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Hooks-Antlers outdoor column

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The Thanksgiving holiday provides people with an occasion to reflect on their blessings, and outdoorsmen and women can certainly be thankful for the seasonal opportunities that abound in area woods and on local waters. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is a seasonal look at some of my numerous outdoor blessings.

Winter

Favorite winter activities include hiking and ice fishing. My home is on the banks of the Grasse River, and once the river freezes over, it becomes a daily hiking area for me and my golden retriever, Pike. Hiking is a general term, though, as I might be wearing boots, ice creepers, snowshoes, or cross-country skis depending on snow conditions. Unlike summer when boaters, kayakers, and canoeists frequent the river, Pike and I have the river to ourselves except for the deer, coyotes, squirrels, and turkeys that cross the frozen surface.

Most ice fishing ventures take place on St. Lawrence River bays, but there is an occasional trip to an inland lake such as Black, Grass, Pleasant, or Perch. In truth, there are just too many good destinations to visit in a given winter.

Even though fishing is slow some days; the fresh air, exercise, and companionship are stimulating.

Spring

Spring activities include gearing up for fishing, early-season outings, and turkey hunting. Preparing for the approaching fishing seasons is a true joy of early spring. My preparation involves tying up walleye spinners, tying up buck-tailed jigs for pike, making leaders for musky casting and trolling, replacing line on reels, organizing tackle boxes, and getting the boat ready. And, of course, the most fun preparation involves shopping on-line, in the catalog, or at the store for new and “needed” items.

Early-season fishing begins with shoreline outings for perch or bullheads in various St. Lawrence River bays. When pike and walleye seasons open on the first Saturday in May, those species become the quarry of choice.

Casting grub-tipped jigs or trolling diving plugs are the walleye techniques while casting buck-tailed jigs tipped with a plastic worm is the technique for northern pike. Even though my fly-fishing skills are mediocre, I enjoy outings to the St. Regis River once water levels ebb.

I thoroughly enjoy spring turkey hunting, but I rarely tag a tom. Unfilled tags can be attributed to my poor calling skills and leisurely hunting style that involves waking up at daylight, putting on a pot of coffee, reading the newspaper, performing some household chore, and then heading to the woods at mid-morning.

Summer

Summer activities include drifting for walleyes and trolling for muskies. Drifting crawler harnesses will produce St. Lawrence River walleyes all summer long if I can make a good presentation, but such a presentation is often impeded by wind direction and wind speed. Fortunately, I have tools such as a trolling motor and drift socks to help control drift speed and direction.

Fall is the traditional musky season, but I spend many a summer evening trolling for muskies. Catching St. Lawrence River muskies is a game of hours, but the number of hours can be reduced by fishing the hours before and after sunset, and summer evenings on the river are magnificent.

Fall

Fall is a glorious season for outdoor activities as angling and hunting opportunities abound. Of those opportunities, my top choices are walleye fishing and deer hunting. Fall is my favorite time to be on the water, and it is the one season where I don’t practice catch and release. Instead, I practice selective harvest that entails keeping medium-size walleyes to put in the freezer for winter dining.

Like many outdoorsmen and women, deer hunting ranks high on my list of outdoor blessings.

The time I spend in the woods during deer season and the benefits derived from those hours are reason alone to give thanks.

Outdoor Calendar

Friday—Traditional bass season closes in New York State.

December 4—Public meeting on Tug Hill North UMP at Copenhagen Central School at 6:30 p.m.

December 8—Regular Deer Season closes in Northern and Southern zones.

December 9-15—Late Muzzleloader Season is open in WMU’s 5A, 5G, 5J, 6A, 6C, 6G, and 6H.

December 9-17—Late Bowhunting and Muzzleloader seasons are open in Southern Zone.

December 15—Waterfowl Season closes in Northeast Zone.

December 15—Canada Goose Season closes in Northeast Hunting Area.

December 15—Muskellunge Season closes on the St. Lawrence River.

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