Gore Goes Green

An objective truth: You can’t have skiing without snow. Many local businesses are feeling the hurt of this truth, Gore Mountain Ski Resort included. As climate change threatens the viability of winter sports, businesses that rely on snow must become leaders and take green initiatives as Gore Mountain has to combat climate change.

Michael Pratt, general manager at Gore Mountain Ski Resort, explained the massive scale of Gore’s operation, starting with the number of employees necessary to run the place. Each winter “we cut around 500 paychecks, and our annual payroll is about $5 million a year,” says Pratt. During the summer, Gore still employs around 90 workers. Energy use is also a major factor in a business like Gore Mountain’s. Chair lifts, heated lodges, snow machine – all of these things require a huge amount of energy, which totals to around 13 million kwh/year. Based on figures from the US Energy Information Administration, that is equivalent to 1,202 average US homes! To run the snowmachines, a 25 million gallon water reservoir must be used. Long story short, Gore Mountain Ski Resort is both a large and energy intensive business.

Gore Mountain Ski Resort has been successful, but relies on consistent cold temperatures to maintain a thriving business. “We’ve been on a tremendous growth curve,” says Pratt. However, he and others at Gore acknowledged that the growth couldn’t continue forever. “We thought we’d just fall short of the curve, but instead we had the legs cut out from under us,” Pratt explains, referring to last year’s notoriously mild winter. “We certainly have concerns about [climate change], but we’re trying to be a leader,” says Pratt.

In terms of green initiatives, it seems Gore is beginning to pave the way. Last spring, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) honored Gore with the Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence. “We do everything we can: lighting efficiency projects, using modernized drives and lifts, analyzing efficiencies of snow guns, re-grading trails to save snowmaking here and there,” says Pratt. And although the energy required to run Gore is massive, they offset 90% of the load with solar panels. Gore Mountain Ski Resort is not only aware of their relationship with climate change, but is making a conscious effort to mitigate their impact on the environment as much as possible. Other ski resorts must focus on clean and efficient energy usage or they will become caught in an ironic feedback loop – creating snow using fossil fuels, further stifling nature’s ability to create snow.

A Taxidermy Anomaly

I do not know how to shoot a gun, and I don’t have a license to shoot one either. This, of course, makes my experiential hunting blog difficult (and illegal). So, instead I experienced the closest thing I could think of – taxidermy.

J.R. Taxidermy is tucked away on a road with a missing street sign. When looking for the building, I accidentally passed it…twice. Eventually, I found my way into the tiny parking lot and sat in my car, staring at the building. I envisioned the interior: a cold, hard warehouse with animal heads plastered to the wall, eyes following me as I walked through the sour scented room. I imagined the owner to be a domineering, burly man – the kind that’s all business and no fun. My assumptions could not have been any more wrong.

The lighting in the building was warm and soft from the woodstove in the corner of the room. Dozens of animals were posed in various habitats: a deer leaping over brush, a curious black squirrel perched on a gnarled log, a poised and regal bobcat. On the wood paneled walls were shimmering and colorful fish. To the left of the showroom was the counter, and behind it was the J.R. of J.R. taxidermy – Julie Roberts.

After realizing her career as a vet tech was no longer viable, Roberts took a leap of faith and decided to turn her hobby of taxidermy into a career. “My mom thought it was crazy. She always says that never in a million years did she think I’d be this busy. Neither did I,” says Roberts. She has been a part-time taxidermist for 15 years and full time taxidermist for seven. Her passion for taxidermy started when she decided that she would mount the first buck she “took” while hunting. Although she has scrapped most of her earlier work, she still has her first buck mounted in her work room.

Often referred to as “the lady taxidermist,” Roberts is a bit of an anomaly in the taxidermy world. At Northwood Institute of Taxidermy, she was the only female in her class, and she intentionally named her business in a way that did not reveal her gender. “How many hunters are gonna come to a girl?” Roberts asked, knowing that most of her clients were men. But as long as she could get them into the store to see her work, she knew she’d have business.

A glimpse inside Julie Roberts’ store!

