I traveled North to the Adirondacks for winter camping, ice fishing and small game hunting with a friend. After arriving and setting up camp we began to icefish and caught our first Northern Pike before the second hole was augured! Golden Shiner baitfish were hooked below their dorsal fin on a 2/0 circle hook on #15 mono below a Jacktrap tip-up. We were off to a great start and ended with 4 pike that evening to filet and fry back at camp.
We were on public land and woke early to catch the early crepuscular movement of wildlife and traveled a few slow miles while still hunting. My friend was fortunate to harvest a grouse he had seen moving at a distance and we managed a few red squirrels with the chosen #6 shot for the mixed species hunt. Snowshoe hare tracks had been spotted but they remained elusive.
We enjoyed eating the Ruffed Grouse and examining its physical characteristics that help in winter. In September, fleshy projections – pectinations—begin growing on the sides of their toes. These comb-like nubs, which fall off in spring, increase the surface area of the foot. Working like snowshoes, they allow the bird to walk across snow with less effort. Pectinations also give the grouse a better grip on an icy branch where it might perch while feeding.
The Ruffed Grouse also use the insulating properties of snow to stay warm when roosting. They dive into soft, deep snow and settle in as air pockets in snow hold heat and provide insulation value. Even if the surface temperature is subzero, below the snow, it can remain above freezing.
We continued to fish and explore the surrounding forest of pine, hemlock, birch and beech and harvested some more wild game for camp meals. With about equal day and night length we had plenty of time to relax in the hot tent each evening while tending fire, listening to the owls hoot and coyotes howl and finally falling asleep overcome with drowsiness to start over again the following morning.