Here we are, in the second week of October, and the foliage is either at peak or just past peak, depending on where you are looking and whether you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half empty kind of person.
For many of us, early fall is an opportunity to bask in this Technicolor bonanza by hiking, boating, and taking scenic drives and trips to the apple orchard.
For others, foliage season is a time to prepare for a different kind of activity that nonetheless connects people with nature: hunting season.
“It’s as much about being about being out in the woods and enjoying the experience as it is about shooting a deer,” said Chris Sanborn, co-owner of R&L Archery in Barre.
For some, hunting season has already begun; black bear season — both with dogs and without — kicked off in September and runs until the mid-November. And for hunters looking to get a jump-start on trying to bag that elusive big buck, bow-and-arrow season began Oct. 5.
Other hunting seasons coming up for big game, as defined by Vermont Fish & Wildlife, include bear, moose and turkey. But, there are also seasons for small game, which include gray squirrel, rabbit and hare, and crow. (Fun fact: Crow season runs from Aug. 19 to Dec. 19, but only Friday through Monday. For a crow, getting through Monday is like the rest of us getting through Friday.)
So, how is the season shaping up? Outdoor outfitters are expressing cautious optimism.
“I think it’s going to be a good season. People are seeing a lot of animals around,” said Ramel Kuney, owner of the Old Fishing Hole Gun Shop in Morrisville.
“In terms of the upcoming season, I think you have to check with the Farmer’s Almanac,” said Henry Parro, owner of Parro’s Gun Shop and Police Supplies in Waterbury.
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the best time to go hunting is Oct. 2-31, which is a pretty wide window that includes open season on deer, moose, bear and turkey, as well as ruffed grouse, and the trapping of raccoons and red and gray foxes.
So, now that you know when — and what — you can hunt, what will you need?
“Well, that’s obvious,” Parro said, laughing. “You need your gun, and a good scope is a good idea, too. But, you want to make sure you have your license and you have you have the right tags.”
“Well, time was we’d tell people to get some two-way radios, so you can call for help, but everyone has cellphones now,” Parro said. “Also, a GPS, so you know where the nearest road is.”
It’s true that pretty much everyone — hunter or otherwise — has a cellphone; but, it’s also true that there are vast swaths of the state where there is no cell service. So, don’t ditch those radios quite yet.
Parro said he expects an influx of hunters in his shop when the weather changes.
“Right now, people are working on their honey-do lists,” he said. “I think a good cold snap will get people thinking about hunting.”
Another important issue for some hunters, depending up their approach to the sport, is tree stand safety. Last weekend, Vermont Fish and Wildlife reminded hunters to be safe when climbing in and out of their tree stands.
“Hunter education instructors want you to be safe this coming season,” said Nicole Meier, information and education specialist for Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “Falls from tree stands are a major cause of death and serious injury to deer hunters, but they are preventable by always wearing a full-body harness and staying connected to the tree.”
Sanborn concurred, saying a harness is much more effective than a belt.
“We suggest a full-body harness rather than a belt, so you don’t end up upside-down with the blood rushing to your head,” Sanborn said.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife is also reminding hunters that, on state land, it is illegal to place nails or other hardware in trees or to build permanent structures. On private lands, you must have landowner permission to erect a tree stand, cut or remove trees or other plants, or cut limbs. All stands, including ground blinds, must be marked with the owner’s name and address.
Any final advice?
“Have fun. Be safe,” Kuney said.