Roberts shared a story with me about a time when she was at a fair, selling her work. “I was wearing my J.R. Taxidermy shirt, and my boyfriend was sitting next to me,” she says. Every single person that approached the stand addressed her boyfriend first with the assumption that he was the owner – everyone except one woman. “I asked her why she knew I was the owner, and the woman said, ‘there’s no way a man would do this.’” The woman was referring to the unique way Roberts presents her animals. The animals Roberts creates are not simply displayed on a log or a rock, as many other taxidermists show their work. She goes all out, creating intricate and artful habitats for the animals. “I like to make it look like it belongs,” she says. This is also why she doesn’t like giving animals fierce expressions. “I don’t like doing things mean,” Roberts says. “Normally you don’t see that in the woods.” One can truly see the realism that she strives for in her work, from the dew drops on the bottom of the deer’s noses to their glossy tear ducts. “The eyes on the animal are what makes the animal,” Roberts says.

Not only is Roberts an incredibly talented taxidermist, but the way she runs her business makes her invaluable to her community. According to Roberts, her customers are “almost like an extended family.” Despite the fact that her work is sold at other locations for three times the original price, she doesn’t wish to move locations and hasn’t increased her prices. “I want to make it affordable for people here who still want that first buck mounted.”

Julie Roberts is a brave and skilled business owner with an immense amount of commitment to her craft. Regardless of how you feel about taxidermy, one step into her shop will convince you that, when done right, taxidermy is an art form. “You gotta love what you’re doing when it comes to this otherwise it becomes a job,” she says. For Roberts, taxidermy is anything but a job. It’s her “hobby turned into a passion.”

Snowmobiling Without the Snow

The semester is coming to a close, and unfortunately, it looks as though I will not be able to race across the snow at 45mph on a snowmobile (something which I’m sure my concerned mother is pleased about, but I am not).  The snowfall is simply not large enough at this point in the season. Disappointed about my inability to participate in this recreational activity due to weather constraints, I began wonder what impact climate change would have on both recreationalists and the NYS economy. To answer this question, I looked at how much money snowmobiling brings to the NYS economy, and then imagined the economic input vanishing with the snow.  Shorter winters are costly. They are already happening. Unless snowmobilers push for green initiatives, their sport could disappear and so could a large chunk of money in the NYS economy.

David Knapp, Franklin County Director of the New York State Snowmobile Association, explained to me the snowmobile registration process, which ultimately helps fund the maintenance of the sport itself.  It costs $45 to register your snowmobile if you are a member of a snowmobile club, and $100 to register as a non-member.  Of those fees, $40 and $95 goes into Snowmobile Trail Development and Maintenance Fund – a fund which, obviously, supports trail development and maintenance, but also helps fund safety classes and snowmobile law enforcement. Last year was a notoriously terrible winter for snow sport lovers, and as a result, the number of snowmobiles registered decreased.  “A lotta people don’t register or join a club without snow on the ground,” says Knapp. Because registration fees fund the following year’s season, the budget for this season is much smaller. With short winters, ”the trails will see an impact, and small businesses will see an impact,” says Knapp.

Trails and small business won’t be the only things taking a blow; a 2011 survey done by Potsdam Institute for Applied Research estimated that from 2010-2011, the total direct spending in NYS from snowmobiling was $434 million. This includes things like club fees, snowmobile costs, insurance, highway tolls, gas, clothing, food, and lodging. Such a large figure does not even include indirect spending, which researchers estimate would double that number. Unlike hunting, regional data exists for snowmobiling, and according to the New York State Snowmobile Association, “snowmobiling has an economic impact of $245 million in the Adirondacks.”

There is an irony in that snowmobiling relies on both carbon emitting vehicles and climate dependent snow.  Knapp points to the design of cleaner, more efficient snowmobiles in collegiate competitions as an initiative that the snowmobiling community is taking. Projects like this need to be expanded. Without a strong collective effort to fight climate change, the cost will be massive, and there will be far more people than just me disappointed that they cannot experience snowmobiling.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

What is a tree? The answer to this question determines the fate of the 40-mile snowmobile community connector trails, which would link the towns of Minerva, Newcomb and North Hudson. It’s a legal battle that is currently being fought between environmentalist group, Protect the Adirondacks and the DEC. Snowmobile trails are important to the economic viability of the communities they connect, but it is unclear if these trails are constitutional under the “forever wild” clause of the NYS constitution.

