powdery snowdrifts that once created blinding snowstorms and double-digit, below-zero temperatures.
We need to institute measures to contain the current damage as we prepare to deal with a future without snow and ice. Despite the best efforts of scientists, climatologists and the common man, it appears climate change may be the saddest legacy of the greatest generation, coming as it does from a time when the nation’s vast natural resources were considered inexhaustible.
The results of the Industrial era are becoming more and obvious, and can be seen in the crazy weather, the warming trends and the ever increasing severe heat, extreme droughts and similarly wacky weather. It is a process that has effected far more than just the hunting season and the ski season. Unfortunately, it is something we will have to deal with for generations to come as we learn how to adapt to the changing climate.