Where to Hike this Hunting Season
by Elizabeth Folwell
With the beginning of regular big-game season in New York’s northern zone on October 26 hikers often wonder about good destinations in the backcountry. Well-marked, popular trails away from wetlands or headed up peaks are less interesting to bucks in pursuit of does and therefore not so interesting to hunters who want to find deer efficiently. For hiking this time of year, with shorter days and early twilight, starting out in midmorning and wearing blaze orange is wise no matter where you’re walking—and keep your dog close at hand.
This year two parcels managed by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry—one in the southeastern Adirondacks and the other in the park’s northwest corner—are off-limits to hunters using rifles and shotguns. Near Warrensburg, Pack Demonstration Forest, and James F. Dubuar Memorial Forest, in Wanakena, are appealing to hikers and cyclists this fall because of recent legislation. Pack Forest has a nice network of mountain bike routes and easy walks; you can explore the Dubuar tract by car, on foot or bike.
In January 2013 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which includes a ban on firearms on college campuses. Prior to the SAFE Act, Pack and Dubuar Forests welcomed hunters, who helped keep the white-tail deer population in balance with the food supply. But close reading of the act led administrators to close the 5,300 acres, which actually are owned by Syracuse University for SUNY ESF management. Trapping and bow hunting are still permitted on these lands in 2013.
If you and your family want to try archery with expert guidance, paddle in a war canoe or stroll easy trails to Lake George overlooks, another special parcel of land welcomes the public for a day of outdoor action. YMCA Camp Chingachgook opens for hiking, archery, field games, crafts and even free lunch at its Fall Family Festival that begins at 10:00 a.m. on October 26. Call ahead to reserve a lunch or picnic on the lovely grounds; activities are geared to all ages.
At the Wild Center, in Tupper Lake, you can hike the gentle trail that leads to wildlife viewing stations and the Raquette River or you can meet real creatures up close and personal. On Saturday, October 26, a raven is the star of Lore of the Raven, a program that explores this bird’s role in mythology and on Sunday, October 27, Creatures of the Night includes live owls. Both events begin at 1:00 p.m. and are included in admission to this natural history museum.
For more late fall hiking suggestions see last year’s post on hunting season destinations.