The 9 to 12 foot-wide snowmobile community connector trails were in the process of being constructed on state land until Protect requested an injunction from the court. Once granted all trail work was halted. During snowmobile trail construction, tree removal was necessary. According to NYS, a tree includes any flora larger than 3 inches diameter at breast height (DBH). Protect the Adirondacks believes anything larger than 1 inch DBH should be considered a tree. Due to these differing definitions, there is a major discrepancy in how many trees need to be cut down during trail construction. The DEC estimates around 6,500. Protect estimates tens of thousands. Protect claims that cutting down such a large amount of trees violates Article 14 of NYS constitution, more commonly known as “forever wild clause.” ”It’s a road through the woods. The state won’t admit that’s what they are,” says Protect board member Phil Terrie. “Our suit is justified. The DEC is stretching the [NYS] constitution beyond its reasonable limits.”

So what are the “reasonable limits” based on the constitution? Well, they’re vague. The landmark tree removal case occurred in 1930 – The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks vs. Macdonald, which declared the creation of the 1932 Olympic Bobsled track unconstitutional. What’s important for our purposes are the two parts of the NYS constitution that were referenced during the case: 1. The constitution won’t allow “any cutting or any removal of the trees and timber to a substantial extent,” and 2. The state can create or maintain trails “which do not call for the removal of timber to any material degree.” These are the vague legal limits we’re working with here. As a result, the current case will likely set a precedent.

Unsurprisingly,  Franklin County Director of the New York State Snowmobile Association, David Knapp, expressed that the snowmobiling community is frustrated. For them, the goal of the connector trail is “multifold.” It’s a way to “connect communities to communities, which provides an economic benefit for these towns. But it also expands the networks with which riders have access.” In this way, the trails are seen as a benefit for both those inside and outside of the park. Knapp thinks environmental groups have stronger lobbying power and a “greater ability to get their voice out.” When talking about snowmobilers, he said it’s ”hard to get them motivated and understanding to these issues.” He went on to say that it’s not that there is no involvement from the snowmobiling community, it’s just not as visible. “The snowmobile association gets more responses via letter and email, not where public can actually see them or that the media can capture.” Interestingly, Terrie thinks snowmobilers have the upper hand in terms of lobbying because of Governor Cuomo’s views on the park. “The governor’s office sees their role in promoting recreation that will help the economy. For them, the reason for forest preserve is economic and not necessarily preserving wilderness”

What both groups can agree upon is the uncertainty of the outcome. ”I don’t have any idea how it’s going to go. I could imagine it going either way,” says Terrie. Knapp echoed this sentiment, saying, ”I’d like to be optimistic, but we’ll have to wait and see.” The first of the hearings was this past Monday, December 5th.

I think I found the answer, but it’s illegal

Before this semester, my vision of recreational skiing included barreling down a ski resort hill or leisurely cross country skiing on a park trail, but I didn’t understand the concept of backcountry skiing. I had no clue that people wove through natural forests down mountainsides absent of ski lifts and snow machines. When speaking to Ron Konowitz, head of the Adirondack Powder Skier Association (APSA), it became clear that I was not the only one who was unaware of this brand of skiing. “We don’t exist with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST), the DEC doesn’t ever list us as an activity, but there are thousands of us,” Konowitz says. After my interview with Konowitz, I feel I may have found an economically viable, least environmentally impactful form of recreation. Yet, the creation of backcountry ski trails on public lands in the Adirondacks is illegal. I am not a backcountry skier, but I am indignant as an environmentalist and recreator. Konowitz and the APSA are advocating for the creation of more backcountry trails, a proposal that, in my mind should be allowed. The holdup involves a lawsuit against snowmobile trails and a constitutional amendment. Here is the frustrating story.

