Hunters prepare for cool autumn

After an unseasonably cool summer, hunters are picking up their bows and rifles in preparation for for the beginning of what promises to be a good hunting season. The transition from summer to fall has proved to hold the ideal cool temperatures for hunters to get out in the woods.

According to The Weather Channel, hunters look for low pressure systems, trying to hunt right before and right after the fronts move through, bringing lower temperatures and more desirable barometric pressure. “[Animals] may roam more on cooler days since it’s not as hot as the summer months,” said Bill Pratico, a hunter’s education instructor in southern Vermont. “Most animals this time of year are preparing for the long winter that’s coming,” he said.

As the animals prepare for the coming cold, hunters begin to set up their camp and collect the necessary equipment to allow them to be out in the open for long periods of time. Most hunters set up their tree stands and encampments early in morning, often before dawn, setting up gear to entice animals into their range. Hunters then lay in wait, trying to move as little as possible to escape animals’ detection.

“As I teach my kids in Hunter’s Safety, you dress for the conditions,” he said, “This time of year you come to expect cold mornings and warm days so… instead of wearing just a t-shirt, I would add a sweatshirt or a light jacket.” Pratico said that as it gets colder, hunters add a heavier jacket, long underwear and thicker socks.

“When you’re sitting for such a long time it’s easy for body temperature to drop since you are trying to move as little as possible,” said Elizabeth McCauley, a hunter from New York’s North Country. “Sometimes, despite heavy layers, the cold can be too much, for both us and the game, and depending on how much cold you can take, one might be forced to retire early”

Hunters must pay attention to how the weather will affect their weaponry. According to Pratico, “You need to practice through the year and know your firearm, bow, or muzzle loader.  Some weapons will react differently in rain, snow, or from 70 degree weather as opposed to 30 degree weather.” Temperatures now though will not affect most weaponry, but rain can ruin bowstrings among other equipment.

Even though animals are moving around due to the temperatures, hunters must abide by the hunting seasons set out by the Department of Conservation. Regulations limit the type of hunting and type of weaponry that can be used for hunting where and when throughout the country. Currently, the early bear and squirrel seasons are open in northern New York, with bow season for deer opening on the 27th. Most other animals and weaponry open up in October, according to the New York Department of Conservation’s website.

Many hunters are anticipating a particularly harsh winter. “Snow is what we want for easier tracking,” said Pratico. During the fall, when leaves are on the grounds, hunters rely on markings animals make along the trails if they happen to lay down, or rub their antlers on a tree. In the winter, footprints of animals are left behind for hunters to track.

A photograph of a deer rub- where deer rub their heads as their antlers come in- used to track deer during hunting season

A photograph of a deer rub- where deer rub their heads against a tree as their antlers come in- used to track deer during hunting season.

If winter comes early though, it could bring issues with it, as animals hunker down for winter quicker. “Animals do act differently, especially after the first snow, so if that comes early this year we might be in a bit of trouble,” said McCauley.

The cool autumn has not had a major effect on hunting, aside from the usual concerns. According to Pratico, “All the [temperature and weather] has done is make die hard hunters like myself [get excited].  It makes us want to be out in the woods scouting, setting up stands, watching game, setting up tree cameras, and just enjoying the foliage change.”

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