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Beauty in Belmont by, Delleny Molisani

In the Outdoors: Finally a tracking snow


It’s a lot tougher to read leaves than it is to read snow”

By Oak Duke

    Our first real tracking snow came late again this year, here, perched up on top of the Appalachian Plateau in New York state, straddling the Pennsylvania border.

    Oh, some may have noticed that the hilltops had a few earlier dustings of the white stuff, but it quickly dissipated. 

    This first real snow finally came, just after the second Full moon following the Harvest moon in September.   

    Our current Full moon is named the Full Beaver moon and landed in the middle of whitetail season this year, signaling what deer hunters call “The Second Rut.”

    The first and main whitetail rut, or breeding flurry popped like a champagne cork just prior to Halloween this year, under the Full Hunter’s moon October 28, and spilled into early November.

    Most does, actually upwards of 75% were subsequently bred through the month as typically happens according to researchers.

    Fuel for this current second whitetail rut, the remaining 25% of so, comes from three main sources: does that did not conceive in the first go-around, wallflower does that were not ready, many still with late fawns, and the oldest doe fawns experiencing their first cycle. 

    We say the snow fell “late” because back in the old days, we deer hunters always had a tracking snow by at least Thanksgiving if not before.

    But the times are a-changing, as is our weather.

    For many of us who pursue the white-tailed deer, we’ll take it, better late than never. 

    We want snow at the beginning of the season, settle for it in the middle, and long for it when it doesn’t show up until the deer season is winding down.     

    Whitetails are tough to pick out in their woodland environment under normal autumnal conditions, as they blend into the background of the brown and gray woods. 

    But when it snows, the pendulum swings towards the hunters.

    The fog lifts.

    Snow extends our sight.

    Gives us range.

    Gives us reach.

    Empowers our grasp.

    Many deer hunters love, hope, and long for snow for other reasons too.

    Not only can we see the whitetail better, we read the snow like a book.

    It’s a lot tougher to read leaves than it is to read snow.   

    The past is clear in the snow, literally in black and white. 

    Reading leaves, whether dry or cornflake crunchy is much more difficult than perusing and sorting out a trail in a proper tracking snow.

    And we can better access and strategize where to pick our stands, where we watch and wait, not to mention learn about the ways of the whitetail.

    When snow comes, of course it finally cools the woods down and deer move more.

    These unseasonably warm early deer seasons make it difficult, if not impossible to hang or age our deer, which should be done at near or around the optimal 38 degrees F. mark.

    Most hunters, lacking a cooler, a refrigeration unit, or building to age or hang their venison, need to process it immediately.

    Of course with the surge of deer taken in the first few days of the season, many meat processors are working literally day and night – with knives.

    Many deer hunters, connoisseurs of meat, prefer to age it, checking daily as if they were riddlers (remuage) in a wine cellar where the bottles are slightly turned.

     But temperatures have to be cool, in the right range, to produce the mildest, delectable, and tender portions of meat.

    Proper outdoor gear is part of the deer hunting ritual, and runs the gamut of light camouflage during archery season to now warm blaze orange, insulated suits and jackets, and boots. 

    Our clothing this year, especially during archery season had to be lightweight, necessitated by daytime temperatures hitting the 50s and 60s, even 70s. 

    Whitetails of course have their heaviest coats on too, as they change from their light, reddish summer coats to a much heavier, insulated brown/gray model.

    Whitetail daytime activity is historically depressed when the temps are too warm. Just too hot for them to move around much. 

    Whitetails during the fall were observed and on camera, hot and panting, ill-prepared by nature for the unseasonably warm temperatures in October and early November this year.

    Snow is the harbinger of cooler times, more enjoyable and comfortable times, especially when pushing deer and still-hunting.

    Snow makes deer season feel right.

    So when this snow finally comes, it’s never so beautiful, never so appreciated, never so important, never such a blessing.

Oak Duke/Wellsville, NY/November 2023

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