There's another kind of game New England hunters are tracking: letterboxing. A decade ago, letterboxing was all but nonexistent in the States. Today, and especially in Southern New England, ''You can barely take a walk without stumbling across one of the boxes containing the ubiquitous journal and stamp," reads one online letterboxing introduction. The activity that started in England in the mid-1800s combines hiking, orienteering, puzzle solving, treasure hunting, and rubber stamping.
A Smithsonian magazine article about it in 1998 launched the activity stateside. Boxes (which possibly hold clues to other boxes) are hidden outdoors and can be found anywhere from a city park to a remote hiking trail. Most clues are posted online at www.letterboxing.org. The site has a helpful list of answers to frequently asked questions, along with tips on getting started.
Another excellent resource is the recently published ''The Letterboxer's Companion" by Randy Hall (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95), a Pennsylvanian who is cofounder of the website. The book covers the basics of finding, creating, and adorning letterboxes, as well as the all important letterbox etiquette, such as: Don't give away the answer.