December 15, 2003
Hunting Season

This past week saw the close of another New York State deer and black bear hunting season. Consecutive issues of the Catskill Mountain News featured photos of successful hunters in the area with their bucks and bears. The Phoenicia Times, however, reported that the word from the business community was that hunting related revenues have not been up to par by historical Catskill region standards. We didnít see as many hunters out as we expected to his year.

Chris certainly put in a fair amount of time deer hunting in the Catskills this year, starting with bow season in October, and continuing right up through the fading daylight hours of the final day of gun season. He was happy to be using a new rifle purchased from Del Sports in Margaretville.

One of the best things about hunting in the Catskills is the great abundance and variety of places available for hunting. Thousands of acres of State land is spread out throughout the region, providing lots of elbow room for hunters who do not own their own land or have access to private land. For those of us that live here, we can also hunt on our own private properties as well as those of friends. The result is a smorgasbord of land options. Young forests and old, deciduous and coniferous, meadows and fields, uplands and bottomlands, wetlands and stream corridors - a multitude of places where dedicated hunters hope to find the wary deer. Chris hunted in seven different places in the Catskills this year, as well as a couple of locations elsewhere in the state; all with differing characteristics. The weather this time of year, also adds variety - warm, cold, snow, rain, howling wind, and peacefully calm.

Most times out this season no deer were seen, or were too far for a shot. The negative aspects of cold toes and not being in the right place or the right time to find deer, however, were often made up for by enjoying other wildlife observations. Sitting still in the woods at dawn and dusk afforded opportunities to see or hear chickadees, nuthatches, kinglets, woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays, ravens, turkeys, grouse, geese, owls, hawks, kingfishers, and of course the red and gray squirrels that tend to drive most hunters nuts as they scurry about. The other great thing about hunting season of course, is warming up and filling one's belly with hot coffee and grub at the local diners, with the Phoenicia Diner, the Monster Grill in Fleischmanns, and Hot Shots (formerly Vernís) in Davenport being the places that fit the bill for us this year.

The best opportunities for rustling up deer seem to happen when hunting with other people. Putting on a "drive" is generally more effective than sitting alone and waiting by a trail, tracking, or wandering quietly through the woods. This is especially true during times of heavy snowfall, when the deer are not inclined to move much. Hunting with buddies in Davenport during the snowstorm on the first weekend in December was a lot of fun - almost as much fun as driving the four wheel drive on the snowy roads, standing around the garage telling stories, and playing euchre by the woodstove while warming up at lunch time. One guy even got a deer.

After all of the effort made, Chris did not get a deer in the Catskills this season, but fortunately he was successful on a trip back home to the Finger Lakes region, so there will be fresh venison to enjoy during the coming year. In fact we've already treated ourselves to some tasty homemade venison jerky while out On The Trail. Now we can turn our thoughts toward ice fishing...

- Chris and Aaron



Catskill Mountain Club

PO Box 558, Pine Hill, NY 12465