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September 28 is Public Lands Day

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Hopefully you found time this week to get onto the Allegheny National Forest. Hiking has been great. The small trout streams are low, or at least they were until recently, so stealth is needed to flip a bait or a fly near relaxed trout. One of our favorite pastimes during the past several years has been howling for coyote just to hear them sing. Already some migratory birds are in the area so birding can be rewarding. My neighbor hits the atv trails regularly and he seems to come home relaxed.

Or maybe you just want to celebrate Public Lands Month on public lands. Back Country Hunters & Anglers initiated Public Lands Month in 2017. National Public Lands Day will be celebrated Saturday, September 28th this year.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a national organization with a Pennsylvania chapter. This month chapters across North America are competing in a special project to clean up out public lands called Public Land Pack Out. Members are encouraged to grab garbage bags when they head afield, then when they come back pack out garbage. The goal is to pack out 1,000 bags of garbage from public lands.

Instruction for joining this relatively new group is available on their web site at www.backcountryhunters.org.

BHA was initially conceived during 2004 in Oregon. The Pennsylvania Chapter of BHA was organized in 2014, ten years later. Now it is in all but five states; Hawaii, Nebraska, West Virginia, Delaware and South Carolina; and in three Canadian provinces; British Columbia, Alberta and Yukon Territory.

One of the wild areas that has had a powerful influence on me is the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York. They call to me like a Siren to a sailor. Beauty is unsurpassed. It is miles between roads. Several areas are designated as wilderness areas where you walk or paddle, others as wild areas where there are a few roads and outhouses.

But the years do wear us down. During our last Adirondack tent hunt in the Black River Wild Area, we drove right to out camping spot. We brought a nice, quiet gas generator and slept at night warmed to 45 degrees by an electric heater. That, a very welcome temperature to wake up to when it is 15 degrees outside.

The three of us who hunted together were walking down a dirt road when we spotted a spike buck at the edge of the road ahead. None of us were in the Adirondacks to shoot a spike, and we let it walk. That was the only buck anyone in my hunting group saw on that hunting trip, nor did we see a black bear.

We did see a most beautiful, full coated coyote during a hunt in the Indian Lake area. That was a very entertaining experience. One of the guys has placed a tree stand in a wild apple orchard. It was a high humidity day with frequent sprinkles, and not at all warm. We had seen signs that game was moving. I suggested to the guy in the tree stand to stay all day without coming out for lunch. He did have his lunch with him in the tree. But out he came for hot lunch. When he went back to his stand for the afternoon hunt there was one big pile of bear poop right under the stand, still steaming.

During an Adirondack hunt years earlier into the Five Ponds Wilderness, I did have some excellent smallmouth bass fishing on top-water lures. I also saw a few deer on that trip. Unfortunately I was only hunting for bear.

But actually shooting something never was the most important element about those backcountry trips. I think I liked the evening into night campfires the best. Especially one night during the same hunt when a frog and a toad of about equal size squared off in the light of my small campfire. It sure appeared that they has a jumping contest, and it went on for several minutes. Then each hopped away with no clear winner. They had jumped, to all appearances, equal heights each time.

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