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In a hunting camp state of mind

October 14, 2015
By JOE HACKETT - Outdoors Columnist ( , Lake Placid News

As I look forward to the beginning of the big game hunting season, which opens this weekend for muzzleloaders, my most recent brook trout outing provided a fitting end to a wonderful fishing season. As I pulled hard on the oars on the return trip to the dock, the sun was sinking rapidly on the far horizon as brilliant streaks of crimson and gold stood out like giant hash tags on the far shore of the lake.

The light wind was cool, and the old, familiar autumn mustiness hung heavy in the early evening air. It was so thick I could taste it.

Every year, I make an effort to visit the same pond at the season's end. It has become a ritual of sorts, a final saga in an otherwise uneventful story of trout, tripping and traditional transitions.

Article Photos

At the end of a long day spent traveling the dark, wet woods, there is no finer sight than a cabin door and the scent of woodsmoke in the air
Photo — Joe Hackett

At one time in my youth, I simply couldn't wait for the new season to unfold, with its painted leaves, barking geese and gently cooler days. The fall, you see, serves to usher in the high holy days of the sporting life, as it signals a passing of the guard in the forests and on the lakes and streams.

Although the time-honored display of colorful leaves and cobalt blue skies always leaves an indelible image on my mind, the fleeting Adirondack summer has rapidly been replaced by a new set of sporting wonders that are now readily apparent in the autumn woods.

I've always considered autumn to be a season of retreat, signaling the last whisper of the busy summer before the lake waters grow dark and barren. Summer folk have mostly returned to their homes far to the south, and traffic on the waters will revert primarily to caretakers traveling back and forth to their camps.

Occasionally, the barking of a flock of geese passing overhead will serve as a reminder of the days to come, but for now the caretaker's only concern is to drain the pipes, empty the fridge and button up the camp as soon as possible.

As summer gives way to fall, the availability of caretakers, tradesmen and similarly self-employed folks will become quite limited as the regular big game hunting draws near.

This is a time when caretakers and other self-employed laborers prefer to labor for themselves, hauling heavy loads of gear, beer and good cheer back to an old familiar hunting camp. Typically, their heaviest loads (which include the duties and responsibilities of everyday life) never manage to make it through the cabin door. They are left by the wayside, outside and rarely revisited until the season comes to a close.

Camps will vary greatly in size and shape, ranging from rough shelters of tar paper and tamarack to comfortable, spacious log cabins with flush toilets, electric lights and all the comforts of home (without a worry of any of the usual responsibilities).

In camp, the major concern is with the weather, and how it will affect the deer. They will wonder if the potential for strong winds and rains will put the deer down, even though they know the drivers are capable of getting them moving.

The usual worries and responsibilities of the outside world will be deposited at the cabin's front door; where they will remain for the duration of the season. Camp takes precedence over all worldly matters.

Depending on a variety of conditions, hunting camps soon return to a place of both mice and men as an annual battle to shore up the supplies begins anew. As the camp inhabitants struggle to mouse-proof the cabin, mice will continue to chew, burrow and squeeze their way through every man-made contraption that's been designed to rid them.

Tin-lined pantries, bomb-proof safes, bear bags and everything short of nuclear waste containers have been tried, but in the ongoing battle of mice and men, the long-tailed rodents generally have the upperhand (and occasionally the upper bunk as well).

Those who can will spend the season in camp, and those who can't will continue to wish they could. There is nothing that can replace the place, ever though a similar location could easily be duplicated. Camp is not so much a physical presence as it is a frame of mind, a safe haven from the daily duties typically expected of grown men.


Seasonal adjustments

With the conclusion of the trout season on Oct. 15, many of the non-hunting sportsmen and women will soon be looking for continued angling opportunities. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available - ranging from brook trout and salmon to bass, pike and more.

Although brook trout fanatics generally fall into a fall funk after the trout season comes to an end, there are a few trout ponds that remain open for catch and release angling, including Mountain Pond, which is located about 3 miles north of Paul Smiths.

While opportunities for extended brook trout angling remain rather limited, after the season concludes there are numerous rivers, lakes and ponds that provide year-round angling for both trout and salmon. These waters include several sections of the AuSable, Saranac and Boquet rivers with year-round opportunities to fish for brook, brown and rainbow trout, as well as landlocked Atlantic salmon.

In the Tri-Lakes region, anglers may continue to fish for land-locked salmon, brown trout and rainbows on several local lakes and ponds including Lake Eaton, Lake Colby, Lake Clear, Meacham Lake, Green Pond and for Kokanee salmon on Taylor Pond.

Chazy Lake and the Upper Chateaugay Lake also provide year-round angling opportunities for trout and salmon as do Eagle Lake and Paradox Lake near Schroon Lake, as well as Connery Pond near Lake Placid and Moose Pond near Bloomingdale which also provide year-round trout and salmon fishing.

Lake trout anglers will find year-round fishing on Tupper Lake, Lake Kushaqua and Rollins Pond.

Although the brook trout fishing season is over, it is obviously far too early to put away the rods and reels.

The regular big game hunting season does not get underway until Oct. 24. Woods travelers and hikers should be aware that hunters will be out and about this weekend for the muzzleloader season.



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