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Shifting focus to the fields and forests

September 28, 2011
By JOE HACKETT, News Outdoors Columnist
As autumn’s splendor continues to blanket the local hills with brilliant color, my passions have begun to turn decidedly toward the fields and forests rather than the lakes and streams.

Although there are still two weeks left before the close of trout season and numerous salmon have already made their annual upriver journey into the Boquet, AuSable and the Saranac rivers, I find myself drawn more to the woods than to the waters.

While true trout fanatics would consider it blasphemous to pass on an opportunity to chase fall brookies, the thrill of the hunt has captured my heart. I know it is time for a change.

I’ve been wading the rivers since early spring and flinging lures on the lakes all summer. Even though I am still not tired of angling, I am tired of fish. I’ve spent so much time with fish that I can’t escape the scent. My car smells of fish and so do my clothes.

Maybe that is the reason I long for the opportunity to linger in a deep cedar swamp. I have an inexorable urge to fill my nostrils with the mustiness of fall, with its tantalizing and intangible scent of decay.

I’ll readily admit that I am not a great hunter. I walk more than I should and I sit still far less than necessary. Although I do shoot fairly well, I don’t shoot very often. On the few occasions when a rare suicidal buck wanders into my range, I see them before they discover me.

I recognize that a key to being a successful angler is patience. I know the same holds true for hunting, but in the woods I seem to be possessed with an undeniable wanderlust. I simply can’t sit still for too long, even though I know it is difficult to discern movement when you are on the move.

I know a few successful hunters who stay on the move all day long and yet they still see plenty of deer. Of course, their skills are comparable to those lucky few anglers who seem as if they are catching fish in a bathtub.

We all know of at least one particular hunter who by some strange quirk of fate appears to be a deer magnet. Yet this strange power may not derive from a particular sixth sense. More likely, it is the result of acquired woodland knowledge.

Successful whitetail hunters know more than just how to shoot, they also know where and when to hunt. Most of all, they have deer sense and deer eyes.

They can step out the front door of camp in the early morning mist and tell by the weather if the deer will be moving or bedded down. Intuitively, they seem to know in which direction the deer will travel and where they can be found.

More importantly, they know what to look for. They don’t look for the entire deer, they just look for the parts of one. It may be the simple flicker of a tail, the round black orb of a nose or a simple glint of sun flashing off a set of white antlers. 

Whatever the sign or the signal, these hunters are truly tuned in. The rest of us simply wander along aimlessly with hopes of stumbling upon an opportunity to take a shot.

The Adirondack McNab

An Adirondack McNab is a most unique outdoor sporting achievement that is only available on the rare occasion when three distinct fish and game seasons overlap in the sporting calendar.

The accomplishment is based upon a fabled British sporting feat, which required an individual to take an Atlantic Salmon on the fly, to stalk and shoot a Red Stag and to bag a brace of grouse all in one day.

If the sporting gentleman could also manage to engage in a bit of ribald behavior with the lady of the manor, he could claim to have achieved a Royal McNab.

Although the original McNab developed as a wager among gentlemen of the British nobility, with proceeds dedicated to charity, the pursuit of this unique accomplishment has continued to this day.

Currently, participants hoping to complete a McNab, must hunt and fish on one of the few large private estates in England and Scotland that still host such an experience.

In the British Isles, completing a McNab is not a common man’s pursuit. Fees can run upwards of 20,000 or more, with no guarantees of success.

However, over the years, the opportunity to achieve a common man’s McNab has been available in the Adirondacks on a rare occasion. The feat requires a participant to stalk and shoot a whitetail deer, take a brook trout on the fly and bag a brace of ruffed grouse on the wing.

An opportunity to accomplish the achievement only rolls around every few years, when three distinct sporting seasons coincide. 

The opportunity rarely lasts for more than a couple of days, when the trout season, grouse season and deer season overlap.

This year, the only day to pursue an Adirondack McNab falls on Oct. 15, which is the final day of trout season and the opening day of muzzleloading season for deer. Grouse season began on Sept. 20 and continues until Feb. 28.

Over the years, I have met several sportsmen who had attempted the feat, however I have yet to learn of any who were successful. 


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