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
When many people think of ice fishing they think perch, crappie and other panfish that are popular with winter anglers. But from the third Saturday in January to the second Saturday in March on Lake Whiloughby in the Northeast Kingdom, fishermen turn their attention to bigger game under the ice. That's when lake trout season has anglers dreaming of twenty-pound-plus lunkers being pulled through the ice. The lake is famous for producing some of the largest trout in New England. A good-size laker trout in Whiloughby is between eight and ten pounds. But in 1986, Barry Cahoon of Danville went into the record books by pulling a twenty-six pounder out of the lake. Going after trout in January isn't for everyone. You have to be willing to dig through two feet of ice and put in some long hours watching your tip-ups in cold conditions. But for many New Englanders a day on the lake is more than just fishing. It's a chance to catch up with old friends, experience nature in the winter and, for a moment, dream a little of a big one on the end of your line. Host Lawrence Pyne joins Barry on a brisk February morning of fishing for big lake trout on Lake Whiloughby.
Vermont has more than 80 state wildlife management areas covering well over 100,000 acres. Management activities on these areas vary by habitat type, but perhaps none are more intensively managed than wetland wildlife management ares. Although wetland areas like the Dead Creek WMA in Addison look often like they do not need any improving, behind the scenes state biologists and volunteers work year-round to make them as attractive and beneficial to wildlife as possible.
The centerpiece of the nearly 5,000-acre Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area is Victory Bog. This shrubby, peat-moss wetland is fed by small streams that drain the mountains that ring the basin, which eventually flow into the Moose River. Victory Bog is home to several unusual plants, including the insect-eating pitcher plant. With its diversity of rare bird species and network of maintained trails, Victory Basin attracts bird watchers from across the region. But it also hosts a variety of other outdoor activities.
The Lake Champlain Basin is home to more than 70 species of fish, including the greatest assemblage of panfish in New England. Yellow perch, pumpkinseed, bluegill, smelt, bullhead and other panfish have long been popular targets for anglers both young and old, and in recent years crappie have been growing in popularity. Lake Champlain is home to two species of crappie, the common black crappie, or calico bass, and the white crappie, or silver bass. Black or white, crappies are fast becoming a lake favorite.