“Initially we wanted an open woods ski route,” says Konowitz. The route area would be 75 feet in wilderness and wild forests. Do not envision a 75 foot-wide trail cut straight down the mountain like the glades at Whiteface. Instead, envision about four trails in a “sweater weave pattern”, merging together in some areas and meandering apart in others on a naturally open landscape. In order to construct the routes “we cut only branches, some saplings, and blow down. Trees are our friends. If we didn’t have trees, we wouldn’t have naturally open areas,” says Konowitz. The routes are visible only to the skier-trained eye. Do not be concerned about open woods ski routes cropping up in any and every place – there are limiting factors. The slope must be north or east facing and concave to protect from sun and wind, and there must be a large amount of snowfall. Worried about forest regeneration? The Sundown Clause allows DEC officials to check on routes every 3 years to determine if the landscape is still naturally open or if the trail needs to be moved. “If it’s done right, [open woods ski routes] should have more of a wild character than anything that’s already allowed. We want to work with the forest, not against it,” says Konowitz. I was convinced.

Officials in Albany were not. As an alternative to the open woods ski routes, they offered to allow 12-foot wide trails, as that was offered to snowmobilers for connector trails. The plan for backcountry trails was to be publicly announced in November 2016 – until the court granted Protect the Adirondacks, a conservation group, an injunction to halt the creation of snowmobile trails. At the center of the lawsuit lies a question – what is a tree? Currently, the state counts a tree as anything above 3 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH), but Protect argues that smaller trees should count as well. When trees below 3 inches DBH are included, Protect claims that the amount of trees removed to build snowmobile community connector trails violates Article 14 of the NYS constitution, more commonly known as the “forever wild” clause. (To learn more about this issue, read my post Seeing the Forest for the Trees) Unfortunately, Konowitz and the APSA are caught in the middle, and the November announcement was tabled until the lawsuit is over.

The conflict with snowmobilers has also dimmed the voice of environmentalist support for Konowitz and the backcountry skiers. ”It’s not that environmental groups are against us, but they haven’t helped push it over the goal line,” he says. The heads of environmental groups are “running into roadblocks with some of their board members, asking what are you opening the door to?”  Konowitz believes their concerns are invalid. “We have no fuel, we are not motorized, and move at a pace conducive to wilderness experience. We wouldn’t fit what others are looking for.”

At this point it appears as though Konowitz and the ASPA must pursue a constitutional amendment in order to expand backcountry skiing in the Adirondacks. “What we’re proposing should not trigger an article 14, which says you can’t cut trees to a material degree. We don’t even want to cut trees,” Konowitz says. In fact, Konowitz is willing to go even lower than the state currently, and consider anything at 2 inches DBH a tree. Yet, it seems Konowitz may need the same amendment that Whiteface, Gore, and the Northway Interstate (I-87) required. At Whiteface there are “snow making machines, lodges, lifts, piping, 100-foot wide trails, and trucks driving up and down the mountain all summer long.” It is astounding that what Konowitz is proposing is placed in the same box.

“It’s not like we’re doing anything new on forest preserve,” says Konowitz. Backcountry skiing dates back to the 1920s and 30s, and trails were created at those times. In the 40s, ski lifts were introduced, and by the time the State Land Master Plan (SLMP) was created in 1973, backcountry skiing had puttered out. As a result, backcountry skiing was excluded from the SLMP. Around 1985 the activity regained popularity, and today, “backcountry skiing is the fastest growing area in skiing right now.”

Due to its growing popularity, Konowitz also believes backcountry skiing could lead to economic growth in the park. “There’s a large group of people in their 20s and 30s that are big on skiing,” says Konowitz. Backcountry skiers are “people that care about this place and want to live in these small towns and raise their families here.” The growth wouldn’t be limited to the high peaks either. “It doesn’t take 4,000 vertical feet, as long as it has good snow,” he says. “It’s hard to be a resort town in the winter, and we’re an answer for that.”

