The month of November is already halfway gone, and there's barely been enough snow to reveal deer tracks, much less ski tracks until this week. Although snow still caps the uppermost regions of the High Peaks, there had been very little snow cover in the lower reaches.
While the weather has been cold enough to skim over the ponds with ice on a couple of occasions, the ground has mostly remained brown, while pond waters are black and still.
For hunters, the availability of snow cover provides two distinct advantages. It helps to illustrate the travel corridors and runways of the whitetails, and it provides a stark white background which highlights the brown robes of the deer.
Experienced hunters recognize that whitetails are much easier to pattern when there's snow covering the ground, and it makes the deer much more predictable. They will feed heavily prior to a storm and lay down for hours during the storm.
However, when the storm has passed they'll be up moving around looking for food, of which ferns are always a good choice. Deer can find ferns under the snow much more readily than they can locate beechnuts. Hunters who know their territory will always know where the ferns can be found.
This season started off with a bang as the crew I hunt with had the first whitetail of the season hanging in camp after less than 30 minutes of effort.
The lucky buck was taken by our oldest camp hand, who tipped it over before the first drive had even begun. It appears there will be plenty more where that came from as similar reports keep trickling in.
The uncommon weather patterns seem to become increasingly more common every year. With the warmer than expected weather, there has been little need for woolies or longjohns, which have always been a regular camp fashion.
Although I always enjoy the sound of rain beating on a tent roof, I'd rather not hear it pounding on the hunting camp roof in the middle of November. I'd far prefer snow.
Snow on the ground helps to provide hunters with the confidence necessary to stay with the hunt. Even if no deer are seen, the clear evidence of their travels captured in the snow usually provide enough enthusiasm to keep hunters focused on the task.
Snow cover also dampens sounds and quiets the woods, which makes for much more stealthy travel. Conversely, it's very difficult to sneak quietly over a forest floor that's covered with frozen leaves that look and crunch just like frosted flakes.
The pursuit of wild game in fair chase is an activity that once provided a common thread between most men. It surely has something to so with the fact that humans have existed in a natural environment since the time they first started evolving more than five million years ago.
The experience of spending the day afield, whether it involves catching fish or hunting game, is to understand something deep and lasting about yourself. It is a process of concrete learning that can teach us valuable lessons about self-reliance, self-confidence, exploration, respect and responsibility.
Outdoor pursuits provide an opportunity for the busiest among us to adjust their pace and to practice patience. Often it is those who just can't sit still who come to realize reflection is impossible to accomplish in raging waters.
The notion typically strikes on about their third day away, when the din of phones and televisions and computers begins to wear off. The woods are plenty noisy, but not always in an entertaining way, especially when we've come to expect our entertainment to be spoon fed.
By the fourth or fifth day in camp, the twitchers are no longer so twitchy. They're usually twitched out by then, and have learned how to adjust to the roar of noiseless silence.
It is a condition that can only be realized or revealed in camp, where the basic necessities of just getting by are a constant reality.
Scientists who study how people perceive the world say that humans have at least 10 senses and possibly as many as 30. Camp provides a place where it's very easy to come to your senses.
It happens when we realize that if we really want more, it's often easier to just desire a bit less.
After spending a week or so in camp, most come to understand the true meaning of Noah Rondeau's famous quote in which he claimed, "Contact with the outside world has given me human distemper."
Camp life is reduced to the basics. It is as much about a your state of mind as it is about the physical location. Camp is place of tradition and respect, where memories are made and friends can be found. It provides us with an escape from the modern world via a return to more primitive times, which after spending a spell most folks come to enjoy and appreciate.
While doing such things, we often come back in touch with something that's been outside our typical experience, which we strangely seem to approve of our doing them. We are able to extend our horizon and expand our being because we are going home.
Daylight savings time is over; darkness arrives earlier each day. A trip over the far ridge that was so easily accomplished two weeks ago will only be completed in the dark today. Did you pack a flashlight?
Paddlers, anglers, hunters and boaters should also be aware of the cold water regulation that says, "between Nov. 1 and May 1 each person on board a pleasure vessel less than 21 feet must be wearing a securely fastened United States Coast Guard approved wearable personal flotation device when such vessel is underway."
Just like a seat belt: wear it or get a ticket.
Never enter the woods without a map and compass. Let someone know where you are headed and when you expect to return.
Remember, the first time a man loses is bearings in the wilderness his wits will refuse to work.
-Hunting license, Deer tag, bear tag
- Headlamp flashlight
- Matches and lighters
- Rain gear/wool hat
- Pens/topo map/paper
- Water bottle
- Field dressing kit
- High energy bars/snacks
- Small space blanket
- Zip ties/Ziplocs for liver, heart
- Hand warmers
- Spare socks, underwear
- Field dressing kit
- Cell phone