Autumn is officially here

By RON KOLODIEJ

For the Recorder

Last Saturday, September 22, was the first official day of autumn, according to the calendar. After checking the weather reports I took the following day off from everything I had planned and my wife and I just headed north for the day. We started out going to Speculator, then Indian Lake for the Moose Fest, then Blue Mountain Lake, Inlet and finally Old Forge, before heading south for the Thruway and the drive home. The temperature was about 10 degrees colder than it was back home, but still pleasant, though it did rain sporadically (and sometimes quite steadily) beyond Inlet and the whole time we were in Old Forge.

The reason for our day-long jaunt was to do some leaf-peeping, try out my new camera on foliage and any critters that wandered within range, and, more importantly, escape, at least for a day, those pesky autumn chores that seem to pop up. We also hoped to get in a few short hikes but the sporadic rain put an end to that. However, we did help keep five counties a tad "greener" by spending money in each one -- Montgomery, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer and Oneida. As for critters, I saw a big flock of turkeys on the side of Route 30 just past Speculator, no doubt picking up grit off the roadside. Then I saw a lone doe, also at roadside, between Blue Mountain Lake and Inlet, and then spotted a goodly number of other whitetails in and around Old Forge. The ones in Old Forge were literally "in" Old Forge, walking around one of the parking lots. No moose or bear made an appearance but it was a pleasant jaunt nonetheless. My new camera worked fine and is now ready to be put in my backpack for my first deer hunting jaunt of the season later this month.

WATCH FOR DEER WHEN DRIVING

Whitetails will soon begin their pre-rut activity, meaning they'll become more active and unpredictable. Actually, some bucks in this area have already begun "chasing" does but as mid-October arrives, they'll begin these activities in earnest. Exactly when the area rut occurs is subject to conjecture and it depends upon whose book you've read but perhaps it's better to just go with rough rules of thumb.

Hereabouts the "primary rut" generally occurs sometime around the middle of November (give or take a week), followed by other though lesser rutting periods over the next few months, about 28 days apart, right through January and sometimes even into February. Does and bucks become much more active during these rutting periods and their behavior can be erratic, to say the least. October, November and December are also generally considered the peak months for car - deer collisions. Therefore, this may be a good time to warn all motorists to be especially alert when operating a motor vehicle this time of year. Always be alert when driving through deer country, especially at dawn and dusk, and be especially watchful in areas identified by deer crossing signs. That warning increases geometrically if you're on a motorcycle. Reduce speed, stay alert and watch the roadsides; reduce speed when approaching a deer standing near the roadside since it might dart into your path unexpectedly; deer may travel in pairs or even in small groups so when you see one, be prepared for others; and use your emergency flashers or headlight signals to warn other drivers when one or more of the critters are spotted near or on the road.

If you hit and injure or kill a moose, deer or bear, call your nearest police agency and report it as soon as possible. If the critter is dead, you may be able to keep the carcass if you wish -- but only after receiving a possession permit from the investigating officer. In the case of a large moose - good luck, because your vehicle may be destroyed or disabled by the collision. Even worse, so may you or your passengers.

NEW RECORD WHITETAIL?

Until recently, we almost had a new world record typical whitetail here in the US, surpassing the 213 5/8 Milo Hansen buck taken in Saskatchewan in 1993. Here's the story -- and it gets a bit complicated.

