The winter season, jumpstarted by last week's deep deposit of snow, suffered a setback when heavy rains condensed the snowpack over the weekend. However, the rain served to secure a firm base that has since been carpeted with fresh powder.
Although the season sputtered, the fresh snow and colder temperatures have returned, much to the delight of outdoor enthusiasts. Officially, winter doesn't even arrive until next week.
Backcountry skiers and 'shoers welcomed the opportunity to get out. DEC issued its usual advisories for the mandatory use of winter equipment for travelers in the High Peaks Wilderness, where the snowpack is typically much deeper.
While recent subzero temperatures helped to set up local lakes with the season's first sheet of ice, conditions cannot be considered safe for travel. It appears the hardwater anglers will have to put their augers on hold for a little while longer.
The snowfall earlier in the week has allowed winter to reclaim the local landscape. However, the usual cycles of freeze and thaw can be expected to continue until winter finally secures the scene.
For current information on local ski and snow conditions, contact the Adirondack Ski Touring Council at 523-1365.
Snowmobile tragedy in Lewis County
It is with great sadness that I report the season's first snowmobile fatality. It occurred in Lewis County recently, where heavy lake-effect snows opened the trails in early December.
Following an extensive search, dive teams located the body of Jamie Pallotta, 32, in the Whetstone Gulf Flow, where his sled had fallen through the ice.
According to published reports, Pallotta was last seen around 2:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, riding his sled in the town of West Turin. His body was located by a state police helicopter around 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10. The Lewis County Sheriff's Volunteer Dive Team and state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers used an airboat to recover Pallotta in the water.
Although snowmobile trails are already in operation throughout the western portion of the Adirondacks, most of the local lakes and rivers will not be safe for travel for some time.
The hunting debate
After publishing an article on the subject in the Adirondack Explorer, I have been involved in an ongoing local debate involving the right to hunt. The issue is currently in the national news, following efforts by several states to enact "right to hunt" legislation in November's elections.
Although I believe in my right to hunt, others have argued that it simply is not OK to hunt. While proponents who actually adhere to an "animal rights" philosophy represent a small faction of our society -estimated at less than 2 percent of the US population - it remains a challenge to exist in today's world without utilizing animal products, whether for food, clothing or product/medical testing.
Yet, this tiny minority continues to seek to impose their set of beliefs and values onto the remaining 98 percent of the nation's population. A recent "Letter to the Editor" published in the Enterprise confirms this fact.
Fortunately, the traditions of hunting, fishing and trapping remain well ingrained in the Adirondack heritage, and continue to be considered acceptable pursuits. It is important to note that surveys indicate over 75 percent of all American adults consider hunting to be an acceptable pursuit.
I do not begrudge those who choose to pursue an animal rights philosophy. If they desire to take that route, I believe in their right to believe. However, I cannot accept their insistence that everyone should likewise live and believe as they do. Human beings did not evolve to become the planet's apex predator in order to stalk tofu burgers or catch a carrot.
Recently, the national debate on the subject was reignited, when National Public Radio featured a story on its popular Morning Edition program. The story, "For Some Girls, The Ultimate Goal Is To Kill A Buck," revolved around Magan Hebert, a Mississippi teenager who represents one of more than 300,000 female hunters in the United States under the age of 16.
Single women are currently the fastest-growing segment of the shooting sports fraternity.
Following the program, NPR reported being flooded with calls and e-mails from outraged listeners. Comments on the NPR website reflect this, with over 300 responses and growing. It's obvious that emotions were running high.
I expect the debate will continue to evolve, until it eventually narrows down to the divides defined by issues such as rural vs. urban, blue collar vs. white collar and other socio-economic issues.
As current day society becomes further removed from the land, this topic will stir more emotional debate, since a major portion of our population is oblivious to the food chain.
Today, meat arrives on plastic trays at the supermarket, and leather goods come from a leather shop. Butchers no longer display a side of beef or hang half of a hog in their front window. Fish are carefully washed to remove the "fishy smell" and farmed salmon are injected with dye to give their white meat a "salmon color." They are fed antibiotic pellets to inoculate them against disease, and they can never swim beyond the boundaries of their penstocks.
Our food is inspected, disinfected, pasteurized, homogenized, sanitized and certified disease-free for our protection. It is injected with steroids and fertilized with chemicals, bloated by growth hormones and sprayed with so many insecticides and preservatives that it still arrives fresh, even after traveling an average distance of 1,200 miles from field to fork.
As a result, I do hope animal rights advocates will understand why I prefer to harvest the low-cholesterol, low-fat, steroid- and antibiotic-free, all-organic, venison, turkey and trout that are readily available on the free range and in the fresh water in my own backyard.