Recent weather patterns have taken a decided turn toward fall, with cool, crisp air accompanied by brisk winds and heavy valley fog most mornings.
While traffic on the trails has thinned considerably since Labor Day, woodland travelers can expect a changing of the guard as an influx of hunters will soon take to the woods.
Outdoor fashions will experience a dramatic shift from Gore-Tex and Lycra to buffalo-plaid woolies and hunter orange.
Local hunting camps are already humming with activity, as firewood is cut, mattresses are aired out, and mouse traps are reset before the regular big-game season commences.
Early bear season has already begun, and the ruffed grouse season begins on Sept. 20 with a bag limit of four birds a day.
Grouse hunters are encouraged to participate in the grouse hunters diary cooperator program which assists the state Department of Environmental Conservation in assessing and managing grouse hunting opportunities statewide. Call the local DEC office for further information and registration materials.
On Oct. 1, the fall season begins for both wild turkey and pheasant in the northern zone, followed by woodcock season which opens on Oct. 6. Woodcock hunters must again register with the harvest information program in order to hunt this migratory species.
Fishing has also picked up considerably in recent days, particularly on the lakes and ponds. I've received recent reports of a 29-pound lake trout taken last week on Moose Pond in Bloomingdale and also a 17-pound northern pike from the St. Regis lakes.
Brook and brown trout have already begun schooling up on the streams, which means similar activity on the ponds is just a few short weeks away.
Over the past weekend, I enjoyed a successful day on a local pond landing a number of healthy brookies that were all released. It is always interesting to note how closely the timing of spawning colors of trout mimic changes in the foliage.
Brook trout, in particular, could easily blend right into a pile of fallen leaves, as their spawn colors offer a natural autumn camouflage.
Arriving with the sportsmen's "High Holy Days of Autumn" are the 37th annual National Hunting and Fishing Days, a grassroots effort to promote outdoor sports and conservation, celebrated on September 27 and 28.
With prompting from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the concept of a national celebration of outdoor sporting adventures was brought to the U.S. Senate in June 1971. The response was dramatic. In early 1972, Congress unanimously passed the bill.
On May 2, 1972, President Nixon signed the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day, writing, "I urge all citizens to join with outdoor sportsmen in the wise use of our natural resources and in insuring their proper management for the benefit of future generations."
In short order, all 50 governors and over 600 mayors joined in by proclaiming state and local versions of National Hunting and Fishing Day.
Over 100 years ago, hunters and anglers were the earliest and most vocal supporters of conservation and scientific wildlife management. They were the first to recognize that rapid development and unregulated uses of wildlife were threatening the future of many species.
Led by fellow sportsman President Theodore Roosevelt, early conservationists called for the first laws to restrict commercial hunting and fishing. They urged sustainable use of fish and game, created hunting and fishing licenses, and lobbied for taxes on sporting equipment to provide funds for state conservation agencies. These actions were the foundation of the North American wildlife conservation model, a science-based, user-pay system that continues to provide dramatic conservation successes.
For the first time since hunting licenses have been required in New York state, youth hunters age 14 will be permitted to participate in the Big Game season. DEC reports indicate that license sales have already experienced an increase.
Sportsmen and women should make concerted efforts during this time to introduce youth to outdoor sporting pursuits. Take a child out and walk a field; climb a mountain or paddle a pond. Recreation is simply a way to recreate one's life, spirit or memory. You'll engender greater respect and appreciation, and retain lasting memories, by sharing the experience with a child. It is always fascinating to revisit familiar places and experience them as viewed through a child's eyes.
Boomer babies need
Most adults of the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and the early 1960s, retain childhood memories of days spent playing outdoors, climbing, digging, collecting, building and exploring the natural world around them.
They participated at their own pace, in their own way, but most certainly a bicycle was typically involved, as was an active imagination and a willingness to try something different.
It was a generation that experienced the blossoming era of TV with shows such as Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and a host of Westerns that detailed the pioneer life.
Play was carefree and spontaneous; kids had more free time and weren't bombarded with options. Most televisions got only three television channels and rotary phones were still connected to the wall.
Children of a generation ago are the parents of today. With such upbringings, you'd expect outdoor play to be a crucial part of their families' lifestyles. But today's busy kids are increasingly "plugged in" to electronic devices and media and unplugged from the fundamental and formative experience of nature in their own backyard. Their senses, including most sadly their sense of wonder, are bombarded, overwhelmed and ultimately diminished.
Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods, explored the roots of this growing nature-child estrangement. Louv cites the usual suspects of television, video games, computers and time pressure on families. Louv has struck a nerve among educators with his description of a "nature deficit disorder" prevalent among the country's youth.
Exploring the roots of this nature-child estrangement, Louv rounds up the usual suspects: television, video games and time pressure on families. He has depicted a nation of children tied to technology and disconnected from the natural world.
This concept is quite obvious. Simple observation will reveal that cell phones are rapidly being utilized more often as an
entertainment device than a communications tool.
Across the country, numerous agencies and organizations are attempting to reverse this trend, and efforts are underway to foster a reconnect to the nature world with America's youth.
Fortunately, there are several locally based programs available at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center which provide for a full spectrum of activities that are ideal conduits for introducing children to the outdoors. Call the Paul Smiths VIC at 327-3000 for information and registration. Upcoming programs include:
Sept. 20 - Saturdays Are For Kids: Pond Life. 10 to 11 a.m. Kids ages 5-12 can investigate the underwater life of Heron Marsh using dip nets to collect organisms in the marsh.
Sept. 21 - Fall Wagon Ride. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Paul Smith's College Draft Horse Club will have their draft horses hitched up to offer wagon rides to view the changing leaves. Reservations will be taken after Sept. 10. Preregistration is requested. $2/adult, $1/child (API members free). Money collected will go to the Draft Horse Program.
Sept. 25: Exploring Nature with Little People. 10 a.m. to noon. A unique program with a hands-on approach that introduces young children to the natural environment. Every other Thursday until June for preschoolers ages 3-5 years. Pre-registration is required.
Oct. 4: Saturdays Are For Kids: Scats, Do you know your doo? 10 to 11 a.m. Join a naturalist as we look at and for scats to find out what the animals around the VIC have been eating. Preregistration is required.
The American Recreation Coalition launched a new program in 2007 titled, Get Outdoors USA! It is a national movement dedicated to helping children live healthy, active outdoor lives. Through outdoor activity, children receive benefits of mind, body and spirit and are able to enjoy national treasures that belong to all Americans.
For information about the program, please visit www.getoutdoorsusa.org