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Autumn: The finest season

Autumn is the finest of all Adirondack seasons. Although peak foliage season has yet to grace the valleys, a full blown fall is already apparent in the upper elevations. Cool, clear days, crisp nights and a few heavy frosts have served to expedite the season. Typically the peak of foliage season arrives around Columbus Day weekend. However it is early this year and it is spectacular! With a mix of brilliant red, orange, yellow and crimson, the hillsides have come alive with color. Hiking trails are now covered in a technicolor carpet as rivers flow with black waters speckled with brilliance. Country roads canopied by hardwoods, such as the Steele Woods Road near Elizabethtown, now offer travelers the experience of driving through natures kaleidoscope. There are fewer people in the woods and on the waters now. Columbus Day weekend signals the last great influx. A thick morning mist now covers mountain waters as wool hats replace the baseball caps of summer. Soon, hunters will be the primary woodland travelers and will continue to be for the remainder of hunting season. With the scheduled opening of the regular big Game season arriving in just a few weeks, now is the time to catch up on chores. Once the season begins, it will become increasingly difficult to find tradesmen. Employees will call in sick and others will be on vacation. By mid November, most businesses in the North County will begin to show the effects of the hunting season draw down. The Fishing Report In addition to its natural beauty, autumn also signals the final days of trout season and the return of salmon to the rivers and streams. Statewide, the trout season ends on Oct. 15, but not before the spawn period for lake trout, browns and brookies. Prior to the spawn, these species become aggressive and regularly offer anglers the best chance for a trophy. As trout move into the prespawn stage, they will feed heavily and become territorial. On the streams, fish will begin to seek the deeper pools, while on the lakes and ponds they will stage up on the edges of the shoals and shallow bays. Brook trout are already wearing their flashy garb, as they are decked out in spawn colors which rival the attendant fall foliage for brilliance. Anglers can expect to find some of the best angling opportunities of the season over the next two weeks. Increasing numbers of landlocked salmon and brown trout will move into the tributaries of the larger lakes, gathering near the mouth of tributaries as water levels permit. Salmon have been slow to move upriver out of the Big Lake and may have difficulties this year because of extremely low water levels on the AuSable, Saranac and Bouquet rivers. Although the end of the trout season is in sight, there are numerous warm water species such as bass, walleye and northern pike that will continue to provide anglers with action well into the fall. The Hunting Report Woods trails now have that old familiar crunch, as an annual carpet of freshly fallen leaves is finally beginning to accumulate. Archery season has already begun, so now is the time to prep for the upcoming season and sight in your muzzleloader or rifle. Smokepole season begins Oct. 11 followed a week later by the Regular Big Game season. With the advent of the Youth Hunting License, I expect to see an influx of new hunters this season. The addition of 14-year-olds to the hunt will likely help to diminish the average age of New York hunters, which has been creeping upwards of the half century mark. Although New York hunters have been growing older, their many years of experience reveal that success comes with age. New York has an astounding hunter success rate of nearly 44 percent, which places the state well about the national average of slightly less than 33 percent. While anti-hunting groups continue to argue the point, the fact remains that hunting is safe and getting safer. Always hunt safe! Nationally, the hunting injury rate (injuries per 100,000 hunters) has been cut more than 67 percent during the past 35 years. There are nearly 700,000 hunters in New York. Only one in 14,000 causes an accident, so 99.99 percent of New York hunters don't cause firearms injuries. While you may be the safest hunter in the woods, you cant prevent somebody else's mistake! But, you can hedge your bet by wearing hunter orange and a personal floatation device. It is a well established fact, orange saves lives! From 1994 through 2003 four out of five deer hunters wore hunter orange. Not even one who wore hunter orange was mistaken for game and killed. But 15 hunters who did not wear orange were killed when mistaken for game. Drowning remains the single most significant cause of hunter deaths nationwide and it is the most easily prevented. The US Coast Guard reports that the majority of hunter drowning occurred when someone stood up in a boat to pee at sea. These hunters died with their pants unzipped. One third of hunting injuries are self-inflicted and most others are caused by a friend or relative. Many hunting injuries are caused by accidental firing, when people are not shooting. But, most occur while shooting, and for over half of these, target visibility or people in the line of fire is involved. People are much safer in the woods than on the roads. The most dangerous part of a hunt is the drive to the hunting area. Nationwide, more people are killed by deer (about 100-150 per year, in collisions with motor vehicles) than are killed in hunting-related shooting incidents. Non-hunters, such as hikers and paddlers that express concern with the dangers of being in the woods during the hunting season should also take note. A person who is not hunting is 45 times more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than by a hunters bullet according to the National Safety Council which reveals the average U.S. lightning deaths are about 90 per year, while the average non-hunter deaths in hunting incidents is less than two per year. Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@ adelphia.net

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