Mountain Hunting


| 8/14/2015 11:04:00 AM


Tags: deer management, Catskill Mountains, hunting, Ryan Trapani, New York,

 Hunting In The Catskill Mountains

“I’m going hunting in the mountains.” It just sounds right, doesn’t it? For years people from the Hudson Valley left their homes, packed a bag and a gun, and headed for the hills of northern Ulster County to hunt. The mountains offered an opportunity for hunters to pursue their game unencumbered over thousands of wooded acres. Each hollow or clove felt as his own to discover, explore, and pursue deer wherever they might go; after all the Hudson Valley had few deer back then. Say what!

It’s difficult to imagine that areas like Westchester and Dutchess Counties had few deer at one time. A good portion of the valley had been cleared for agriculture (and homes) until the 1970s, after which many of the farms had been abandoned. Older photos from the 19th Century show the Rondout and Wallkill Valleys from Mohonk Mountain House as a landscape mostly resembling portions of Iowa. The only trees that existed were near homesteads or following a stream. The land had been cleared to provide growing space for a contiguous tiny canopy used to feed domestic animals. Grass provided growing space for sheep and cows leaving few leftovers for undomesticated life-forms; namely wildlife.

So, there were few deer if any in the Hudson Valley until the second half of the 20th century. If you wanted to see a wild animal, then you’d have to go where there were fewer farms and more trees. The mountainous portion of northern Ulster County fit the bill for such pursuits. Although there were still farms up in the hills, there was already less than there once was. Farm abandonment reached the mountains earlier than areas down in the valley did due to its scraggly and remote nature. Many farms were abandoned in the late 19th century after the Civil War. The Great Depression began another wave of farm abandonment too. Even before farming began, the tanning industry in the mid-19th Century left its mark in the woods, leaving behind fewer hemlock trees and narrow bark roads for leather-making. Sawmills which used to operate in almost every valley, continued to operate into the 20th century, but many too had already closed. They left behind old landings, some skid roads, and a much different forest.

There Are Deer Here Somewhere

A Widowed Landscape Regrown

So what does this widowed forest have to do with deer hunting; everything. It was this different forest that these industries left behind that aided hunters in their pursuit of deer. Let’s start with the tanning industry. Catskill Naturalist – John Burroughs – writes about tromping around in the mountains of Ulster County near Slide Mountain – the Catskill Mountains’ highest peak – in the late 19th century. He admits to picking blackberries that had grown in after the tanners had felled hemlock trees many years ago. The hemlock had been removed in many portions of these mountains, but what grew back in is what most interested deer and later, deer hunters.




mother earth news fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!

LEARN MORE