In 2006, a Wisconsin hunter took a huge 12 point whitetail that scored an estimated 215, larger than the Hanson buck. However, according to the Boone & Crockett Club, a nontypical point (the G3) on the Wisconsin buck's right antler would drop the score into the 180's after it was deducted from the score. Re-scoring a buck is frowned upon by B & C but the hunter felt the evaluation was an unfair one and that a second opinion was needed. However, he lacked the money and the inclination to pursue the matter, so he ultimately sold the rack for $35,000 to a taxidermist who said he would continue to pursue the scoring matter further. The taxidermist secured the support of a gent who had been a B & C scorer for over three decades and who was on the panel that scored the Milo Hanson buck. This experienced scorer felt an error had been made and that the Wisconsin buck actually met all the criteria for a typical buck, hence making it eligible for world record status. B & C relented and said they would convene an extraordinary, special panel to explore the matter further. It's not something they would ordinarily do but they felt that due to the publicity and comments that had been made, the panel was necessary in order to resolve the matter. The panel, convened early last month, was an impartial one that consisted of four experienced scorers, divided into two 2-man teams that arrived at their conclusions separately. In the final analysis, the panel unanimously agreed that the original scoring was correct and that the G3 point had been appropriately deducted from the final score, bringing the rack into the 180's in score -- well below the Hanson buck. The hunter and the taxidermist who now owns the rack were in attendance when the decision was announced and while they were in disagreement with it, and promised further action, that's where the matter rests now, as of last Saturday. It's not a new world record typical. Close but no cigar.

YOUTH DEER HUNT

Don't forget that the Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that junior hunters ages 14-15 will be able to hunt deer during a special youth firearms deer season over the Columbus Day Weekend, October 6 through October 8, 2012.

The hunt will take place that weekend in both the southern and northern zones and junior hunters 14-15 years of age with a big game hunting license will be eligible to take one deer of either sex with a firearm, when properly accompanied by a licenses and experienced adult. Junior hunters may use a Deer Management Permit for an antlerless deer or, during the youth firearms season only, they may use their regular season tag to take that deer of either sex.

In areas restricted to bowhunting only, junior hunters must abide by that limitation and may use only bowhunting equipment during the special youth hunt, though the regular bowhunting seasons will remain open during that hunt. There is legislation pending which may impact future youth hunts but until it has been acted upon, DEC's regulations will remain in effect. I realize this may sound complicated but it's really not. For additional details on this special hunting opportunity you can go to: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor on the web.

SUCCESSFUL ALASKAN HUNT

Carl Rust of Amsterdam recently returned from a very successful though demanding grizzly bear and moose hunt in Alaska's Talkeetna Mountains.

Carl was hunting out of Stephan Lake Lodge, 146 air miles north of Anchorage, and it snowed or rained for 12 days straight, making the hunt a difficult, wet and physically demanding one. He took his 1,500-pound moose at a distance of 526 yards, using a Christian Arms .338 ultramag and his 325-pound grizzly at 75 yards.

Carl said the hunt was made possible through the cooperation of the Wildlife Sports and Educational Museum in Vails Mills and he extended his thanks to John Madsen, owner of Stephan Lake Lodge, bush pilot and Master Guide Ben Stevenson, and field guides Jan Jorgenson and Jesse Tatman for their cooperation, assistance and professionalism. Carl plans to give a complete account of his trip at the next dinner sponsored by the Wildlife Sports and Educational Museum in March of 2013. He'll pass along tips on planning such a trip including what to prepare for, what to bring and what to expect.

I'll give you more information on that event when the date and details are firmed up.

YOUTH PHEASANT HUNTS

One more reminder that the Montgomery County Republican Club is again hosting a youth pheasant hunt today. This event is open to all licensed young hunters, ages 12-15, and bird dogs will be provided. There is no charge for this hunt and refreshments will also be served after the hunt. Participants will meet at the Route 5 rest area, just west of Tribes Hill at 7:30 a.m. As they did last year, the County Republican Club will also be conducting a Veteran's Pheasant Hunt later this month but the details are not yet firmed up. You can call Tom Georgia at 258-9448 for more info.

On Sunday, the Canajoharie Forest, Fish & Game Club club will conduct its first annual Youth Pheasant Hunt at their facility on Fish & Game Road in Canajoharie. This hunt is also open to all young hunters 12 through 15 years of age who have successfully completed their hunter safety course and have a current small game license. A parent or guardian must accompany each youngster during the hunt.

The program will commence at 8:30 a.m. with a welcoming ceremony by DEC Conservation Officers and club officials who will explain the hunt logistics. Hunters will also have an opportunity to try sporting clays before the actual pheasant hunt commences. In addition, dog handlers will be on hand to assist in locating the birds. A free lunch will also be provided to all the hunt participants at the conclusion of the day's activities.