“I think we’re pretty progressive,” says Konowitz. And that’s the problem. They don’t fit cleanly into any legal box. Instead, backcountry skiing is lumped into a category with either snowmobilers or Whiteface resort skiing- despite the fact that its environmental impact is much lower than either. If you want to see if backcountry skiing is successful, look at Vermont. The ASPA was created 4 ½ years ago. According to Konowitz, Vermont caught wind of what they were doing, and “in 2 years, not only did they have regulations changed, but they have a ski track. Not only do we not have any trails, but they’ve done nothing to change regulations.” Konowitz believes “the Adirondacks are the most protected place in the world,” which is something he appreciates, but finds frustrating. “In the past, the [NYS] constitution has slayed some pretty big dragons- we are not one of them.”

A Day of Pizza

Despite enduring the brutal dumping of lake effect snow and freezing winters every year of my life, today was the first time I strapped on a pair of skis. As I stood in the ski rental shop, my first thought was, these boots make my shins feel like I’ve slammed into a small coffee table…multiple times. My second thought: dang this sport is expensive. When you add up the boots, skis, helmet, lift ticket, and the obligatory hot chocolate at the ski lodge, you’re looking at a $100+ kind of day. Not to mention the cold weather clothing necessary to keep you from freezing your buns off (thank you, Nanu and Anna for lending me your gear). Plus, since I am a total novice, I needed some kind of instruction to avoid 1. Completely annihilating my body and 2. Violating basic skiing rules. This means you must also purchase lessons or the lift ticket of an experienced and willing friend. When all’s said and done, your day of skiing could total around $200. As I swiped my debit card, it became abundantly clear why I had never skied before. My third thought: I hope this experience is worth it. It was.

With my crew of experienced and enthusiastic friends, I headed to my first slope – Whiteface’s Mixing Bowl. To get to the top of the slope, I had to conquer the chairlift. Well, actually, first I had to ski over to the chairlift, which involved me repeatedly stabbing the ground in an attempt to propel myself forwards…eventually I got there. I stood at the front of the lift loading area, nervous that the continuously rotating contraption would knock me down and run me over. Instead, the lift scooped me and my friend Nanu up, and carried us to the top. Skis planted at the lip of the hill, I was terrified. Nanu patiently coaxed me down, carving a wide S-shaped trail for me to follow. We slowly wove our way down the hill along with the other skiers – parents with their 5-year-old children. When we reached the bottom, I proudly pizza-ed to a stop (a beginner way of stopping in which you place the front of your skis together, forming a pizza shape). My other friend, Anna, filmed this experience for your viewing pleasure:

A few more runs down Mixing Bowl led to some perhaps unwarranted confidence, and I felt ready to take on a new green (the color denotation for easy) route. We hopped on what I can only describe as the “big kid chairlift,” and headed on a five minute ride partway up Whiteface Mountain. While on the lift, we passed multiple snow machines – large hoses that blasted tiny flakes into the air. It looked energy intensive. So did the chairlift. It was no wonder skiing was so expensive.

It would be an understatement to say the top of the run was intimidating. The gradual slope of Mixing Bowl was a distant memory as I stared at the steep drop. The 5 year-olds were replaced by 15-year-olds whizzing down the mountain. Perhaps this was a green plus? Did that exist? It doesn’t…in fact, it was a blue (the color denotation for ‘something you would generally not take your first time skier friend on, but circumstance, aka the closure of all other routes down the mountain, has forced you to’). I found this out halfway through the run. Only one fall later, panting from exhaustion and adrenaline, I arrived at the base of the mountain thanks to the help of my pizza stops and turns. It was a terrifying experience that demanded laser beam focus, so obviously we did it four more times. It wasn’t until we paused to eat lunch that I noticed the dull throb my boots left in my shins. I was occupied by other things.

