Submitted by guest blogger Julianna Carattini
How many sunrises have you seen this year? With my third season of hunting whitetail deer beginning, this question is never far from my mind. On those early mornings when my warm bed starts to look too comfortable to leave or when I am watching my breath dance in front of me in the woods I ask myself, “How many sunrises have I seen this year?” The fact that I am unable to answer this question reminds me of how lucky I am to be able to connect to nature through hunting season. In fact, one of the best parts of hunting in the Adirondacks is the connections you make with the land and with other hunters.
Unlike many of my friends, I did not grow up hunting; a side effect of the fact that I was born and raised downstate. As I spent more time with my friends from Schroon Lake, I began to learn about the sport of hunting. There was always a story to be heard or new pictures to show of the amazing places they’d seen walking through the woods. Deciding to learn to hunt as an adult and a woman was intimidating at first. The morning I entered my hunter safety class, a pre-requisite for obtaining a hunting license, I found a group of people who were warm, welcoming, and just as excited to learn this new skill as I was. Even more surprising, the class was almost equally split between men and women of all ages eligible to participate. My fear of being the only female or the oldest student quickly subsided.
Once I was able to purchase my license, I could not wait until for my first hunting season, a season that would quickly become one of my favorites, to start. While I had shot a gun before, I remember my nerves running high the morning of my first season. Dressed in camo from head to toe, I stopped at Stewart’s for coffee and breakfast. Inside I found people dressed just like me all talking over the coffee counter about the big bucks they’d seen on their trail cams, the weather for the day, and then they greeted me. Being a girl in a sea of camo-clad men, I felt out of place until everyone began to encourage and congratulate me on starting my first season. As that season went on, I found more women who enjoyed the woods as much as I did and who held their own talking about past kills at the bar.
My biggest fear, aside from being a female in a male dominated sport, was finding a group to hunt with and teach me the skills I would need. Friends of mine are completely at home in the woods, using a compass, and tracking big bucks. I thought that no one, even my friends, would want to hunt with a beginner who seemingly brought no skills to the table and I couldn’t have been more wrong. My hunting party welcomed me with open arms, showed me patience and kindness when teaching me a new skill, and more importantly, gave me a tradition I can celebrate the rest of my life. Weekend mornings in the fall are only complete when we are standing in our circle of trucks, drinking coffee, and planning our hunts for the day.
For as many people as I saw in my hunting safety course or at Stewarts the morning of my first season, young hunters seem to be few and far between. Getting up in the frosty air of fall to sit in the woods, hoping to see a deer and being able to take one home, might not be as appealing as sleeping in and playing video games. I encourage anyone interested in learning to hunt to take their safety course as soon as they can. Do not be afraid to ask local hunters questions or if you can join their party. My hunting party always welcomes newcomers, no matter what type of experience they have. With only three seasons under my belt, I have yet to make my first kill, but that hasn’t stopped me from looking forward to every morning I spend in the woods, every minute spent with people who continue to teach me about this sport, and every view I’ll get to see next.
The Adirondack Hub has an abundance of public, protected wilderness great for hunting. The Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area, part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and located to the east of Schroon Lake, covers more than 46,000 acres that includes lakes, ponds, and small mountains and hills. Deer season is especially popular here, but the area is also known for snowshoe hare and game birds. Also popular is Blue Mountain Wild Forest, in Minerva. Wherever you go, be sure to check state regulations about hunting and have an up-to-date hunting license.