Blogs > Oneida Outdoors

An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame inducts 12


The New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame proudly announces that it has inducted 12 new members, including two posthumously in the Pioneer Category. These inductees represent all areas of the state and many fields of endeavor. The NYSOHOF is an organization dedicated to honoring those individuals who have spent many years preserving our outdoor heritage, working for conservation or enhancing our outdoor sports for future generations.
Gordon Batcheller of Rensselaer County has been a wildlife biologist with the DEC and is currently chief of the bureau of wildlife. He played a key role in supporting legislative efforts to provide special youth hunts for turkey, waterfowl and deer. As a member of international wildlife organizations, he was able to negotiate agreements that advanced the techniques of trappers and staved off trade actions that threatened fur harvests and markets.
Bill Lansley of Onondaga County has been an important volunteer in countless activities ranging from fishing programs at Carpenters Brook Hatchery, Lions Camp Hickory and Take a Soldier Fishing. The successful Pheasant Raising Program at Jamesville Correctional Facility and Sportsman’s Days at Carpenters Brook hatchery along with the Onondaga County Federation’s Women In Nature program are some of his major accomplishments.
Frank Miskey, Jr. from Erie County has been involved with the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen for many years in many roles. He has also been a master Hunter Safety instructor conducting class in hunting, trapping, bowhunting and waterfowl. He frequently serves as mentor in youth hunts and assists in the wounded warrior program.
Chuck Parker of Oswego County has spent a lifetime involved in regional sportsmen’s organizations, including the Oswego County Sportsmen’s Foundation, hunter safety education, Region 7 Fish & Wildlife Management Board and the Oswego County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. Since 2001 he has been involved with the NYS Conservation Council and currently serves as president.
Al Reigle of Erie County has been the spokesman and public image of trapping in western New York in many ways including being a long time mentor and instructor for trapping education. He has organized the trapper booth at the Erie County Fair Conservation Building and represents Erie County Trapper’s Association at National Hunting Fishing Day events.
Leo Roth of Monroe County is the outdoor editor of the Rochester Democrat Chronicle who has promoted outdoor sports, unique stories of sportsmen and programs such as kids fishing. He has also been a strong advocate of preserving the Seneca White Deer, Casting for Kids (Red Cross Benefit) and catch and release for steelhead on streams in the local area.
Dave Simmons from Oswego County has been active as a leader of local sporting organizations throughout central New York, including the Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. He has been a major fundraiser for many organizations and personally sponsors many youth groups involved in hunting and conservation. Among the many groups he is involved in as an instructor are Women In Nature and Sportsmen’s Days at Carpenter Brook Hatchery.
Larry Steiner of Otsego County has been a quiet, driving force behind the scenes at the Adirondack-Catskill Chapter of the Safari Club and dozens of major projects owe their success to his time, financial and physical support. These include Hunters Against Hunger, Safari Wheels (wheelchairs for handicapped sportsmen), Venison Donation and National Archery in Schools Program. He has also sponsored many youth and handicapped special hunts as well as sending women and youngsters to SCI leadership education camps.
Bill Wilbur of Oswego County has devoted many years to the National Wild Turkey Foundation (NWTF), especially the JAKES (youth) and Wheels (handicapped) programs of area chapters. He has presented many programs to schools, serves as mentor to young hunters and currently serves as president the NYS Chapter of NWTF. In addition he has been chair of the board of Oswego County Federation of Sportsmen and involved with hunts for handicapped sportsmen.
Joan Wulff of Sullivan County has been a major contributor to the popularity of fly fishing, especially for women and children. She established the Lee Wulff Award in memory of her late husband to recognize individuals who help preserve wild game fish habitat and promote educational programs for youngsters. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center Museum and devotes considerable time and resources to its operation.
In the Pioneer Category the NYSOHOF has inducted the late Joe Jemiolo of Erie County and the late Lee Wulff of Sullivan County. Jemiolo was actively involved with the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, the Erie County Fisheries Advisory Board, North Chautauqua Conservation Club and many other conservation groups. Wulff was a familiar face on the American Sportsman TV show helping to popularize fly fishing and catch and release. The Lee Wulff Fly Fishing School in the Catskills has been a major supporter of youth fishing and conservation.
The new inductees will be honored at the annual banquet and will have their plaques displayed at the NYSOHOF Museum in Vail Mills. These inductees will be formally inducted at the annual banquet on Saturday, April 25 at the Rusty Rail in Canastot. The public is invited to join in this evening of celebration. Registration will begin at 4:30 p.m. with dinner at 5:30 p.m. followed by the presentations. Reservations must be made by April 18 by calling (315) 363-3896 or (315) 829-3588 or by e-mail at lmalone1@twcny.rr.com or sfcf@tds.net.
SHORT CASTS
Trout Season Opener: Next Thursday, April 1 is the opening of trout season. Many serious anglers believe that there is a reason that this opens on April Fool’s Day. Spring weather in central New York is very unpredictable but the odds are good that there will still be significant snow cover and streams will be cold. Those anglers venturing forth will be advised to fish the deep pools where the trout hang out during the winter. Fish slow and deep and use natural baits for your best chances.