After lunch it was decided that I was ready for another blue: Excelsior. This route required a gondola ride all the way to the top of Whiteface, and I could feel my ears pop as we gained elevation. Mixing Bowl appeared flat from this height. The top of Excelsior was unlike any other run. It was quiet, and the snow covered conifers looked like those sand dripped castles that you make on the beach. The rhythmic, curved movement down the mountain felt right. It was in that moment that I recognized the beauty of skiing. I wasn’t in love with it, but I definitely had a crush. It’s that awkward stage where you’re trying to be smooth, but instead your actions come out all clumsy and desperate and pizza shaped. That stage. On a sunny December day, surrounded by snow and friends, swerving down a mountainside, my mind was nowhere else. It was amazing.

Quads burning, shins bruised, and spirits lifted from a day of exhilaration, we stuffed our steaming bodies in Nanu’s Volkswagen. For dinner, we grabbed a most appropriately themed meal – a slice of pizza.

A special thanks to Hamilton College’s Casstevens Fund for making this fantastic (and expensive) experience possible. Without your support, I could not have done this or developed personal insight in my other skiing posts.

Photo and Video Credit: Anna Mowat

Hunting for Numbers

$5 billion is a lot. Let’s put that into perspective. If you made a dollar a second starting from birth, you would not reach $5 billion until age 158 ½. Jason Kemper, a member of the NYS Conservation Fund Advisory Board and an avid hunter, stated that $5 billion is also the total amount of consumer spending done by hunters and fishers in the state of New York. Shocked by this statistic, I dug through surveys and reports to confirm. What I discovered was a passable amount of state-by-state data and an utter lack of regional data, which needs to be collected and analyzed before we can draw conclusions about the influence of hunting on the Adirondack economy.

The 2015 NYS Comptrollers Report corroborates Kemper’s $5 billion estimate, and the figures it uses come from a 2011 US Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation. The largest portion, 53%, is spent on travel, food, and lodging – expenditures which help to boost local economies. Equipment, licensing, and permits comprise the remainder of the $5 billion. As Kemper said, “yeah, it’s a big business.”

Not only is the money from hunting and fishing aiding local businesses, but the purchasing of licenses “supports the operation of the State’s 12 fish hatcheries, the assessment of game fish and animal populations, the creation of fishing access sites and the enforcement of fish and game laws,” according to the Comptroller’s Report. The report goes on to explain that funding extends beyond the protection of game species, and is also allocated to the “protection of endangered species, protection of wetlands, wildlife pathology, biodiversity mapping and assessment of threats to aquatic habitats.” Kemper refers to hunters as “the original conservationists of the country.” Whether or not hunters and fishers realize it today, their license purchases ensure that the link between conservation and hunting remains.

Needless to say, I was/am highly impressed by the economic and ecological impact of hunting and fishing in New York State. It wasn’t until speaking with Phil Terrie, board member of the environmentalist group Protect the Adirondacks, that I placed the economic impact within the scope of my Adirondack focused project. “Hunting is still a big business in NYS, but not in the Adirondacks,” Terrie says. He spoke of a decrease in revenue, licenses, and gear purchases over the last 20 years. This is where things get complicated. No such regional data exists – or at least that I can find/ have access to. This is a problem. It’s also a problem that a 2015 NYS Comptrollers Report needs to rely on data from a 2011 US Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey. In order to make the most informed policies and personal decisions, we need accurate and up-to-date data. If anyone has such a data set on the economics of Adirondack hunting and fishing, please share in the comments.

A List of Misconceptions

It’s a typical sleepover in my sleepy, rural Ohio town. I’m at a friend’s house and have been assigned the task of fetching ice cream from the garage. I push open the freezer chest and smell it before I see it. The scent is sour and vaguely metallic. The source: a dismembered deer carcass/definitely not ice cream. Hunting was not uncommon growing up. During school, the boys wore their camouflage hats and on walks in my backyard woods, I’d often find shotgun shells. In the spring, the sounds of lawn mowers and mail trucks were punctuated by my neighbor’s shotgun. Although I had never actually been hunting, I considered myself more knowledgeable than the average person on the matter. When I sat down with Rocci Aguirre and Emily Liebelt from Adirondack Council and avid hunter and Saratoga County Director of Planning Jason Kemper, I was overly confident of my baseline knowledge on the culture, rules, and appeal surrounding hunting. Here were my biggest misconceptions:

1.It’s just a leisure activity that people do for fun.

