According to surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the average age of hunters has increased from 35 in 1980 to 42 in 2001. The best way to get young people interested in hunting is to make sure that they have a positive hunting experience the first time around. The Lake Hortonia Country Store in Hubbardton holds a "Youth Hunting Weekend" during Vermont's annual youth deer season in an effort to foster an interest in preserving Vermont's hunting heritage for kids. It was first held in 1999 and has become a big community event, attracting upwards of 300 kids interested in celebrating our hunting heritage. The event was founded on the idea that hunting is not just about bagging game, but quality time spent with those you hunt with. It also strives to promote the ethical aspects of hunting and stresses the importance of sportsmanship to new hunters. Though the highlight of the weekend is the drawing of lifetime hunting licenses for a few lucky kids, the real reward comes from introducing them to the joys of quality time spent in the woods.
Lake Hortonia Country Store
Exploring Vermont's back roads on a bike trip is a terrific way to discover places you didn't know existed. A bike trip slows the pace of travel down. You see things that most people don't see. You get a feel for the terrain you're traveling on. You get a lot of exercise during the day, and you sleep really well at night. A bike tour also offers you the opportunity to meet new people who share your interest in cycling. Friendships can take hold as you peddle through the countryside. You find yourself sharing moments together that people in cars never have. Taking a bike tour with an established tour company can not only take a lot of the guess work out of planning your route, it can offer invaluable things such as roadside repairs, or even a ride if you get little tired. Host Marianne Eaton joins Vermont Bicycle Tours on their Champlain Valley Tour for a little inn-to-inn biking through the Champlain Valley.
Solving problems in a group can be especially gratifying as you work to overcome an obstacle that looks impossible. A team-building exercise like a ropes course can not only get a group outside for an afternoon, it can help them understand more about those they live and work with as they solve problems to reach a goal. There are many types of challenges on a ropes course. "Low Elements" happen close to the ground and consist of challenges like getting your entire group from one point to another. During the course of the exercise, the group must work together using their individual strengths and personality traits to get through the obstacles. In the "High Elements," people face individual challenges up to 40 feet off the ground. These can involve such things as walking rope bridges, walking a tightrope and jumping from the top of a telephone pole to grab a trapeze bar. Though the participants are harnessed and on belay lines for safety purposes, it is still a challenge to for them to force themselves to make it through and surpass the goals put out in front of them on this course. Host Marianne Eaton joins Olympian Doug Lewis of Eliteam and members of the VPT staff for a challenging and insightful day on the ropes in Waitsfield.
Woodcock are beloved by bird hunters and bird watchers alike, but these fascinating little migrants are nonetheless faring poorly. Human development and maturing forests are steadily eating away the thick, brushy habitat that woodcock require, and their numbers are likewise declining. In the last three decades, there has been a two to three percent decline each year in the number of American Woodcock in the East. One area where woodcock are doing surprisingly well is the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Vermont, where biologists are capturing and banding woodcock in order to better understand their habitat needs. Host Lawrence Pyne joins Scott Williamson from the Wildlife Management Institute on a nighttime woodcock banding operation at the firing range in Jericho.
Tracking is one of the most challenging ways of hunting deer in the big woods of northern New England. Deer are few and far between in the North Country and tracking them, sometimes over several miles, is not easy. It's physically and mentally demanding, and lots of things can go wrong. Many trackers get discouraged and give up early on a deer. But for those who stick with a track, there are special rewards that come with the diligence needed to pursue their quarry over several hours or even days. For many hunters it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to bring home a big buck after a long track. Host Lawrence Pyne spends a few days with the "first family" of tracking, the legendary Benoits of central Vermont.
