FEATHERS 'N FINS

Sportsmen are witnesses to climate change

Posted Nov. 02, 2012, at 11:26 a.m.

Admittedly, much of the time I spend hunting and fishing is frittered away thinking, wondering and pondering about things that are beyond my purview, as the politicians say. So it was while Jeff and I were jump-shooting ducks recently, my thoughts wandered like the stream we followed through boggy woodlands. Sculling the canoe quietly, I admired the blush of swamp maples and the glow of gold-leafed poplars. “No sooner does autumn arrive,” I thought, “it starts getting all dressed up to go away.”

Yet, in spite of winds, rains and touches of frost, the foliage hadn’t begun to fall. Therein lies but one of the reasons I believe that climate change is fact not fancy. But let’s not leave it at that. Take bird hunting for instance. Naturally, the ratio of birds shot to shells fired narrows as visibility improves with the thinning of foliage; which, I’m convinced, stays on longer now than it did when a box of paper-hulled shells cost only a couple of bucks. If memory serves me, back then October was getting gray at 3 weeks old. Now the embers of fiery foliage smolder into early November.

Surely, the arrival of ticks hereabouts is another indicator of climate change. Like “No Hunting” signs, there was a time when the troublesome insects weren’t seen in this neck of the woods. Today, however, dogs are checked daily and treated monthly with medications to kill ticks, particularly deer ticks that carry potentially lethal Lyme disease. Speaking of deer, senior hunters who remember wearing red-and-black-checked jackets and hats will recall when deer season opened on or about the 20th of October, in certain zones. And they’ll affirm that the weather was usually cool enough to hang a deer in a tree or on a camp game pole without fear of spoilage. But it’s not uncommon now for soft weather to linger well into November. Consequently, hunters who tag deer early in the month must get the animals butchered quickly. Moreover, the absence of nipping-cold nights curtails bucks from rutting and feeling so full of themselves they make fatal mistakes.

As for fishing, chances are you’ve noticed weeds growing along the shorelines of coldwater lakes where you’ve long trolled for salmon and togue. Likewise, bass anglers are noticing that warmwater ponds are becoming more cluttered with aquatic growth. Though climate change is controversial, I think most sportsmen are convinced it’s real. After all, they see firsthand the subtle but significant environmental changes affecting the hunting, fishing and trapping important and essential to The Way Life Should Be.

Tom Hennessey’s columns and artwork can be viewed online at www.bangordailynews.com. Tom’s email address is tomhennessey@ymail.com.

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