Hunting on Snowshoes
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You've got enough excuses not to get out and hunt this winter. It's too cold. It's too warm. There's not enough snow. There's too much snow.

Don't let that last one keep you inside; there's no reason you can't strap on a pair of snowshoes and hit the trails for, well, snowshoes for one thing.

If you're new to the snowshoe market, you might quickly become overwhelmed with the choices. There are different types and shapes and your choice will depend on the terrain you'll be hunting. Even in the Whiteface Region, that can differ depending on elevation.

I supposed you could have one of every type in your closet depending upon the terrain and the conditions that you'll be hunting in, but the general consensus choice for hunters are the bear paw style or the Green Mountain style. Either one will get you in and out of the thick brush you're likely to encounter off the trail and in the mountains.

Both are oval (think the shape of a bear paw) and lack the tail of the more elongated beavertail or Ojibwa snowshoes. Those are built for open spaces and speed – a nice combination if you're looking to cross a lake to a favorite ice fishing spot.

I'll strap the snowshoes on, for example, to head into the woods during the mid to late season, when the snow has been piling up for a while and you can easily have several different layer types, like a white fluff on top of a crust, followed by a soft underlayer. That definitely makes for difficult walking and if you can stay on top of it all, you'll have a better day afield.

If you've decided on the Green Mountain/Bear Paw, then you've got another decision to make – traditional versus modern. Most modern snowshoes come in this shape. And there are pros and cons to both. Many hunters will say the traditional gives them better feel and flexibility in the woods, but the wooden shoes are definitely heavier than their aluminum frame counterparts. But then again, smack that aluminum against a tree and you hear an unfamiliar "tink," as opposed to the "thud" of a traditional shoe – something that just might spook your quarry.

I have to admit that my traditional shoes hang on the wall and out come the lightweight bear paws when I head for the woods. I don't get out as much as I would like to, and carrying less weight around keeps me out in the woods longer. Then, too, if you're taking to the highest peaks of the Whiteface region, you'll need some ice-griping crampons that the modern models can provide.

They say if you can walk, you can snowshoe. But keep in mind, you're walking with a loaded gun. If you're new to snowshoeing, take a couple of trips without the gun and then, maybe with an unloaded firearm. It takes some people a couple of tries to get the wobbles out, and the last thing you want is to be bobbing around trying to take a shot. And while the snowshoes will definitely increase your mobility in the woods, it'll be a while before you can turn on a dime.

But with a little practice and some patience, snowshoes can give you the much-needed freedom to explore the Adirondacks off the beaten path, where the wildlife lives! 

Paula Piatt

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