In order to survive the long winters of New England, it helps to have a sport or hobby that gets you outdoors. For some it may be skiing or snowshoeing, for others it may be ice fishing. For a growing number of people, there's nothing more enjoyable than riding VAST trails on their snowmobile to enjoy a winter's day. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) is one of the oldest snowmobiling organizations in the United States. There are VAST clubs in 14 counties in Vermont totaling some 45,000 members. Eighty percent of Vermont's snowmobile trail system is on private land. The association works hard to maintain good relationships with the landowners who allow snowmobiling on their property. Only licensed VAST members may use the extensive trail system that runs through virtually the entire state of Vermont. Host Lawrence Pyne joins members of the Woodford SnoBusters for a day riding the VAST trails of southern Vermont.
Besides skiers and riders, Vermont's hills, valleys and woods are also home to lots of wildlife ... even in Chittenden County. There is a growing interest in protecting wildlife habitat in areas that are heavily trafficked by people. This involves such things as taking into consideration wildlife corridors when constructing a road. For example, what may be the shortest line between two points for people may also intersect with a moose, deer or bobcat corridor, creating a perilous journey for both the human and the animal. Working to create safe passage for wildlife is an effort that involves private citizens, planning commissions, conservation groups, land trusts and even the Agency of Transportation. Vermont's Agency of Transportation and the Department of Fish & Wildlife are working together to learn how to conserve critical habitat. Members of both organizations join Sue Morse of Keeping Track for a day in the wild tracking animals and learning the way they travel.
Snowboarding has seen a 240% increase in participation in the last 10 years, making it the nation's fastest growing sport. And Vermont is "Snowboard Central" in the east. It's home to Burton Snowboards and the annual U.S. Open at Stratton. Equipment and teaching methods have changed drastically since Jake Carpenter started Burton in 1977, making learning to ride a much more enjoyable experience. The Burton "Learn to Ride" (LTR) program incorporates equipment designed for beginners. The LTR snowboards have a beveled edge and are designed to be very soft torsionally, which is the ability to twist them. Today's technique uses a lot of twists in teaching, too. The technique makes it easier for folks to get from their heel edge to their toe edge, and vice versa, without actually catching the edge. A number of snowboarding schools feature the LTR program. In a typical beginner lesson, riders learn to balance on the board, make turns, and stop before they are allowed to progress to the lift. Being able to load and unload a lift is an important part of a beginner snowboarding experience. But thanks to improved teaching methods, first-timers can expect to progress rapidly and get to the point where they are able to ride the lift on their first day. Host Marianne Eaton joins Ted Fleischer of the Stowe Snowboard School at Spruce Mountain for her first step in learning to ride.
Combining the sports of cross-country skiing with precision target shooting, the biathlon has evolved from an ancient hunting method to military ski patrols, to an Olympic and World Cup sport. It requires strength, endurance, solid skating skills and a high degree of shooting accuracy. Add cold and changing snow conditions to the mix and you have one of the toughest physical and mental challenges a competitor can face. The Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho is home to one of the premiere biathlon training facilities in North America and is managed by the National Guard. The Guard has produced a number of world-class biathletes. The Ethan Allen facility attracts competitors from all over the world. Host Marianne Eaton joins Guard member and Olympic biathlon racer Dan Westover on the range in Jericho for an introductory lesson to the sport of biathlon.
Vermont's Northeast Kingdom abounds with brook trout, in large part because of the helping hand played by a local sportsman's club. Volunteers with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Conservation Group refurbished the former state fish hatchery in Morgan, where they now annually raise thousands of brook trout fry. They oversee an annual program called "The Morgan Hatchery Project" that involves getting members of the community to fan out across the Northeast Kingdom on cross-country skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles to stock local beaver ponds and other remote waters with these colorful, native fish. On a good day volunteers can distribute 60,000 fry to throughout the Northeast Kingdom. Though the stocking benefits the fishing community, the real satisfaction comes from practicing responsible habitat stewardship, and giving back to nature. We follow the brook trout journey from incubation to release on a wintry spring day in Morgan.
For information about volunteering for the Morgan Hatchery Project or for stocking location information, contact Byron Fish at (802) 723-6385.