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An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snowshoes: A Versatile and Handy Tool For Winter Sportsmen

Due to the frigid temperatures, dangerous wind-chills and heavy snows, many people have not ventured outside very much this winter. Last weekend saw more normal conditions and snowmobilers and cross-country and downhill skiers all eagerly took part in their favorite sports. Other people decided to get out even if was just hiking and getting fresh air.
With the deep snow, it was difficult moving unless you had cross-country skis or snowshoes on. Large drifts and heavily packed snow make travelling any further than your back yard a major undertaking. A lot of people were using snowshoes to get their destination or just for the fun of it.
In recent years there has been an increase in the popularity of snowshoes. For several years now the number of sales of snowshoes has increased dramatically, according to sports shop owners.
There are many reasons for the increased popularity of snowshoes. For many people it is easier than cross-country skiing, especially those who have a fear of keeping their balance while gliding or cruising down slopes. Snowshoes are steadier and give you more control. For moving along at a slower pace such as hunting or photography they are ideal. And if you are moving through heavily wooded areas and uneven terrain, the snowshoes are easier to use.
Snowshoeing is relatively low cost because all you need are pair of snowshoes and you can wear your regular winter clothing. Anyone can do it. You can adjust the distance and activity to suit your ability and energy level. There are lots of areas nearby that you can use snowshoes. It is excellent exercise and can be combined with other sports.
Although some may tell you that it just as easy to travel on snowshoes as walking normally, don’t believe them completely. It does take a slight adjustment in your leg swing or gait and it will require more effort. Just remember not to overdo it when you start out; you also have to walk back.
On the other hand, snowshoeing is not as strenuous or as difficult as some people think. With a little practice you can move along without thinking every step about stepping on your other snowshoe. Making it easier is the fact that many of the newer designs and materials are lighter and easier to walk with.
Traditional snowshoes fall into three basic types: Alaskan, Maine or bearpaw. The Alaskan or pickerel are long narrow types made for traversing open country trails and the upturned toe is made for plowing through deep powder and drifts. The Maine or Michigan styles are shorter, and wider with a trailer or “tail” for stability. These are best for general use in a variety of situations.
The bearpaw has always been popular with rabbit hunters and others who traveled through thick evergreens or timber where a lot of turning or uneven terrain was encountered. These are the smallest and are basically oval shaped. Two variations are the modified bearpaw, which is slightly longer and has a slightly upturned toe. The Green Mountain style is another modification of the bearpaw and is slightly longer and narrower. This is very popular with beginners because it is light and easy to use under most conditions.
Today there are the newer models made of polyethylene, aluminum frames and nylon or other synthetic covers to replace the webbing. These contribute greatly to the popularity of snowshoeing because they are lightweight, narrow for easy walking and support a greater amount of weight for their smaller size. They often have crampons or “creepers” that help grip the surface while climbing uphill.
Most of the new synthetic snowshoes are in the Green Mountain style and come in various sizes to accommodate different weights. Generally you need more surface area to support greater weight. Manufacturers will list the recommended weights for different sizes.
If you are going to buy a pair, try out several styles and types before you purchase. What kind do I have? One pair of each! The traditional snowshoes are still made of white ash although neoprene webbing is replacing the rawhide on many brands. I also have two the Green Mountain style in plastic and aluminum frames with neoprene “platforms.”
Because of the increasing popularity of snowshoeing, many places are now renting snowshoes. Up in the central Adirondacks you can rent snowshoes at Moose River Company in Old Forge, Inlet Pedals and Petals, or Mountainman Outdoor Supply in Old Forge. The Osceola-Tug Hill rents snowshoes as well as cross-country skis. Beaver Lake Nature Center or Highland Forest rent snowshoes. Great Swamp Conservancy often has guided wildlife walks on snowshoes.
There is a tremendous amount and variety of areas to try out snowshoes for hiking, photography and nature walks. Just remember as a matter of common courtesy to stay off cross-country ski trails. Wear sensible clothing, but don’t overdress. If you are going to new territory carry a map and compass along with water and snacks. Finally remember the advice that a ranger gave me a year ago when I was hiking in the state of Washington: “It is five miles out, but ten miles coming back.”
Oneida County Sportsmen’s Mentor Program Annual Youth Hunt: The Oneida County Sportsmen’s Federation and National Wild Turkey Federation are teaming up with the assistance of Environmental Conservation Officers again this year to give youngsters a great experience during the Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend, April 25 and 26. Youngsters eligible for the youth hunt and who do not have the opportunity to learn from, or hunt with a family member or an adult mentor will have the opportunity to go turkey hunting with a mentor.
During the weekend of April 11, youngsters will learn from experienced mentors the basics of turkey hunting and practice their marksmanship at a shooting range under the supervision of certified instructors.
Eligible hunters are youths 12-15 years of age holding a junior hunting license and a turkey permit. Youths 12-13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or relative over 21 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youths 14-15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or an adult over 18 years of age with written permission.
Youngsters who are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity will need to have completed their hunter safety course by that time, have the permission of a parent or guardian and meet the above criteria. Youngsters must complete the application and submit it to address below or by email by April 1,. Those chosen for this program will be notified.
Contact Youth Turkey Hunt, C/O Mr. Scott Faulkner, 3720 Wells Gifford Rd., Vernon Center, NY 13477. Phone 315-829-3588.
State of Lake Ontario Meetings: The public will have the opportunity to learn about the State of Lake Ontario fisheries at public meetings held in March. Locally a meeting will be held Tuesday, March 10 from 6:30-9 p.m. at the DEC Training Academy, 24 County Route 2A, Pulaski (the former Portly Angler Motel).
DEC and others will make a number of presentations, including updates on the status of trout and salmon fisheries, forage fish, and stocking programs. The meetings will provide ample time at the end of the scheduled program for the audience to interact with the presenters.


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