With the conclusion of the annual big-game hunting season on December 4, the seasonal transition from autumn to winter is now complete. Hunting camps will be cleaned and shuttered for the winter as plans are prepared for the necessities of Christmas.
Gifts will need to be purchased, decorations must be hung and the usual platter of sweets will be prepared. In our house this effort requires enough fudge, cakes and cookies to assure a dentist a long and successful career.
We usually put off our Christmas tree hunt until there's enough snow on the ground to confirm the season. However, all of the other required decorations seem to mysteriously appear as the holidays approach.
I expect there will still be a number of harried shopping forays required, along with a rush to get a stack of Christmas cards off in the mail.
Fortunately for our family, there always seems to be a worthwhile selection of gift items available at local stores. Not only does shopping locally keep the dollars circulating within the community, but it also saves us a lot of time, money and grief, traffic-wise.
It is often difficult to retain a Christmas spirit when you're among a frenzied crowd that's jockeying for position at a Walmart checkout counter or braving the crush of traffic at the busy intersection near the mall in the rush at dusk.
Local shopping also provides me with a time to visit with the folks that I rarely run into at other times of the year. I tend to revisit the usual old haunts: the sport shops, bookstores and a few of the clothing stores. Although I spend far less time hunting for gifts than I do hunting for deer, I usually return home equally exhausted.
In next week's column I'll provide a traditional selection of gift ideas for the sportsmen or women on your list, as well as a few items for your four-legged friends. If readers have any suggestions to offer, please drop me a note.
I recently received a note from my old friend Frank Houck, a longtime local woodsman and noted photographer. Although Frank earned his artistic chops while photographing the Adirondacks, he has perfected his craft among the canyons and cliffs of the southwest.
Although Houck's photos continue to hang in many of Sedona's finest galleries, he also has a wide selection of both Adirondack and Arizona scenes available for sale on his new website. Houck's images, which are available as both prints and greeting cards, can be found at www.frank-houck.artistwebsites.com.
The season is complete
The regular big-game hunting season exited without a bang last week for a majority of North Country hunters. Reports indicate that, due to a combination of factors, the overall take was down. Warmer weather and the lack of consistent snow cover were two of the major limiting factors, however the size and condition of the Adirondack deer herd was certainly a contributing factor.
Although hunting opportunities will exist throughout most of the winter for a variety of game, including ruffed grouse, squirrels, rabbits and furbearers such as coyote, fox, raccoon and bobcat, the season is over for the majority of sportsmen and women. The next pursuit on the traditional Adirondack sporting agenda is finding prospective locations for early ice, as the "hard-water season" looms on the near horizon.
Soon, the deer rifles will be replaced by buckets of tip-ups and the winter season will begin in earnest. Skiers will return to the hills and snowshoers will tackle the swamps as shades of winter white begin to dominate the scene. Black ice will form on the ponds, and snow will cap the local peaks as winter unfolds.
Safer than ... golf?
Although several hunting fatalities were reported over the course of the recent season, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has issued a recent press release to counter the perception that hunting is an inherently dangerous activity.
The propensity of the general media to sensationalize hunting accidents has led many to believe that it is not safe to venture into the woods during the autumn months. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: Hunting with firearms is safe; in fact, hunting with firearms is one of the safest recreational activities in America.
Hikers, paddlers and others who frequent the woods and waters during the autumn months have little reason to fear hunters. Primarily, hunters avoid traveling in areas where they are likely to encounter other user groups. As a rule, hunters strive to avoid trails and other high traffic areas. And typically, so does the game they seek.
"Many people have the misconception that hunting is unsafe, but the data tells a different story," explained Jim Curcuruto, NSSF's director of industry research and analysis. "Comprehensive hunter-education classes that emphasize the basic rules of firearm safety and a culture of hunters helping fellow hunters practice safe firearms handling in the field are responsible for this good record."
Data indicates that hunting ranks third in safety when compared to 28 other recreational pursuits, ranging from baseball to wrestling.
The vast majority of hunting accidents that occurred this season were tree stand-related, or self inflicted.
Hunting has an injury rate of 0.05 percent, which equates to about 1 injury per 2,000 participants, a safety level bettered only by camping (.01 percent) and billiards (.02 percent).
By comparison, golf has an injury rate of 0.16 percent while tackle football topped the list of activities with an injury rate of 5.27 percent (1 injury per 19 participants). Compared to hunting, a person is 11 times more likely to be injured playing volleyball or 105 more times likely to be injured while playing football.
"The encouragement of a proper hunting spirit, a proper love of sport, instead of being incompatible with a love of nature and wild things, offers the best guaranty for their preservation," U.S. President and Nobel Prize winner Theodore Roosevelt said.
If there still isn't enough snow to get your ski kicks fixed by the weekend, you may want to consider an alternative adventure. On Saturday, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m., The Mountaineer will host a season-opening, kickoff party at the Keene Valley store to celebrate its recent recognition as a Dynafit Competence Center.
The free event will include ski movies, giveaways, food and beverages. In addition to a film about athlete Greg Hill's two million vertical season, there will also be films from the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival tour.
Don't forget, the Mountaineer and Adirondack Rock & River will again be hosting their annual Mountainfest 2012 over the Martin Luther King weekend, January 13-15. As always, the proceeds from the Mountainfest go to local schools, fire and rescue groups and worthy charities. This year, they will also contribute to the Irene Flood Relief Fund.
More free movies will be available Friday, Dec. 16, when the Adirondack Ski Touring Council and the Barkeater Trails Alliance team up to sponsor a showing of the newest Teton Gravity Research Film "One For The Road."
The event, hosted at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, will open at 7 p.m., followed by the show at 7:30 p.m. There will be prizes, a raffle and good times for all.
Tickets are available at the BETA website (www.barkeatertrails.org) before Dec. 16 for $10 and kids under 12 for $5. Tickets will also be available at the door for $12/$6. All proceeds will be used to support local trail maintenance and development efforts.