October-November Essence Of Hunting Experiences
BY NATE KENNEDY
Special To Auburn Citizen There’s a commonly used expression in the hunting and fishing world: “That’s what it’s all about!” I know it’s applied in other types of conversations about sports, holidays and family traditions, but it’s frequently exclaimed in tree stands, boats and outdoor-related social media posts. It’s a good one that I often use myself. When I think about a “double date” style ice fishing trip with friends last January, the last deer my mom got, or the feeling of looking into a freezer filled with wild game, I think to myself: “That’s what it’s all about!” October and November are special months for me, and they often lead me to reflect on “what it’s all about.” As a generalist outdoorsman, I hunt and fish for whatever happens to be in season all year round, but nothing really does it for me like October and November. The air is changing, wildlife behavior patterns are shifting, and I get to spend more time in the outdoors with family and friends than any other part of the year. This October has been particularly exciting, as I have been able to hunt deer and waterfowl more often than usual, and feel great senses of peace, pride and purpose while doing it. As I think about the last few weeks and look forward to November, I have to take a moment to really appreciate everything that fall has to offer. First duck hunt This year, for whatever reason, I caught the waterfowl bug pretty bad. Typically I duck and goose hunt once or twice per year but 2020 has already brought on four or five trips. Early this month, I talked a close friend and hunting buddy into giving it a try. His first duck hunt! There was a tremendous feeling of adventure on this hunt — a very early morning, a pitch-dark hike through the brambles, and a hunt filled with fast flying ducks and adrenaline. We had a really great time and lots of opportunities, and that’s all you can ask for. That’s what it’s all about! The setup was on me. I chose a small opening in a creek that flows out of a large lake about an hour’s drive from my house. I had deer hunted here in the past, always seeing and hearing ducks but never duck hunters ... the perfect situation. I felt confident there would be birds in the area, but I was unsure of how much water was in the creek and whether or not the wind would work in our favor. We drove out, hiked in, and were set up just in time for the sunrise. The moment the clock struck legal shooting time, there were ducks flying through the sky. We were surprised and humbled by the stealth and speed of each passing bird, and reminded that we should spend some time at the shotgun range when we get a chance. We did not take any ducks home with us, but the action and excitement made the trip a success, and my friend even suggested we return that evening for another hunt! Hunt with Dad The waterfowl bug carried on the following week. I made a trip home to the North Country for the early muzzleloader season, and I couldn't help but try to talk my dad into an impromptu duck hunt. He and I duck hunted a fair amount together when I was young, but for whatever reason it has been a few years. We grabbed our gear and hit the road! We’ve always been the “winging it” type when it comes to small game hunting. We often throw our gear and a couple of shotguns in the truck and take off without much of a plan. This trip was no different. We headed out to a piece of public land that we have always grouse and rabbit hunted, and tried to find some water access where there were no other hunters. After trying a few different trailheads and parking lots we found a place to hunt. I put out five old mallard decoys and we did our best to blend into the cattails. We talked and laughed, took photos, and just enjoyed the time together. That’s what it’s all about! As the sun sank lower in the sky, a flock of small, fast ducks flew down over the treeline and buzzed over our heads. We were able to get a couple of shots off, and watched one of the birds go down in the field behind us. Mission accomplished! We were officially duck hunters. It took some time, but Dad recovered the duck. A green-winged teal! He says I got it but I’m not so sure that it wasn’t a team effort. We drove home with big smiles and another memory. Try it! A lot of people hesitate to try waterfowl hunting due to the assumption that a lot of gear is needed — decoys, waders, a boat ... the whole deal. While it’s true that having these things can lead to some fun hunts, a shotgun and a box of shells can be just enough to get you started. With more time you can read a few articles about hunting the wind, waterfowl migration, etc. Maybe you can save up for six decoys and a pair of hip boots. But don’t be afraid to give it a try! It’s not about shooting a limit or mastering the craft. It can be in time, but for now just enjoy being outside. Enjoy the fresh air, the landscape and the fruits of our great country and its wildlife conservation efforts. Enjoy learning something new or taking out a new hunter. Quality time spent doing what you love — that’s what it’s all about! Onward into November While October has been incredible, my primary focus this time of year is deer hunting. I put the time in scouting locations during the summer months, shooting my bow and monitoring trail cameras. I hunted as much as I could during the early season without disrupting my hunting spots. Now, it’s time to dive in head first and reap the rewards of whitetail hunting. Archery season in the Finger Lakes presses on. Up north, the early archery and muzzleloader seasons have passed and the regular gun season is upon us. This weekend I am hunting at our family deer camp in the Adirondacks, where the deer are fewer but family time and tradition are in high supply! As temperatures continue to drop and daytime deer activity increases, the season will only get better. November here we come! As we move through another hunting season here in New York, be sure to make safety your top priority. Wear blaze orange, and take proper safety precautions when in the field. Welcome the new hunters, and offer to help them out when you can! They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll both be better off for it. After all, that’s what it’s all about! ----------------------------------- Nate Kennedy is a Liverpool resident who works in Waterloo. An Ogdensburg native, he is a lifelong hunter and angler who holds a master's degree in environmental communication from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and he is a 4-H educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. Kennedy loves to write about and share his outdoor pursuits and his column appears the final Sunday of the month.