If we get warming temperatures and rains to melt the remaining snow then the streams will be high and roily. Your best bet will be to fish small to medium streams where conditions will not be as severe. Fish the bottom of deeper pools where the temperature is milder and the current is less. Fishing eddies or areas where fish can hide from the current and heavy silt can be productive. Favorite baits and lures for early season will be worms, nightcrawlers, salted minnows, salmon eggs, Mepps spinners and Wooly Buggers.
IFHCNY Events: The Independent Fur Harvesters of Central NY will hold their monthly meeting on Sunday, April 12. Lunch will be served at 1:30 p.m. and the meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m.
There will be a Trapper Training Class held on April 18. Helped is needed so call the officers if you can assist. The Spring Banquet will be held Sunday, April 19 from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Empire Buffet.
VNSP Events: Vernon National Shooting Preserve will be opening as soon as the snow melts. In the meantime some events to put on the calendar include the Ruffed Grouse Society Side by Side Shoot on April 11. Call 240-9996 or see the website for more information. There will be a Hunter Safety Course on Saturday, April 18 from 9 a.m. – 4p.m. and Sunday, April 19 from 9 a.m. until finished. You must pre-register by calling Mike Graham at 750-8415.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Get your fishing tackle ready for trout season


Trout season is less than two weeks away. Even though the milder weather is finally taking away some of the snow pack the past week or so, fishing is not really on the minds of most people. But we all know that unpredictable weather at this time of year can quickly change conditions. It is time to get your tackle ready. Besides, it will help the time pass more quickly during this time of limited outdoor activity.
Check your rods to make sure that the guides are not loose or there are no rough spots to wear your line. Pull a scrap of nylon through the guides to check for burrs or rough spots. You can clean any cork handles with some warm water and mild dish detergent.
Reels take a little more attention. Check the bail springs to see that they are tight and that there are no rough spots or nicks on the bail to cause your line to fray. Make sure you have the owners manual to reference the parts and what lubricant to use in the right place.
If there is an accumulation of lots of dirty grease in the gear area, they should be cleaned with a solvent like Quik Scrub III to remove it. Clean them thoroughly and lubricate with a proper lubricant.
Avoid water-displacing lubricants like WD-40 since the chemicals can actually dissolve the protective grease needed. At first the reel may seem to operate smoothly but when the lubricant is gone the parts will be rubbing against each other. Generally you should use grease for parts that mesh like gears and use oil on parts that may rub.
If your reel has an accumulation of grease and dirt and you are not handy at cleaning it and replacing parts, have a professional do it. This is especially true with bait casting reels which are very complex mechanisms. If you are missing screws or have a damaged bail, etc. now is the time to get it taken care of.
Discard all the old monofilament on your reels and spare spools and replace it with new line. Line is the vital connection to you and that fish, so don’t risk having old, brittle line. Monofilament line deteriorates with ultraviolet light, ozone, etc. so it should be replaced at least once a year.
It also becomes stiff and takes a set curl when it becomes wet and exposed to sun so it pays to change line frequently. Many people change their lines two or three times per season. Any line that you purchased last year and is still on the spool, kept in the cellar away from light will be alright to use.
Choice of line can be difficult. Different lines have special qualities such as abrasion resistance, limpness, low visibility, etc. These qualities are often exclusive, i.e. you can’t have one line with all of them. In a separate column we will discuss some of the considerations. You probably have several reels or spare spools for some of the reels, so buying large bulk spools of line can save you money. On the other hand having your local tackle shop fill your reels with line from their bulk winder can save you a lot of time and effort.
Typically in early season we often use salted minnows, salmon eggs or small spinners in addition to worms. Check your supply and make sure that you have enough for a few excursions in early season. Take an inventory of your lures and accessories and take advantage of sales at your favorite local sports shop and stock up before the season opens.  And do me a favor - shop locally. The local sports shops are the ones that support your community with paying taxes, donating to charities, volunteering to coach kids, teams, etc. Whether it is in this area or the shops in the areas you fish or camp, they deserve your support
If the lures have rusty hooks, replace them now. Sharpen all the hooks. A small hone or inexpensive device will quickly put a good point on the hooks. A diamond groove makes it easy to put a sharp point on your hook with just a few strokes.
If some of your spoons are tarnished, clean them up with silver polish or toothpaste. Some lures might need repainting. Make sure that all your plugs have eyes; it really does make a difference.
Take an inventory of all the little tools and accessories. Do you have pliers or hemostats, knife, penlight and similar tools? A few needle threaders come in handy for tying on flies, especially during periods of low light. Clippers, hook sharpeners and polarized sunglasses are essential.
Check waders or hip boots now for leaks and patch or replace them if they are too far gone. Some people use a flashlight inserted in the waders while turning off the room lights to find cracks or holes. A more reliable way is to fill the tub with water, put on your waders and kneel in the tub.
Depending on our specialty such as fly fishing, lake trolling, etc. we all have lots of other gear or supplies that we need to check. But the important thing is to start it now. It will mean that you won’t waste valuable time later when you could be out fishing.
SHORT CASTS
VNSP Events: Vernon National Shooting Preserve will be opening soon as the snow melts. In the meantime some events to put on the calendar include the Ruffed Grouse Society Side by Side Shoot on April 11. Call 240-9996 or see the website for more information. There will be a Hunter Safety Course on Saturday, April 18 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday, April 19 from 9 a.m. until finished. You must pre-register by calling Mike Graham at 750-8415.
