Tag Archives: autumn

Outdoor Activities in State Parks: Hunting

Among the many recreational outdoor activities available in our state parks, hunting is one that many may overlook. Hunting is a long-standing tradition in our nation, both as a necessity and an opportunity to be connected with the outdoors. Hunting is a safe and economically important activity; providing an excellent source of food and promoting family traditions while nurturing an understanding and respect for the environment and the complexity in which it functions. Today, an individual looking to take advantage of hunting opportunities must first complete a hunter safety course, and obtain a hunting license.  The hunter safety course will provide instruction on firearm/ bow safety and planning a hunt, by providing information about the biology of the game species in New York State.

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A hunter with her dog, photo by Bellamy Reynolds

During this fall season many New York residents and out-of-staters will venture out into the woods and wetlands to take part in the multiple hunting seasons that New York State has to offer. Among the vast huntable acreage across the state are properties managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State Parks. In State Parks alone there are about 80 parks, 3 historic sites, 3 golf courses and 50 boat launches that provide opportunities to hunt an array of wildlife from small game, waterfowl to big game species like bear and deer.

Being a hunter – what does it take?

Let’s take a step back and investigate what is involved in becoming a hunter. Besides the hunter safety course and a New York State Hunting license, the hunter must understand the biology of the animal and how that animal interacts with its habitat. Hunters have to be keen observers in order to be successful. Let’s learn about some of the signs a hunter looks for when pursuing whitetail deer.

Deer Path: Deer tend to travel through the forest in a path of least resistance – clear of downed trees and shrubs. Over time these paths become visible as the deer travel them regularly, just like a hiking trail.

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A deer path, from, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADeer_Path.JPG

Tree Rubs: Male deer, or “bucks”, will make rubs on small trees with their antlers to mark their territory, deposit scent and declare their presence to other deer. A hunter must look for rubs in the woods and learn how to tell the difference between and old rub and a new rub. This can be done by closely looking at the tree. A new rub will have the presence of shavings or sawdust on top of the leaf litter that are scraped off when the buck makes a rub. Additionally a new rub will be contrastingly much lighter in color compared to an old rub that is weathered and darker.

Scat: Where deer eat, they poop! A hunter will look for fresh scat (poop) as evidence of recent activity. Fresh scat will be on top of the leaf litter – whereas old scat will be noticeably under leaves and sticks.

Sounds: Deer make a variety of sounds including a soft bleat, grunting, stomping with their hooves, and blowing air. The varying sounds and body language have different meanings. For example a deer may stomp their hooves and blow air out their nose when they smell or see a person in the woods. Observing how deer interact with each other and the sight and scent of humans helps a hunter better understand deer behavior.

A hunter should look for signs of deer well before the hunting season begins to learn the habits of the animal he/she is hunting. Equally important is practice, practice, practice! To be proficient with a firearm or bow a hunter must hone their skills year round. Hunting isn’t easy, it takes practice, time and a lot of patience to be successful. There are many hunter safety education courses available through DEC including the popular “Becoming an Outdoor Woman” (BOW) series. Take a look for yourself.

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Learn more:

Department of Environmental Conservation Sportsman Education

Post by Lilly Schelling, State Parks

The Mysteries of Fall Foliage Revealed

Have you ever wondered what makes the leaves change color in the fall? Or why some years are more vibrant than others? It is quite a fascinating phenomenon, and it all starts with the seasonal temperature and day light hour change. In the fall, the days become shorter and the evenings become cooler. This is what triggers deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the winter) to begin their process of preparation for the winter months to come. This is also why the foliage changes color around the same time every year.

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Photo of abscission layer and leaf detachment. Photo by Lilly Schelling.

It starts with the expansion of the abscission layer between the stem and leaf, which slowly blocks the movement of water and sugar back and forth between the leaf and stem. This causes the leaf to lose the ability or resources to replenish chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green coloration. The chlorophyll rapidly breaks down and we are left with xanthophylls and carotenoids, which are responsible for the yellow and orange pigments you see on trees like aspen and birch. These pigments are usually present in the leaf throughout the growing season but are masked by the green pigment of the chlorophyll.  Anthocyanins are responsible for red and purple coloration and are created by the buildup of sugars trapped in the leaf. As fall progresses into winter all of the other pigments break down, as the chlorophyll did, and the only pigment that remains are the tannins, which are responsible for the brown color of the fallen leaves – though some trees retain their brown leaves throughout the winter, such as oak and beech.

Factors that affect the color and duration of fall foliage are temperature, sunlight and moisture. Ideal conditions for colorful fall foliage are a good growing season followed by dry, warm, sunny days and cool nights. If there was stress in the growing season, such as a drought or flood, the abscission layer may form early and the leaves will fall off before changing color. Additionally, too low of temperatures (freezing) in the beginning of fall will rapidly break down the products responsible for bright colors and the only pigment left will be brown. Other factors that can affect colorful fall foliage are heavy rain and windy storms, as these conditions will cause the leaves to fall.

When you are out admiring the fall colors this year, try to identify which pigment products are responsible for the colors you are seeing on the trees. A great way to view the fall foliage is from a canoe or kayak, but remember to wear your personal floatation device as the water will be chilly! The New York Fall Foliage Report is a great tool for tracking the color changes across the state: http://www.iloveny.com/seasons/fall/foliage-report/#.VgQGwstVhBd.

References:

The United States National Arboretum

Post by Lilly Schelling, OPRHP.