A 'Quest' is a 150-year-old English tradition that has been transplanted to Vermont by an organization called Vital Communities. Participants follow clues that are found in a book titled Valley Quest, which takes them on 89 different treasure hunts across Vermont and New Hampshire. Each quest in the book contains riddle-like clues and maps for the hunt. The quests are designed to teach adults and children about the natural and cultural history of the communities they live in. At the end of each quest the participants find a treasure chest containing a journal for the questors to sign and leave messages in, a stamp with which to stamp their quest books, and more information about the community.
- Vital Communities
104 Railroad Row
White River Junction, VT 05001
Hand-eye coordination is the name of the game when it comes to skeet shooting. It's a sport of angles where women can compete on an equal plain with men. In skeet shooting, participants attempt to hit clay pigeons that are fired from two different locations on the course. Using shotguns, they make their way through eight different stations placed in a semicircle in front of the target launchers. The shooting stations create a variety of different trajectories and it can be challenging for even seasoned shooters to hit the moving targets. Host Marianne Eaton visits the Sportsman's Club of Franklin County to learn the highs and lows of skeet shooting.
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
Horseback riding is a sport of communication. The second a person mounts a horse, the animal instantly knows whether the rider is experienced by their subtle movements. This relationship is at the center of this sport. The bonding that goes on between human and animal is what makes riding pleasurable for both rider and horse. And there's no place like Vermont to enjoy a day on the trail. South Woodstock, Vermont sits in the heart of one of the finest horse trail systems for both competitive and pleasure riding in the country. The trails, which are maintained by the Green Mountain Horse Association, wind through fourteen communities in Windsor County creating the perfect environment to enjoy Vermont's outdoors by horseback. Host Marianne Eaton visits Kedron Valley Stables in South Woodstock for a horseback riding lesson and then joins members of the GMHA for their annual fall foliage ride.
Muzzle-loading guns were an important tool for survival for early Vermonters. Today, the allure of the ball-firing muzzleloader has caught on with a whole new generation of hunters and shooting enthusiasts. These guns present special challenges for hunters in that you only have one shot to hit your quarry. You have to get relatively close to the target to make a successful shot. And even when the conditions are right, the gun may misfire. It's a sport of few second chances. Every January in Jeffersonville at the Primitive Biathlon, period-costumed participants traverse the course, wearing wooden snowshoes, and shooting at the targets with muzzleloaders. It's a day where the woods are filled with mountain men and the smell of black powder. Host Lawrence Pyne competes at this year's event.
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.
To many it may appear impossible to comprehend a climb up a sheer wall of ice in the winter. But thanks to advances in technology, this sport is now more accessible than ever. For many ice climbers, mastering the mental and physical challenges associated with this sport is what makes it attractive. Ice climbing requires a person to be completely in synch with the environment and to understand how the changing weather conditions affect the terrain being climbed. For those that attack the physical and mental challenges of this sport, there is a special sense of accomplishment and feeling of being one with nature. Host Marianne Eaton joins Austin Paulson of Peak Expeditions for a day on the ice in Smuggler's Notch.
Twenty years ago Dave Sellers was looking for a way to enjoy a downhill experience without waiting on lift lines or sticking to groomed trails. He came up with the rocket sled — six pounds of plastic and foam rubber that a rider kneels in and floats down the powder on. A rocket sled is light enough to carry easily as you hike up a mountain. And because your legs are strapped into it, when you shift your weight the sled will turn quickly. Its design leaves a thick "monorail" of snow underneath that helps hold an edge, but will collapse when you want to make a turn. The sled is designed for powder and its maneuverability lets the rider tackle trees as well as moves such as Eskimo rolls and helicopters. Host Marianne Eaton joins members of the Mad River Rocket Company for a hike up Granville Gulf and a run on the powder.
- Clearwater Sports: Snowshoe & Backcountry
Ski Tours (see their "Rocket-Shoeing Adventure")
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