Mute Swans: The DEC has revised its management plan on controlling mute swans, an invasive and destructive species. The new plan focuses on protecting wetlands. Swans will be allowed to remain in urban parks and other controlled areas. Essentially the DEC caved in under pressure from “bunny huggers”, animal rights activists like HSUS and the threat of downstate legislators. Their revised goal is focused on minimizing swan impacts rather than eliminating all free flying swans. They can be kept at parks and full consideration will be given to non-lethal techniques of control. You can see the full report on the DEC website and the public can comment until April 24.
Walleye: Although Oneida Lake is better known for numbers than size of walleye, there are occasionally some lunkers taken. Ernie Waterman of Blossvale was ice fishing recently on Oneida Lake when he caught this 9 lb., 28 inch walleye.
NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame: The New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame has selected 12 new inductees for the Hall of Fame for 2015. These will be featured in next week’s column but in the meantime you can see the complete listing at www.nysohof.org. These individuals and other local recipients of special yearly awards will be honored April 25 at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. The public is invited and details will be given in next week’s column.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Despite milder weather spring isn’t here yet


This week has seen milder weather which has been a welcome respite from the sub zero temperatures that have haunted us for several weeks. The temperatures in the 40s were very pleasant and encouraged many people to get outdoors. But despite the relatively pleasant weather, it is not spring yet. In fact there are lots of winter sports to enjoy but you have to exercise a different type of caution.
In most cases there is plenty of snow for snowmobiling. However if you are running cross country through fields or woods be careful of some areas of deep snow where you can easily get bogged down. Most trails around the local area or in the north country have a good base but there has been little or no fresh snow for covering the trails.
Downhill skiing has been consistent most of the winter but the temperatures are a lot more pleasant now than the days when there was a minus 20 degree windchill factor on top of the slopes. Check the snow conditions on the web or broadcasts for your favorite ski resort but skiing conditions should be very good all throughout the area.
Cross country skiing might present a different challenge. When people have gotten out in the past week or two they found that many of the fields or open areas had hard packed snow from the wind. Now with the milder temperatures some of the snow is settling and skiers might find themselves sinking deeper in the snow in some areas. You will still be able to ski but you might find the going a bit tougher or slower than you expect.
Another factor that might slow you down will be the wet snow. In some cases, it might be sticky or decrease your speed. If you are using waxable skis, be sure to have the proper wax on. Most people will be using the no-wax skis but even they can use some glide wax in these conditions. Put a thin coat of glide wax over the glide areas of your skis to prevent sticking and get smoother and better glide as you go along.
Even snowshoes have been sinking in the snow in some areas where there were fresh drifts or the snow had not settled much. Walking through the deep wet snow has made for somewhat more difficult conditions. It requires a bit more effort so take that into consideration when planning the distance of your hike.
Normally this time of year would be prime time for steelhead fishing. However the deep snow around the banks of the Salmon River or other tributaries has hampered access. Slush ice has been a problem on the Salmon River while others have been frozen over. The cold temperatures have caused ice to form on most waters and the melting snow keeps the water temperatures cold.
All of this means that fishing conditions are tough and the fish are not biting. However as the temperatures continue to improve and the water warms slightly, look for the fishing action to pick up in the next week or two. It will probably be a year like last year when the fishing was good in late March and throughout most of the month of April.
If you haven’t tried steelhead fishing, make this the year you get involved with this exciting sport. Warm waders and wading spikes or corkers are a must. But don’t think that you need to get out deep in the water. In fact if you are wading much above your ankles, you are probably wading where the fish are.
A long limber rod of eight or nine feet will help with casting, make it easier to keep the line off the water, and will really come in handy when it comes to fighting one of these powerful spectacular fish. Although some use tiny stone flies or wooly buggers with their 7 weight fly rods, others prefer to float egg sacks or trout beads. If you are lacking supplies or need advice, the best spot for both is All Seasons Sports on Route 13 in Pulaski. Owner Jim Dence is a local sportsman who is a licensed guide and understands the river and fishing conditions.
Whenever you are beginning a new sport it is always a good idea to hire a guide to learn the techniques while you are actually fishing. Unquestionably the best guide on the Salmon River and other tributaries is Chris Mulpagano. Chris is a former local resident who knows the river like most of us know our own living room and has spent a lifetime studying the habits of steelhead and salmon. Call Chris at 387-2623 and book a trip today.
Whatever your activity in the next few days or coming weeks, be sure to dress properly. Over-dressing can lead to heavy perspiration that can cause serious problems with loss of body heat. Thinking that it is spring and dressing too lightly can pose a serious problem, especially if the breeze picks up or the temperature drops.
Not only can these conditions make you uncomfortably cold, they can lead to hypothermia. In fact most cases of hypothermia come when the temperature is milder, rather than severely cold. Dress sensibly in layers and be prepared for changes in weather.
Whatever your choice of sport is, get out and enjoy the more seasonable weather. Just be reasonable in your expectations and prepare properly. Spring may be on the way but it isn’t here yet.
