Woodcock are small, unusual birds that migrate at night and are rarely seen. Closely related to sandpipers and snipe, they are migratory shorebirds that have adapted to life in wooded areas. They feed on earthworms, grubs and insects by probing the ground with their long, narrow bill. These birds prefer wooded thickets that provide them with lots of shade. The soft ground under dense cover also provides an ideal place to look for insects. And that same cover makes a challenging hunting ground where a good pointing dog will definitely increase your chances of success. Host Lawrence Pyne accompanies hunters from the Ugly Dog Hunting Company on a woodcock hunt in Milton and the Champlain Islands.
- Pennsylvanian Game Commission: Woodcock
- The Upland Almanac
- Vermont Outdoor Guide Association:
Vermont Hunting Guides, Services
- Terry Wilson & Nancy Anisfield
The Ugly Dog Hunting Company
1067 Silver Street
Hinesburg, VT 05461
When the marshes and ponds freeze over in November, most duck hunters hang up their guns for the season. But a few hardy waterfowlers continue to enjoy good hunting well into December on the broad waters of Lake Champlain. Late season hunting on the big lake is not for everyone. It can be numbingly cold and more than a little dangerous. But it is a uniquely beautiful time of year to be on the lake, especially when flocks of whistlers or mallards or even geese come sailing out of the snow squalls and gusts across the icy water. Host Lawrence Pyne joins the Farnham family of South Hero in their unique "rock blind" on the shores of Lake Champlain for an afternoon of duck hunting.
The Junior Waterfowl Hunter Training Program that is held at the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge was developed back in 1976 to pass on the traditions of waterfowl hunting to young people. Here they are introduced to all aspects of the sport as avid waterfowl hunters and refuge volunteers share their knowledge of everything from decoy selection and placement to blind construction and species identification. It's an opportunity for kids to learn the correct way to hunt and to be safe, ethical and successful hunters. And it's the only program of its type in Vermont.
- Mark Sweeny
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge
371 North River Street
Swanton, VT 05488
A century ago, trapping fur-bearing animals was not only a way of life for many Vermonters, it was also a necessity to make ends meet and put food on the table. Much progress has been made to regulate trapping, making it as safe and humane as possible. Leg-hold trap technology has improved to the point that if a non-targeted animal is trapped it can be released unharmed. Today trapping it is more of a management tool than a profitable venture, with trappers being summoned by landowners with nuisance animals. And for many families it remains an important way of life. We head out with Tom Decker and his two kids to learn more about the critical role trapping plays as a management tool as well as discover some of the advancements in technology.
"Regulated Trapping and Furbearer Management in the United States" is available on videotape from The Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife. Call (802) 241-3700 for more information.
There's an exciting story behind every set of antlers that is brought home by a hunter. In most cases, the bigger the rack, the larger the animal. Keeping a record of the measurements pays tribute to the hunter, the animal and the managed habitat they come from. The Boone & Crockett Club is the oldest conservation club in the United States. Started by Teddy Roosevelt in 1887, it promotes conservation and outdoor ethics, and supports wildlife research and management. The club maintains records for North America's big game animals. A Boone & Crockett measurer uses special guidelines to measure both antlers and skulls to determine an animal's size. The club maintains statistics for Canada, Mexico and the United States. At the Sportsmen's and Women's Appreciation Banquet organized by the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife every two years, hunters are encouraged to bring in their racks for measurement by the state's only Boone & Crockett certified measurer. We visit this year's banquet at the Montpelier Elk's Club, where certified measurer Ron Boucher shows us how it's done.
- Ron Boucher
P.O. Box 373
Wallingford, VT 05773
There's nothing like calling in a big gobbler during the spring wild turkey season. But fall turkey hunts can be every bit as exciting. The tactics and calling are quite different, however, as the birds are more interested in food than mating. Mature male turkeys most likely won't respond to a hen call in the fall. What they will respond to is the call of other members of the flock that have been separated from the main group. This is where the dogs come in. In Vermont, dogs may be used in fall hunts to flush birds and break up the flock. The dog must also be concealed and remain calm during the calling, which adds yet another challenge level to the day. All of these factors make coming home with a Thanksgiving gobbler a rare event. But with good scouting, breakup by the dog and excellent calling skills, it can go a long way toward putting a wild turkey on the table. Host Lawrence Pyne goes fall turkey hunting with Marc Brown, Steve Hickoff and his turkey dog Midge.
