On the day the door closed on this year's trout season, winter came knocking and brought along nearly a half a foot of fresh snow.
After last hunting season's dismal display of snowcover, hunters reveled at the prospect of a white backdrop for the opening day of muzzleloading season. Fortunately, the snowcover held on through the weekend, and a fair amount can still be found in the higher elevations.
The hardwoods have already lost about three quarters of their foliage and forests are quite open, even with the beech whips.
Travelers should expect to find the local woods quite busy this weekend, with the opening of the regular big game hunting season. Common sense dictates that woodland wanderers, and their dogs should be dressed appropriately in bright colors.
Hunters should also heed this advice, wearing at least one element of blaze orange or red clothing, even if hunting in a remote location.
It seems that almost every hunting season, a complaint is voiced regarding a hiker/hunter conflict. These situations could be easily avoided with a little effort, observation and common sense.
If a hiker parks in a trailhead parking lot that is overflowing with battered pickup trucks and they notice all of the gun racks are empty, maybe it's time to consider climbing a different peak.
Conversely, if a hunter is looking for a successful outing and the lot is filled with a number of hiker's vehicles, there's a high probability that most whitetails will be long gone.
In most instances, the various user groups that utilize Forest Preserve lands coexist quite amicably. In recent years, there have been very few reports of conflicts. Statistically, the vast majority of hunting accidents generally involve other hunters and they are actually quite rare in reality. Nationwide, more people are injured in altercations with vending machines than by hunters.
In most rural areas of the country, hunting remains an accepted and acceptable pursuit. Despite a decade-long decline in participation, recruitment efforts have brought many new hunters into the field.
In New York, as in many other states, the inclusion of youth hunters, at age 14, has greatly aided this recruitment. However, youth hunters are not the largest segment of the nation's burgeoning hunting population - women are. Thank goodness for equal rights.
Hunter rights vs. animal rights
Several years ago, I took a horseback trip with a Navajo guide into Arizona's Canyon de Chelly. It is a very remote canyon that once served as a refuge for native people. It is best known for the incredible cliff dwellings.
Located high on the rock walls that form the canyon's entrance are ancient pictographs of ducks, geese, antelope and deer, along with images of men with spears and bow.
My guide described the scene: "Those are Navajo billboards. They advertise 'Good Hunting Here!'"
In nearly all the caves where cavemen once lived, the walls are full of similar paintings or carvings. Although the human species are actually omnivores, the evidence of our carnivorous heritage is considerable.
A recent discovery in Ethiopia has uncovered evidence that man has been using stone tools and eating meat for nearly a million years earlier than had previously been documented.
Scientists have unearthed two fossilized animal bones with clear evidence of butchering and the roughly 3.4 million-year-old bones are the first evidence that our ancestral species - to which the famed "Lucy" fossil belonged - used stone tools and ate meat.
Unbelievably, 3.4 million years and a few centuries later, there still exists a race of human specimens that continues to deny and decry the fact that humans are meat eaters.
Today, not only is the morality of hunting under attack, some animal rights advocates, including our local Adirondack Animal Rights group, actually claim that no meat should be consumed.
Of course, this is the same outfit that has promoted sterilizing whitetails and other wildlife to artificially control populations due to the lack of predators.
There are 1,145 species of mammals and birds in North America and currently only 141 are classified as game animals. White-tailed deer represent a mere 3 percent of the total wild animals harvested.
Modern day society has increasingly become detached from the natural processes and surroundings. We've lost touch with our past, our instincts and our way.
We have progressed intellectually and technologically, but in our attempts to conquer the earth and tame it's wild creatures, we've lost much of our past.
Today, most consumers have no clue where their food actually comes from. We have become oblivious to the food chain.
We no longer see butcher shops with half of a cow hanging as they work on it. Our meat arrives in a Styrofoam tray, wrapped in plastic, sanitized and civilized for our protection.
For the first time in the history of mankind, the majority of world's population now resides in cities. It is a watershed accomplishment, a massive migration for a species that has evolved from hunter-gathers.
Packed into the confines of concrete canyons and surrounded by the incessant noise and unnatural sights, humans are stressed and uncomfortable as never before. The implications of the situation on our mental and physical health have yet to be realized.
However, in recent years research has proven that humans need natural surroundings; we thrive when in contact with nature. It can affect how we think and how we feel.
Participation in outdoor pursuits such as hunting and fishing provides modern men and women with an opportunity to recapture a small semblance of what we once were.
What the animal rights advocates fail to recognize is that our fish and wildlife are renewable natural resources. They represent a healthy, locally sustainable, all-natural food source that is free of steroid injections, antibiotics, hormones and chemicals.
Wild fish and game grow in the wild. Their meat contains no additives or preservatives, colors or flavorings, and it has far less fat (especially saturated fat) than domesticated animals.
In New York alone, roughly half a million hunters harvest nearly eight million pounds of venison.
If we do not allow apples to fall and rot on the ground, nor allow vegetables to go to waste in the garden, why should we fail to harvest the bounty of the woods and waters? To do so, would actually be the most unnatural act of all.