DEC’S Annual Tree and Shrub Seedling Sale: Landowners Can Take Advantage of Low-Cost Native Plants. More than 45 species of trees and shrubs from the New York State DEC Saratoga Tree Nursery are now available to public and private landowners and schools.
“The trees and shrubs from our Saratoga Tree Nursery can provide homeowners, municipalities and schools with great environmental benefits,” DEC Commissioner Martens said. “In addition to the aesthetic beauty they add to local landscapes, planting trees and shrubs improves air quality, provides wildlife with additional habitat and helps prevent soil erosion and supplies shade in the hot summer months.”
The Saratoga Tree Nursery sells primarily bare-root stock for direct plantings but a few species are available as containerized stock. Landowners can receive planting advice from their nearest DEC forestry office or private forestry consultant. The 2015 Tree and Shrub brochure can be found on the DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9395 or by calling (518) 581-1439.
To order seedlings by phone, contact the nursery on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at (518) 587-1120. Mail orders are also accepted and can be sent to the NYSDEC Saratoga Tree Nursery, 2369 Route 50, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Orders may be placed through mid-May. Seedlings are shipped from mid-April to mid-May.
Oneida County Sportsmen’s Mentor Program Annual Youth Hunt: The Oneida County Sportsmen’s Federation and National Wild Turkey Federation are teaming up with Environmental Conservation Officers again this year to give youngsters a great experience during the Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend, April 25 and 26. Youngsters eligible for the youth hunt and who do not have the opportunity to learn from or hunt with a family member or an adult mentor will have the opportunity to go turkey hunting with a Mentor.
During the weekend of April 11 youngsters will learn from experienced mentors the basics of turkey hunting and practice their marksmanship at a shooting range under the supervision of certified instructors.
Youngsters 12 – 15 who are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity will need to have completed their hunter safety course by that time, have the permission of a parent or guardian and be accompanied by parent, guardian or adult with written permission from a parent. Youngsters must complete the application and submit it to address below or by email sfcf@tds.net by April 1. Those chosen for this program will be notified.
Contact Youth Turkey Hunt, C/O Mr. Scott Faulkner, 3720 Wells Gifford Rd., Vernon Center, NY 13477. Phone 315-829-3588.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cross country ski opportunities abound


For most of January there was not much snow and cross country ski enthusiast were complaining about the lack of snow for cross country skiing. February more than made up for that but the sub zero temperatures and wind chill factors kept most people inside for the past month. With the abundance of snow everywhere and the apparent return of more moderate temperatures, many people are looking forward to making up for lost time and getting in some Nordic skiing.
Among the many reasons for the popularity of cross country skiing is the fact that you can do it almost anywhere. Whether it is the field behind your house or some groomed trails in the Adirondacks, there are countless opportunities.
You can do it at your own pace. Some like to shuffle along and explore the scenery and nature at a slow pace, while others like to “burn it” and get lots of exercise and conditioning on an outing. It can be a few hours of fun and exercise or an all day expedition.
Some people like the competitive nature of the sport, while others prefer a quiet day alone on the trail with only the local wildlife punctuating the scenery. It is a chance to get outdoors, get exercise at whatever skill level or amount that you desire and enjoy nature while you are at it.
Equipment in cross country skiing has changed and evolved, just like it has it most sports. But at heart it remains a simple sport. Long skinny skis with boots attached at the toe are the essence of the equipment. The kick and glide remains the basic move and locking the heels allows a degree of control while gliding downhill.
There are several new designs of skis that give some slight advantages in performance. But unless you are a racer or an advanced skier the difference is insignificant. Don’t be intimidated by the various designs or variations. Check with a reputable ski shop when choosing the right skis for you.
Binding have generally evolved from the three pin, which clamped the boot at the toe, to the “kick” style which grips the toe area of the boot by a special bar. Again, don’t be too concerned. If you are buying used skis, either type works just fine. If you are buying new ones, the ski shop will mark and mount the bindings for you.
Clothing will depend on the type of activity that you will be engaged in. If you are going to be going at a steady pace then you will need lighter clothing to avoid heavy perspiration and overheating. For slower paces, or frequently stopping to admire the scenery, especially in open country, you will need warmer clothing.
A good idea is to carry a light backpack or belt pack to carry snacks, water, an extra sweater and gloves and other necessary items. Be sure to take a compass, an extra tip for the poles and simple tool kit for any lengthy trips.
The abundance of open country in the areas around here lends itself to great ski trips. As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of interesting short trips across the nearby fields and through the adjoining woods. Most of the area farms have log roads through the forests that make great ski trails.
State land at Stony Pond has a series of nested ski trails of different lengths. Brookfield State Forest contains many miles of unplowed roads as well as some challenging hills. The property of Verona Beach State Park on the east side of Route 13 has a variety of trails to explore.
All around the area there are countless old farm roads or abandoned dirt roads that invite winter travel by ski or snowmobile. The roads around Florence or “46 Corners” lend themselves to great day trips by dropping off a second vehicle at your destination.
For those who prefer groomed and set tracks with a warming hut and hot coffee at the end of the trail, there are always commercial cross country ski centers. The Osceola Tug Hill X-C Ski Center (599-7377) offers trails, rentals of equipment and facilities. The Salmon Hills Resort (599-4003) on County Route 2 and Noble Shores just beyond Redfield offers similar services and “yurts” for rental accommodations.