n the Atlantic Flyway almost as many Canada geese are bagged as all duck species combined. There are basically two kinds of Canada geese — migratory birds, which are the birds that fly north in the spring and nest on the tundra, and resident Canada geese, which nest all through the Atlantic Flyway and only migrate as much as they have to when they're forced south by winter weather. There are no distinguishing features between a resident and migrant Canada goose. In addition to banding operations, researchers have taken to the skies over the nesting grounds in northern Quebec on the Ungava Peninsula to determine migratory populations. Data from these operations can help determine how goose hunting seasons are established. In Vermont there is a September season that is specifically targeted at resident birds, while migrant goose season usually begins around the third week in October. In the fall of 2003 the first reciprocal license existed between Vermont and New Hampshire for waterfowl hunting along the Connecticut River zones. Host Lawrence Pyne joins Rob Harvey, a Vermont native and one of the top goose biologists in the country, for a day hunting migratory Canada geese on the Connecticut River.
According to surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the average age of hunters has increased from 35 in 1980 to 42 in 2001. The best way to get young people interested in hunting is to make sure that they have a positive hunting experience the first time around. The Lake Hortonia Country Store in Hubbardton holds a "Youth Hunting Weekend" during Vermont's annual youth deer season in an effort to foster an interest in preserving Vermont's hunting heritage for kids. It was first held in 1999 and has become a big community event, attracting upwards of 300 kids interested in celebrating our hunting heritage. The event was founded on the idea that hunting is not just about bagging game, but quality time spent with those you hunt with. It also strives to promote the ethical aspects of hunting and stresses the importance of sportsmanship to new hunters. Though the highlight of the weekend is the drawing of lifetime hunting licenses for a few lucky kids, the real reward comes from introducing them to the joys of quality time spent in the woods.
Lake Hortonia Country Store
Tracking is one of the most challenging ways of hunting deer in the big woods of northern New England. Deer are few and far between in the North Country and tracking them, sometimes over several miles, is not easy. It's physically and mentally demanding, and lots of things can go wrong. Many trackers get discouraged and give up early on a deer. But for those who stick with a track, there are special rewards that come with the diligence needed to pursue their quarry over several hours or even days. For many hunters it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to bring home a big buck after a long track. Host Lawrence Pyne spends a few days with the "first family" of tracking, the legendary Benoits of central Vermont.
Perfect shots leading to quick kills are what hunters strive for. But it doesn't always happen. Sometimes a hit a fraction of an inch off means the difference between a fast drop and a long and sometimes fruitless chase after wounded prey. Not being able to recover your animal is every hunter's worst nightmare. And there wasn't much you could do to remedy the situation until now. A small group of expert trackers are coming to the aid of Vermont hunters who have lost their quarry. They're fast. They work for free. And for them, tracking is just a big game. They're leashed tracking dogs. Tracking wounded game is a centuries-old tradition in Central Europe. Leashed dog tracking was first introduced in the U.S. in 1986 when an organization called Deer Search Inc. convinced New York lawmakers to legalize it. You must be licensed to track deer with a dog in Vermont, and it's illegal to hunt deer with a tracking dog. But a licensed tracker may recover a wounded animal. The training starts when the dogs are puppies. They're introduced to the scent of deer early in life, first by following a deer tail dragged through the woods, and then graduating to the blood scent. A wound can produce a fine mist-like trace of blood scent that humans can't smell. But for a well-trained tracking dog, it's like walking in front of him with a hot apple pie. The success rate for these dogs is high. And occasionally these same trackers are even called on to find humans that have wandered off the trail. Host Lawrence Pyne joins Tim Nichols to learn training techniques for leashed dog tracking then heads out with Todd Whitaker of Whitaker's Leashed Dog Tracking on a mission to find a wounded deer during bow season.
- Whitakers Leashed Dog Tracking
Todd & Wendy Whitaker - Handlers
- Deer Search Inc.
- Leashed Dog Tracking Service
46 Brookside Lane
Granville, NY 12832