There is a cultural identity that is associated with hunting, particularly in a place like the Adirondacks that contains multigenerational hunting camps. “Hunting is a really important piece culturally for these rural communities,” says Aguirre. He labels people who identify a core cultural value with hunting as “lifestyle hunters.” Kemper shared similar views, calling hunting “a way of life.” This way of life tends to be passed from generation to generation. “Dad did it. Grandfather did it,” says Kemper. “Hunting camps are epicenters of coming of age,” says Liebelt. “It’s a glue for some of these families, and is bigger than just hunting.” The act of hunting, which sometimes involves literally sitting on a small square for eight hours, can foster a “real identity and bond of that shared experience. It’s camaraderie built through hardship,” says Aguirre.

It is true that not all hunters are “lifestyle hunters.” Aguirre and Liebelt use “forest to fork” hunters as an example of people who participate in the activity, but for perhaps different reasons. But as Liebelt describes, for many people in the Adirondacks, hunting can be used to understand and contextualize the world around them: “Hunting is their metaphor for life.”

2. It’s all about the kill.

I was surprised to hear from both Aguirre and Kemper that hunting, for them, is not centered around killing their prey. “For me, I just like being outside,” says Kemper. A lot of the time when he hunts, he doesn’t even end up killing an animal. For Aguirre, “it’s really about understanding the ever changing puzzle.” Aguirre explains the intense study of the natural world required for hunting. “You have to pay attention to wind to noise to weather. Hunting is not how much you take off the land, but how much you interface with the land.”

That being said, although for Kemper and Aguirre, bagging game isn’t the primary reason for hunting, Aguirre warns that ”the killing part should always be something you’re conscious of. I’m always grateful for the gifts that are given, and I take time out of the process to acknowledge the spirit of the thing I’m trying to harvest.”

3. Hunting in other places is the same as hunting in the Adirondacks.

Prior to speaking with Kemper and Aguirre, I had a singular vision of what hunting was: sitting in a tree stand, wearing camo, for hours upon hours. Yes, this sort of hunting does exist, but the Adirondacks are appealing for a totally different form of hunting. According to Aguirre, the low deer density due to the forest type in the Adirondacks promotes a rugged hunt that requires tracking and following deer. “If it snows, you’re tracking deer and carrying it out for miles.” This particular brand of hunting is “unique to the Adirondacks, and brings a lot more tourism than people think,” says Aguirre.

4. You just shoot it and take it home, no problem!

Wrong! “There are so many checks and balances in place,” says Kemper. First, you must have a hunting license, which requires not only an annual fee, but the passage of an educational course. There are additional permits and privileges that cost money, such as bow hunting and deer management permits. Once you have your license, there are limits on how much and when you can harvest. Kills must be reported to the DEC, or else you can lose your license. If you wish to sell a pelt, you need a DEC stamp approving it.

All of these regulations seem great, but I was curious as to whether hunters abide by them. Kemper informed me that violations occur everywhere, not just the Adirondacks. “A couple of bad apples ruin it and take away from the reputation of other hunters.” The same could be said of any form of recreation. “It’s no different than having a party on top of Marcy,” he says. Kemper also points out the fact that “the sporting community pays for the officers that patrol us.”

In conclusion, let’s be open!

During our conversation, Kemper mentioned problems facing hunting education courses. “We have the lowest hunting related incident rates in the nation,” he says. New York State puts so much emphasis on safety, and the courses are packed. However, anti-hunters will sign up for courses and not show up the day of the class, simply to prevent others from attending. To me, it’s sad that people seek to prevent adults and kids from safely learning about a culturally rich recreational activity that not only brings people into the outdoors, but teaches them to really observe and study the natural world around them. Kemper suspects that anti-hunters exist due to “a lack of understanding.” Aguirre says, “people always place their own value judgments on the act of hunting…and all that does is make you defensive.” I don’t think it’s possible to eliminate value judgments, but at the very least, we can gather information by listening openly to make the most informed decisions.