The Black River Environmental Association (BREA) is a private foundation that grooms ski paths from the Boonville Town Barn to Pixley Falls State Park. Here is network of interesting trails and all are free of charge. You can access them along Route 46 or in Boonville.
The Town of Inlet maintains several miles of cross country trails that are groomed and set over a variety of ability levels and interesting venues.  Access is at Fern Park and there is no fee for their use. There is even a loop that is lighted for night skiing. They also groom trails at the Inlet Golf Course and Limekiln State Campground. Rentals or services are available at the nearby Pedals & Petals Shop in Inlet.
For those who want to strike out on their own and try some new territory, nearby Oswego County has lots of snow and lots of cross country trails as well. The best known are the trails used for the annual Tourathon east of Sandy Creek. Other areas are the Chateaugay State forest east of Orwell or the Littlejohn Wildlife Management Area beyond Redfield.
So whatever your preference of area or style of skiing, there are plenty of opportunities for you in central New York. Again this year nature is dumping an abundance of snow upon us.  Why not take advantage of it and enjoy cross country skiing opportunities that we have.
SHORT CASTS
State of Lake Ontario Meetings: The public will have the opportunity to learn about the State of Lake Ontario fisheries at public meetings held in March. Locally a meeting will be held Tuesday, March 10 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the DEC Training Academy, 24 County Route 2A, Pulaski (the former Portly Angler Motel).
DEC, and other organizations will make a number of presentations, including updates on the status of trout and salmon fisheries, forage fish and stocking programs. The meetings will provide ample time at the end of the scheduled program for the audience to interact with the presenters.
A statewide angler survey estimated more than 2.6 million angler days were spent on Lake Ontario and major tributaries.  The estimated value of these fisheries exceeded $112 million annually to the local New York economy.
Camping and RV Show: The Central NY RV and Camping show will be held at the NYS Fairgrounds this weekend, March 5 – 8. There will be all types of vendors with camping equipment, RVs, accessories and more. Hours will be Thursday noon – 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Call 487-7711 for more information.
Oneida County Mentor Program Women’s Hunt: The Oneida County Sportsmen’s Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation and other groups are joining together to give women a great experience during the regular turkey season. Women who sign up will have the opportunity for turkey hunting with a mentor on May 9.
During the weekend of April 11, women will learn from experienced mentors the basics of turkey hunting and practice their marksmanship at a shooting range under the supervision of certified instructors.
Women who are interested will need to have completed their hunter safety course by that date. They must complete an application and submit it to address below by April 1, 2015 or by email to sfcf@tds.net.  
Contact: Women’s Turkey Hunt, C/O Mr. Scott Faulkner, 3720 Wells Gifford Rd, Vernon Center, NY 13477. Phone 315-829-3588

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snowshoes: A Versatile and Handy Tool For Winter Sportsmen


Due to the frigid temperatures, dangerous wind-chills and heavy snows, many people have not ventured outside very much this winter. Last weekend saw more normal conditions and snowmobilers and cross-country and downhill skiers all eagerly took part in their favorite sports. Other people decided to get out even if was just hiking and getting fresh air.
With the deep snow, it was difficult moving unless you had cross-country skis or snowshoes on. Large drifts and heavily packed snow make travelling any further than your back yard a major undertaking. A lot of people were using snowshoes to get their destination or just for the fun of it.
In recent years there has been an increase in the popularity of snowshoes. For several years now the number of sales of snowshoes has increased dramatically, according to sports shop owners.
There are many reasons for the increased popularity of snowshoes. For many people it is easier than cross-country skiing, especially those who have a fear of keeping their balance while gliding or cruising down slopes. Snowshoes are steadier and give you more control. For moving along at a slower pace such as hunting or photography they are ideal. And if you are moving through heavily wooded areas and uneven terrain, the snowshoes are easier to use.
Snowshoeing is relatively low cost because all you need are pair of snowshoes and you can wear your regular winter clothing. Anyone can do it. You can adjust the distance and activity to suit your ability and energy level. There are lots of areas nearby that you can use snowshoes. It is excellent exercise and can be combined with other sports.
Although some may tell you that it just as easy to travel on snowshoes as walking normally, don’t believe them completely. It does take a slight adjustment in your leg swing or gait and it will require more effort. Just remember not to overdo it when you start out; you also have to walk back.
On the other hand, snowshoeing is not as strenuous or as difficult as some people think. With a little practice you can move along without thinking every step about stepping on your other snowshoe. Making it easier is the fact that many of the newer designs and materials are lighter and easier to walk with.
Traditional snowshoes fall into three basic types: Alaskan, Maine or bearpaw. The Alaskan or pickerel are long narrow types made for traversing open country trails and the upturned toe is made for plowing through deep powder and drifts. The Maine or Michigan styles are shorter, and wider with a trailer or “tail” for stability. These are best for general use in a variety of situations.
The bearpaw has always been popular with rabbit hunters and others who traveled through thick evergreens or timber where a lot of turning or uneven terrain was encountered. These are the smallest and are basically oval shaped. Two variations are the modified bearpaw, which is slightly longer and has a slightly upturned toe. The Green Mountain style is another modification of the bearpaw and is slightly longer and narrower. This is very popular with beginners because it is light and easy to use under most conditions.
