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
In the early 1900s only a few thousand snow geese migrated along the Atlantic flyway from their nesting grounds in the eastern Arctic through Northern Quebec and the eastern U.S. By 1970 the population had grown to 100,000. Today, it's more than 900,000. A blizzard of snow geese is an amazing sight when viewed from a designated sanctuary such as the Dead Creek Wildlife Management area in Addison, Vermont. But these numbers also mean a devastating effect on habitat. A large concentration of geese can turn a salt marsh into a mud flat as they grub, ripping up large grasses by the roots and destroying habitat for other birds. And as the population grows, it has a particularly negative impact on the birds' nesting habitat — the habitat they need for the young to survive. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has now come to depend on hunters to help bring the snow goose population under control and reduce it to the carrying capacity of the habitat. Surprisingly, although the concentration of snow geese that are migrating is huge, the odds are in the favor of the birds to make it past hunters. Hunting snow geese requires dedication, teamwork and ideal weather conditions to even get the birds to look your way. And it means decoys — lots of them. And they have to be in place early. To get the 500 to 1,000 decoys in place by the time the sun comes up, the wake-up call is two o'clock in the morning for one group of dedicated hunters. It means a frantic criss-crossing in the dark, wearing headlamps to get the decoys and coffin blinds positioned in a farm field. And even with a mixture of full-body decoys, silhouettes, shells and kites, there is no guarantee the birds will come in. A sunny day can mean a long wait as light reflects off the shiny fake birds, warning the real ones to stay away. What you're looking for is high wind and dark days. But for those with the patience, good calling skills and the luck of the weather, the sight of forty or fifty birds "whiffling" in on the wind and into range is worth every minute of preparation. In this segment, Lawrence Pyne joins a group of hunters in the pre-dawn hours as they prepare for a snow goose hunt.
Shed hunting doesn't get the press of deer or other types of hunting. There is no official season. You don't use a gun or bow. In fact, the only equipment you use are your legs and eyes. Shed hunting refers to the finding of antlers that animals have shed. Animals such as deer and moose shed their antlers in winter so they can grow larger ones in the spring. Moose antlers can grow very fast — as much as an inch a day. When they are fully developed they can weigh as much as sixty pounds. Deer and moose will shed their antlers anytime between November and March. The best time to hunt for sheds is either in early December before there is a lot of snow buildup or in late winter early spring as the snow melts away. Steve Foster has been hunting sheds for 45 years. He says that some of the best ones have been found in November. Though he's not ready to give up on rifle hunting season yet, Steve says hunting sheds has become an obsession with him. He heads out as soon as deer season is over. "There's nothing like it. I just love doing it. I love being outside in the winter. It's a beautiful time of the year." Hunting for sheds is like looking for a needle in a haystack. It requires some of the same skills regular hunting does. You have to look for the signs, such as the rubs on the trees, tracks and beds. You have to be familiar with the type of habitat of your animal. And this is a silent prey. A shed doesn't bolt when you approach it. It will let you walk right by without moving. It requires keen eyes, woodsmanship and a passion for being outdoors. Host Lawrence Pyne joins Steve Foster on a moose shed hunt in winter.
From trolling for trout and salmon to jigging for pan fish, Lake Champlain has something to offer to just about any angler. However, one of the big lake's most unique fishing opportunities is experienced by few fishermen — bow fishing for carp, bowfin and long nose gar. These prehistoric fish are seldom caught by anglers, but may be taken year round with a bow and arrow. On calm sunny days, they can be found swimming in shallow shore waters where they provide bow fishermen with exciting and sometimes non-stop action. It's part fishing, part hunting and a great way for bow hunters to keep their shooting skills sharp during the long off-season. Host Lawrence Pyne joins longtime bow fishermen Steve and Mike Beyor on the shallow waters of Missisquoi Bay for an exciting day of bow fishing..
After a hiatus of nearly 90 years, moose hunting was reintroduced in northern New England in the mid to late 1980s. Wildlife biologists in the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont issue moose hunting permits through a lottery system to help stabilize the growth of the moose population. Join host Lawrence Pyne as his name is finally drawn in New Hampshire for the 2005 moose season. When it comes to hunting big game in New England, nothing compares to the thrill of pursuing moose, North America's largest deer.
More than 60 million youngsters have participated in 4-H programs since their inception back in 1902. And today 4-H continues to be the largest youth development program in the United States. Although often thought of as strictly an agricultural organization, 4-H engages youth in hands-on, experiential learning and activities that cover almost any interest. The National 4-H Shooting Sports Program stands out as an example. Young people learn marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles of hunting and archery, and much more. To learn more about the program, we visited the 4-H Shooting Jamboree at the Northeast Kingdom Skeet Club in Burke Hollow, Vt.
The Atlatl and dart, is an ancient weapon used for centuries by native cultures around the globe prior to the use of the bow and arrow. While bow hunting became more widespread, the atlatl still maintained a distinct advantage in certain circumstances. For example, once loaded, the atlatl became a one handed weapon, allowing the other hand free to guide the boat. This made it extremely useful in hunting waterfowl. In fact, the name atlatl is derived from the Aztec word meaning “water thrower”. Today, there is a growing interest in atlatls for both sport and hunting. Some local enthusiasts are keeping the tradition of both crafting these unique weapons, and perfecting their unique throwing technique alive.
Gray Squirrels can be found just about anywhere in the Northeast. In parks, around back yard bird feeders and campgrounds these little critters can appear pretty bold but in the hard woods squirrels are extremely skittish. Hunting gray squirrels can be extremely challenging but it’s a fun and exciting way to introduce youth hunters to the woods and develop proper gun handling habits.
Almost half of today's students graduating with a wildlife degree have never hunted and have a minimal understanding of the impact that hunters provide to wildlife management and other conservation programs. In 2005 the Wildlife Management Institute and Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation began the Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow program as a way to introduce students to the culture and concepts of hunting. For the last two years the Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow program has held their program at Camp Kehoe on Lake Bomoseen in Castleton, Vermont.