‘The perfect’ place to live is largely a pipedream
By Bob McNitt
It’s getting pretty close to that annual time of the year (actually Winter) when many of our area residents begin to suffer the earliest symptoms of that dreaded North Country affliction known as “cabin fever.” With the holidays behind us, and few left until Easter time, even some of the avid snow worshippers begin to long for warmer temperatures and glimpses of green grass.
There was a time, many years ago, when I thought living in our “Last Frontier”—that being Alaska—would be like Heaven for someone who loved the outdoors. But as I struggled through my own late-winter cabin fever one year, the thought of a six-month winter season with no or precious little daylight put things in better perspective. Even a five-month spring-to-autumn period when it never gets fully dark didn’t seem like an attractive enough trade-off for enduring a winter like that.
Thanks to my decades of being involved with the outdoor media, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to sample the various weather and seasons of many locales and regions. One thing I learned was none of them could be considered “perfect” year-round and for every positive feature they offered, there was a negative one that balanced the scale. Much like my early perception of Alaska, each region had its attractions and distractions when it came to climate and conditions.
Just as residents of Tug Hill accept seasonal snowfall that’s measured in feet, residents of the Southwest Sunbelt accept the fact that they’ll be broiling in 100-plus temperatures in summer, and those in the Southeast will also be treated by sauna-like humidity that makes just being outdoors an endurance event. This probably explains why many residents of the Sunbelt head north in summer while many residents of the Snowbelt head south in winter; in both cases, they’re normallyexperiencing the optimum weather conditions the visited regions have to offer.
Of course weather and temperature conditions aren’t the only factors to consider when seeking that “perfect” location to live. People living or visiting the northern regions in spring must contend with what natives there refer to as the “Scourge of the North.” --that being the dreaded blackfly season. Conversely ,blackfly season usually only lasts about a month, compared to the mosquito season in the Southeast, which can last until Thanksgiving some years. Add all the other biting or stinging insects down there, along with gators and poisonous snakes, and venturing outdoors takes on a whole new philosophy and approach.
I readily recall being in a Louisiana bayou one darkJanuary night, looking for a deer a bowhunter from our lodge had wounded. Between the gators and the cottonmouths out cruising, each time I saw movement in or on the tea-colored water, the hair on the back of my neck bristled and I prepared to take flight in the opposite direction, whatever good that might do. A few days prior, I’d felt something touch the back of my neck while I was in a treestand. When I reached back to brush it off, I discovered it was a giant centipede bigger around than my thumb. By the way, they also can bite, but thankfully I hurled this one away before it did.
And while I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid hurricanes and earthquakes in those regions that have them, I’ve discovered the weather can turn against you very quickly, regardless of where you are. On one trip to the Canadian tundra, my group was stranded in a main lodge for a week before the weather cleared sufficiently for a floatplane to usher us out. Nothing we could do but wait, and wait, and wait. And on a more recent trip to Canada, we had to chainsaw our way in on the road that led to our hunting lodge due to a recent snow and ice storm that downed dozens of trees and blocked the access roads.
Then there was a deer hunt on Anticosti Island a few years ago that a torrential rain and wind storm the Canadian Weather Service called “the Perfect Storm.” Anticosti sets on the eastern portion of the Gulf of St, Lawrence on the edge of the North Atlantic. The lodge I was in was facing the beach and the east- right toward the face of the storm. Winds of 60mph threatened to blow windows out and did tremendous damage to the surrounding forest. The torrential rains caused streams and rivers to flood, washed out bridges, and effectively ended chances to access hunting areas. I’d been to Anticositi several times and never dreamt it could be that nasty, but those who live there say extreme weather on the island isn’t all that uncommon, but tourists and visitors seldom see it because of smart scheduling by outfitters and lodges.
So what it all boils down to is that elusive “perfect place” to live is largely a pipedream, depending on the season and one’s outdoor interests. None are perfect year-round.
Following an unusually snowless beginning, more “typical” winter weather has finally arrived in Chenango County and much of the Northeast. The problem, at least as some see it, is it arrived with far too much gusto and, now, endurance. Although the cold and deep crusted snows have been greeted with elation by most skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers, they've been less welcomed by those who enjoy other winter activities such as hunting. Even some ice fishermen have felt as though the recent cold and snow is “too much of a good thing.”