Today there are the newer models made of polyethylene, aluminum frames and nylon or other synthetic covers to replace the webbing. These contribute greatly to the popularity of snowshoeing because they are lightweight, narrow for easy walking and support a greater amount of weight for their smaller size. They often have crampons or “creepers” that help grip the surface while climbing uphill.
Most of the new synthetic snowshoes are in the Green Mountain style and come in various sizes to accommodate different weights. Generally you need more surface area to support greater weight. Manufacturers will list the recommended weights for different sizes.
If you are going to buy a pair, try out several styles and types before you purchase. What kind do I have? One pair of each! The traditional snowshoes are still made of white ash although neoprene webbing is replacing the rawhide on many brands. I also have two the Green Mountain style in plastic and aluminum frames with neoprene “platforms.”
Because of the increasing popularity of snowshoeing, many places are now renting snowshoes. Up in the central Adirondacks you can rent snowshoes at Moose River Company in Old Forge, Inlet Pedals and Petals, or Mountainman Outdoor Supply in Old Forge. The Osceola-Tug Hill rents snowshoes as well as cross-country skis. Beaver Lake Nature Center or Highland Forest rent snowshoes. Great Swamp Conservancy often has guided wildlife walks on snowshoes.
There is a tremendous amount and variety of areas to try out snowshoes for hiking, photography and nature walks. Just remember as a matter of common courtesy to stay off cross-country ski trails. Wear sensible clothing, but don’t overdress. If you are going to new territory carry a map and compass along with water and snacks. Finally remember the advice that a ranger gave me a year ago when I was hiking in the state of Washington: “It is five miles out, but ten miles coming back.”
SHORT CASTS
Oneida County Sportsmen’s Mentor Program Annual Youth Hunt: The Oneida County Sportsmen’s Federation and National Wild Turkey Federation are teaming up with the assistance of Environmental Conservation Officers again this year to give youngsters a great experience during the Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend, April 25 and 26. Youngsters eligible for the youth hunt and who do not have the opportunity to learn from, or hunt with a family member or an adult mentor will have the opportunity to go turkey hunting with a mentor.
During the weekend of April 11, youngsters will learn from experienced mentors the basics of turkey hunting and practice their marksmanship at a shooting range under the supervision of certified instructors.
Eligible hunters are youths 12-15 years of age holding a junior hunting license and a turkey permit. Youths 12-13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or relative over 21 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youths 14-15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or an adult over 18 years of age with written permission.
Youngsters who are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity will need to have completed their hunter safety course by that time, have the permission of a parent or guardian and meet the above criteria. Youngsters must complete the application and submit it to address below or by email sfcf@tds.net by April 1,. Those chosen for this program will be notified.
Contact Youth Turkey Hunt, C/O Mr. Scott Faulkner, 3720 Wells Gifford Rd., Vernon Center, NY 13477. Phone 315-829-3588.
State of Lake Ontario Meetings: The public will have the opportunity to learn about the State of Lake Ontario fisheries at public meetings held in March. Locally a meeting will be held Tuesday, March 10 from 6:30-9 p.m. at the DEC Training Academy, 24 County Route 2A, Pulaski (the former Portly Angler Motel).
DEC and others will make a number of presentations, including updates on the status of trout and salmon fisheries, forage fish, and stocking programs. The meetings will provide ample time at the end of the scheduled program for the audience to interact with the presenters.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter weather harsh on wildlife


When the snow piles up outside and the temperatures plummet during a nasty winter, humans can adapt and dress properly. If all else fails we stay inside and throw another log on the fire. One of the questions or concerns that many people have is how will all the snow and cold affect the wildlife.
Many birds migrate south for the winter. Birds like chickadees, goldfinches, tufted titmice and others that feed on seeds will congregate in areas that offer shelter and food nearby, including our backyard feeders.
Probably most visible, and perhaps most affected by deep snow, are deer. Many have commented that they have not seen many deer in the past few weeks as the snow piled up. When the snow reaches a depth of about 15 inches deer have difficulty travelling and they move to find their deer yards. These are areas of conifer trees, such as white cedar, that provide food and shelter.
Typically a deer’s winter food supply is white cedar, hemlock or maple buds and stems. Deer will have paths through the snow where they feed on the browse in relatively sheltered conditions. When the snow gets deep it restricts their movement and consequently the food intake. Deer need about five to seven pounds of food per day. Cold weather puts further demands on their metabolism to use their body fat to survive.
The deep snow will limit the deer’s mobility and ability to get to food when they need it the most. The key is whether the snow settles and packs and forms a crust that allows them to move around. If not, they are likely to be in trouble.
Another key will be whether or not there is much additional snow, especially as we get into March. Deep snow in late spring will usually mean widespread starvation since their body’s fat reserves have been depleted.
Some animals hibernate or go into a deep sleep for much of the winter. Raccoons, skunks, chipmunks and others will also sleep away much of the winter although a prolonged thaw or warm period may awaken them. Squirrels also sleep during the most extreme periods of cold weather although they will be actively seeking seeds or nuts during much of the winter.
