Small game, weather permitting
There are a lot of reasons why I’d be perfectly content to get
through this North Country winter without much beyond a dusting of
snow here and there to whiten things up a bit, notably around the
holiday season. It would mean a couple fewer trips to the
chiropractor, less time listening to Paula hammering on the fact we
don’t own a snowblower, an easier time finding spots to run the
Labs and just a general sense that we’re going to survive another
winter in the Adirondacks.
It would also mean a lot more opportunities for small game
hunting. It’s great, for instance, that DEC has extended the
pheasant hunting season through the end of February – and this year
we get 29 days, since it’s a Leap Year. But that’s tempered
somewhat if there’s four feet of snow on the ground, you’ve been
shoveling the stuff for two hours, another avalanche has broken
loose off our steep-pitched metal roof and you’re right back where
you started the morning.
The last thing you want to do after moving several tons of snow
is strap on a pair of snowshoes and slug your way around a couple
miles, toting the shotgun and trying not to do a faceplant,
especially since you may not be able to extricate yourself from
On top of that, the idea of hunting pheasants without the dogs
just isn’t very appealing. Maddie and Haley will never be mistaken
for Ben when it comes to flushing roosters, but Paula and I always
feel guilty when we kennel them up and head out ourselves. That’s
compounded by their pitiful whimpering as we depart.
True, there’s a certain romance to hunting small game on
snowshoes, and we will do that once in a while. But wanting to do
so and having to don the snowshoes are two different things, and
during most winters they’re mandatory if you want to get
So far, however, that’s not the case. A Thanksgiving Eve dumping
of a foot of snow was depressing, but it was followed by several
days of 50-degree temperatures and it’s now long gone. We got
another inch last week, and that’s hanging around, but it’s nothing
we pay attention to.
So right now, small game season is very much in the mix. We’re
already talking about hitting an oak stand and trying to come away
with a mix of black and gray squirrels; it’s been years since I
made a squirrel pot pie and my raving about it even has Paula at
And we’ve always had good luck on the tail end of pheasant
season, even bagging a pair of birds on New Year’s Eve a few years
ago when we weren’t incarcerated by heavy snow.
We’ll keep an eye on the weather, but right now – especially now
that the Northern Zone late muzzleloader deer season has ended –
we’re looking at some great hunting opportunities for pheasants,
grouse, snowshoe hares (I refuse to call them by their technical
“varying” name) and squirrels.
That could change overnight, but right now small game is very
much in the game.