Rabbit (and what few winter grouse hunters there are) complain that the sheer depth and the crusted snow that supports their beagles as well as the rabbits won’t support a hunter’s weight. Hunters of any small game who’d normally be afield without a dog complain that the ordeal of just trying to walk atop the crusted snow is keeping them indoors (I wonder if they're familiar with a tool called snowshoes?). Others say that the snow depths and cold discourage game from moving about and keep most of it hiding out in the thickest of sheltered covers or in the security of burrows and dens. It all boils down to the same attitude by some: Why bother?
But even when winter decides to flex its seasonal muscles, as it's recently done, there's a couple of hunting activities that arestill available in the dead of winter and that very few partake in--crow and varmint hunting. If sportsmen dress warmly and limit the time they’re out in the cold, both these hunting activities can be done without risking frostbite or hypothermia.
Ever since a treaty was agreed to a couple decades ago by the U.S. and Mexico to reclassify common crows as migratory game--which meant the implementing of hunting seasons as well as closed seasons--crow populations have steadily increased. And nowhere is this more evident than here in New York.
The increase is as much a result of greatly decreased hunting interest in the species as it is the protection of the birds during their spring nesting. With the crow hunting season opening in September-the same month we now hunt Canada geese-and hunting being restricted to just Fridays through Mondays only, precious few hunters see much sense in hunting inedible game when all the edible game seasons will be open by October.
The crow season closes in mid-April and by then most hunters are thinking of spring gobbler scouting and hunting, so there's little motivation or interest in hunting crows at that time of year either.
I'm sure many residents have seen some of the daily crow flights as huge flocks fly between winter roosting areas and feeding areas in morning, then back again in the evening. On occasion, when the majority are in the air at the same time, the sky is literally filled with crows in some areas.
I've been fascinated with the crow-it's an intelligent, ingenious bird. But like any wildlife species, when given the right circumstances and abundant habitat, it can become too numerous for its own good. The crows in NYC that were found to be carrying and spreading the West Nile encephalitis are a pretty good testimony to that. So periodically removing a few crows from the overall population doesn't harm the species, it actually benefits it.
Crows are usually hunted by calling and decoying. A great-horned owl decoy is used as the visual attractor, and a crow call, either mouth blown or electronic, is used as the audio enticer. Camouflaging one self is important as crows have keen eyesight. The hunting is a great test of wingshooting skills as a diving, darting crow is not an easy target.
Hunters in search of bigger game might consider coyote hunting in winter. The season is open until March 27 and hunting for them is legal 24 hours a day. We have a large, healthy population of coyotes in Chenango County, as does most of central New York.
Most successful NY 'yote hunters employ one of two methods: calling or long range spotting. The former requires a predator call or tape that imitates a squealing rabbit. The hunter/caller sets up in a likely location and lures the animal into thinking it's coming to an easy meal. The latter involves traveling along know coyote routes, glassing for moving animals, then, if in rifle range, taking them with a flat-shooting rifle. Both methods are far tougher than they sound, for coyotes are wary, skillful hunters themselves. Generally, the optimum time to hunt coyotes is at dawn when the animals tend to most responsive to calls. For specific regulations, consult the 2010-11 DEC syllabus or go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/45559.html on the Web.
So even with winter conditions like they've been in recent weeks, it's not like there isn't something for a hunter to do out there right now. It may not be easy, but if it were, everyone would be doing it.
Perch Derby Results Forthcoming
Saturday’s Lions Club Perch Derby at Chenango Lake would’ve been perfect had it not been for the midday rain that arrived. There was plenty of ice (albeit a bit too much crusted snow covering it) and the daytime temperatures were very comfortable for a midwinter day. As soon as the final data and results on the Derby are available, we’ll pass them along.
Trailblazers NRA Group Planning May Event
For the second consecutive year, the Trailblazers Friends of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is planning its annual banquet for May. The highly popular local event was a huge success last year, offering attendees a great meal plus all sorts of raffle items, door prizes, plus silent and bid auctions on everything from firearms and sporting gear to high quality hunting trips.