In areas of deep snow, the turkeys will have trouble moving about to feed on the buds of shrubs or low branches that is their main winter food supply. If the snow settles and packs, the turkeys will usually be alright. But when there are prolonged periods of deep fluffy snow, the big birds could be in trouble.
Other birds and mammals have developed adaptations that help them to survive in harsh winter conditions. Grouse have feathered feet that act as snowshoes that help them walk on snow. In most cases they feed on the buds of aspen trees and seek protection from the elements and predators in the cover of nearby evergreens. In extremely cold weather grouse will dive into soft snow and remain buried there overnight in their own little snow cave.
Some animals such as the short-tailed weasel or snowshoe hare change their winter coat to white. This change in fur is caused by decreasing amounts of sunlight reaching their eye and has nothing to do with snow cover. But it does help them blend in with their surroundings and it is warmer than their normal fur.
As the snow settles, the predators like foxes can travel about on top of the snow since they don’t weigh very much. If you are checking tracks that resemble the pattern of a fox, you will not see any distinctive pad marks. That is because the bottom of their feet is mostly covered with fur for warmth and any tracks, no matter how fresh, will appear fuzzy.
Coyotes are larger predators that have longer legs to travel deep snow and their relatively large paws keep them from sinking into the snow too deeply once it has settled or become packed by the wind. Since much of their smaller prey like mice is hidden deep beneath the snow and rabbits aren’t traveling far from cover, coyotes may concentrate even more on deer for food. Deer trapped in the deep snow will have trouble escaping from a pair or pack of coyotes.
Deep beneath the snow the various mice, voles and other tiny critters will be living in their network of tunnels relatively free from predators like foxes, hawks or owls. If you follow the tracks of a fox or coyote you may see where they pounced into the snow prompted by the sound of rodents scurrying underneath. Deep snow hinders their ability to catch mice and other rodents.
Throughout the winter the life and death struggle of wildlife continues. It is always a tough time and many will not make it. But in nature not everything has a happy ending and when there is higher than normal snowfall and severe wind chills, more creatures than usual will suffer. But most of the wildlife have evolved adaptations that allow them to survive even a harsh winter.
SHORT CASTS
Safe Hunting in 2014: Last year was the second safest year for hunting since records were kept following the introduction of Hunter Safety Education in the 1960s. Incidents per 100,000 hunters have fallen by 75 percent since the 1960s. The average for the past five years is down to 4.3 incidents per 100,000 compared to 19 incidents in the 1960s.
There were 22 total incidents in 2014, including one fatality while hunting small game. Of that total, eight were self inflicted, 11 were involved with the same hunting party and only three where the victim and the shooter did not know each other. There were none in the spring turkey season. This is a testament to the hard work and skill of the 2,500 volunteer Sportsman Education instructors who put in many hours conducting classes in safe and ethical hunting.
Deer Season Law Enforcement: Region 6 which encompasses St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and Herkimer Counties reported 353 related law enforcement actions involving 228 individuals during the 2014 deer season. While this may seem like a lot, consider that of the thousands of hunters afield in this region it is really a very small percentage. There were 172 misdemeanors and 181 violations for lesser charges.
There were 60 incidents of illegally taking big game, 71 of having a loaded gun in the car or shooting from a vehicle and five hunting with bait. Tagging, reporting and licensing violations totaled 103. There were 38 cases of trespass and four of taking a deer with an artificial light. Other incidents involved carrying a light with a bow or gun in the vehicle, feeding deer or bear within 300 feet of the road or carrying a bow or rifle during muzzleloader season.
Oneida County Mentor Program Women’s & Youth Hunts: The Oneida County Sportsmen’s Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation and other groups are joining together to give women a great experience during the regular turkey season. Women who sign up will have the opportunity for turkey hunting with a mentor on May 9.
Some women may want to learn or participate in turkey hunting but do not have family members or others who are experienced turkey hunters to learn from. During the weekend of April 11 prior to the hunt, women will learn from experienced mentors the basics of turkey hunting and practice their marksmanship at a shooting range under the supervision of certified instructors.
Women who are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity will need to have completed their hunter safety course by that date. They must complete an application and submit it to address below by April 1 or by e-mail to sfcf@tds.net.
Contact: Women’s Turkey Hunt, C/O Mr. Scott Faulkner, 3720 Wells Gifford Rd, Vernon Center, NY 13477. Phone 315-829-3588.
The Annual Youth Hunt will take place on April 25 and 26. Ages 12 – 15 with parental permission are eligible. The learning day and contact person are the same. More details available next week.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cures for cabin fever this weekend


Even for people used to winter weather and looking forward to winter sports, this has been a tough winter. Extremely cold temperatures and wind chill have kept a lot of people inside this winter. By this time many people are getting cabin fever. The solution is to get out and about this weekend. In addition to the usual winter sports there are some special events going on that will help improve your mood.
Great Swamp Conservancy’s Winter Hibernation Festival in Canastota will be held on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.. Activities include the annual Medallion Hunt, Boy Scouts igloo build, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, sledding on the new overlook, sled races, tug of war, snow painting and snow sculpture.
