When cold December nights begin to freeze local ponds and lakes, most waterfowl hunters are packing away their guns and digging out the ice augers. But there are a few hardy souls that brave the bitter temperatures in pursuit of goldeneyes. Also known as whistlers or ice ducks, these rugged diving ducks are the often the last migratory birds found on Lake Champlain as fall gives way to winter, and they offer some of the hottest hunting of the year.
It wasn't that long ago that there were no wild turkeys in Vermont. But in the late 1950's and early 60's The Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife instituted the "Trap and Transport Program," trapping wild turkeys in New York State and relocating them to Vermont. The program proved very successful and today wild turkey populations have expanded across the entire state. In this segment, host Lawrence Pyne and turkey hunter Buvy Gamache venture out on the last day of turkey season 2001 in search of an elusive tom.
A few years ago, duck hunter and homicide detective for the Vermont State Police, Tim Bombardier, decided to try carving duck decoys. Eight hundred decoys later, he's still at it. We recently spent a day with Tim learning about what goes into building a useable decoy and then put them to the test on Shelburne Pond.
The Missisquoi National Wildlife Management Refuge is home to one of the largest and most productive waterfowl habitats in Vermont. Although the refuge attracts waterfowl most of the year, peak use is in the fall when more than 20,000 ducks are anticipated annually. Thanks to a managed hunting program, duck hunters can enjoy an experience like no other in Vermont. Host Lawrence Pyne joins hunter Dave Greenough for a day of duck hunting at the Refuge.
When it comes to hunting for upland game birds there's nothing more enjoyable and challenging than grouse and woodcock. These birds lay low and blend into their habitat, making it almost impossible to see them until they take flight. The most efficient way to hunt them is by using bird dogs. Host Lawrence Pyne joins John Hayes of Kirby Mountain Kennels in East Burke for a day of upland bird hunting.
To train a bird dog requires a lot of basic obedience exercises. They must learn how to handle and carry game without destroying it. They must learn to work in the water. A dog must get to the point where it can use its hunting and tracking instincts to find game. The handler undergoes as much training as the dog. Developing into a finely tuned team takes practice and training. Hunting together creates a special bond between hunter and dog. We spent some time at the Diamond Brook Kennel in Brandon to get a taste of what it takes to train hunting dogs.
For many Vermonters in the early 1900's being a successful hunter was the difference between having food on the table or going hungry. Snowshoe hare was a popular meat for the pot during the winter months. For some families the tradition of hunting rabbits with beagles continues. It's a challenge for both dog and hunter, with the rabbits blending into the winter snow and sometimes reaching a speed of 27 miles per hour. Host Lawrence Pyne joins Richard Huntley of Rabbit Hollow Beagles in Bethel for an exciting day of snowshoe hare hunting.
One of the best ways to learn the skills of hunting is to learn in the field from an experienced hunter. Vermont's first youth turkey hunt was held the weekend of April 27 and 28, 2002. This special weekend encouraged experienced hunters to go out with a youngster and share the skills that are required for a successful outdoor experience. We accompanied a young hunter and his mentor to witness the experience of a first hunt.
Falconry has been called the "sport of kings" for centuries and still attracts a worldwide audience. While not as traditionally popular here as in Europe, falconry does have a devoted following in the United States. At the British School of Falconry at the Equinox, a resort in Manchester Village, Vt., visitors can take an introductory falconry lesson that puts them face-to-face with a Harris Hawk. Host Marianne Eaton visits the school for a lesson and accompanies falconers on a hunt for game birds in Tinmouth.