In what has become a time-honored autumn ritual, foliage hunters reportedly entered the state's wooded areas to match their skills against maple, oak, and poplar leaves that have fallen from trees. "Nothing makes you feel more alive than the sweat on your brow as you take down a freshly sprawled pile of red maple leaves," said 58-year-old hunter Lyle Inman, showing reporters the mounted taxidermy busts of leaves hanging on a wall in his home. "The adrenaline rush of being face-to-face with a leaf in its native environment is simply unparalleled." "This is an American tradition," Inman added. "It's man against nature."
"...I brought my son out this year so he could have a chance to bag his first leaf," said Dan Hardin of Leominster, MA, who was teaching his 12-year-old son how to cut open a sweet-birch leaf and clean it. "Hopefully we can kill enough to freeze and last us through the winter. You can pickle and jar them, too. Folks around here have been doing that for generations." Over the years, hunters said, their strategies for stalking leaves have grown more sophisticated and they've found new ways to get closer to piles undetected, often by cloaking themselves with spray-on bark scents or blowing into a "leaf call" device that mimics rustling noises. Nonetheless, experienced marksmen said the only way to guarantee a clean leaf kill is with a straight shot to the midrib or petiole. "You've got to stay focused, tread lightly, and, most importantly, think like a leaf," said skilled huntsman Ernie Richards, 43, a native of Amherst, NH. "Sometimes I'll track a leaf for a full day before making my move. It's all about keeping one step ahead of your quarry and anticipating where it will go next. Then you go in for the kill."