There will also be the guided trail walk, toasting marshmallows and indoor fun with nature games, inter-active and environmental exhibits about winter wildlife and crafts. For more information call 697-2950.
For Camp Santanoni Winter Weekend the New York DEC will open this historic Adirondack property to the public for recreational opportunities on President’s Day holiday weekend, February 14-15. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers will have access to the historic Great Camp properties located in the town of Newcomb in Essex County to rest and view interpretative displays.
During the Winter Weekend events, cross-country skiers and snowshoers will be able to visit both the Gate Lodge and Main Lodge of Camp Santanoni, view displays about the great camp and take interpretive tours with Adirondack Architectural Heritage staff. The Adirondack Interpretive Center will provide snowshoes to lend to visitors at the Gate Lodge.
A 9.8-mile round trip cross-country ski or snowshoe excursion traverses from Camp Santanoni’s Gate House complex to the remote lakeside main lodge complex. The trip provides a moderate physical activity and a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. The trails are open year around but the buildings are only open three weekends in the winter.
The Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classic in Utica combines kid’s activities, seminars and special sales. Seminars on both Saturday and Sunday are Electronics to Improve Fishing Success at 11 a.m., Understanding Seasonal Movements of Baitfish at 2 p.m. and Kayak Fishing Strategies at 4 p.m. While you are checking out the fishing and boating gear there are interesting activities for the kids. “Next Generation” free programs from noon until 5 p.m. include magazine cover style photos with replica fish, craft activities, the casting challenge and kids fishing workshops at 2:30 and 4:40.
The Adirondack Outdoorsman Show returns to Johnstown on Saturday and Sunday. It will be held at the Johnstown Moose Club, 109 South Comrie Ave (Rte 30A North), just five minutes from Thruway Exit 28. Hours are 10 a.m to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The popular show has an Adirondack theme and is completely outdoor related. Vendors and exhibits include hunting, fishing, archery, trapping, boating, camping, taxidermy, guides and charter services, collectable knives, firearms and antique hunting and fishing equipment. There will also be seminars, wildlife art and books and industry and outdoors experts.
A special presentation on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. will include a presentation commemorating Peter Dubuc into the Fulton County Hall of Fame. Dubuc was the angler who caught the world record 46-pound northern pike in Great Sacandaga Lake. His family will be there with photos, stories and a replica mount of the fish that is still the North American record.
If you go on Saturday it is worth the short side trip to the nearby Wildlife Sports Education Museum, a world class exhibit of mounts and sporting equipment. The same building also houses the NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame. They are located at the intersection of Rte 30 and 29 in Vails Mills. Both exhibits are closed on Sundays during the winter.
SHORT CASTS
CNY Show Success: Congratulations and thank you to Teri Maciag and the committee from Holy Cross Academy for putting on another successful CNY Sportsman’s Show last weekend. A large crowd enjoyed the nice variety of exhibits ranging from charters and hunting and fishing suppliers to conservation and sporting organizations. It continues to be a great service to the community to bring these together to promote local businesses and provide outdoorsmen the opportunity to interact with so many useful exhibits. It continues to be a great asset to the community.
CNY Sportsman of the Year Award to Paul Miller: At the conclusion of the Central New York Sportsman Show, the Sportsman of the Year Award was presented to Paul Miller of Blossvale. Miller has been active in local conservation clubs and sportsman’s causes, including Trout Unlimited, Trout in the classroom program at Camden Central School and he also serves on the Tug Hill Commission. He was inducted into the NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame in 2014.
He has been the main leader of the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club in its efforts to restore Atlantic salmon to CNY streams, serving as president for many years. He led fund raising efforts to obtain money to buy Atlantic salmon fry to stock for many years. They raised fry from eggs hatched at various facilities and Paul was often the person who drove the truck to Vermont to obtain eggs or fry. Eventually the club built their own hatchery near Ava and later constructed a new hatchery in McConnellsville.
Today the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club annually organizes successful stocking efforts in East and West Branches of Fish Creek and its tributaries. Throughout these many years Paul Miller has been active in efforts to keep organization financially stable, maintain the hatchery and daily care of eggs. He has helped publicize the effort, encourages catch and release, and the return of information to the club. Today these magnificent fish swim in their native waters in Central New York thanks to the efforts of Paul Miller and the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club.
Great Backyard Bird Count: This year’s Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by Cornell University Lab of Ornithology will be Feb. 14–17. It is easy to participate; all you have to do is count the different species of birds in your backyard or other area on a given day and report it to the Cornell website. It can be a fun, family friendly way to discover and help the birds in your community. The data collected will be used to monitor trends and can be useful in various types of research. Visit the website www.birdcount.org to learn more about this event.
Safe Hunting in 2014: Last year was the second safest year for hunting since records were kept following the introduction of Hunter Safety Education in the 1960s. Incidents per 100,000 hunters have fallen by 75 percent since the 1960s. The average for the past five years is down to 4.3 incidents per 100,000 compared to 19 incidents in the 1960s.
There were 22 total incidents in 2014, including one fatality while hunting small game. Of that total, eight were self inflicted, 11 were involved with the same hunting party, and only three where the victim and the shooter did not know each other. There were none in the spring turkey season. This is a testament to the hard work and skill of the 2,500 volunteer Sportsman Education instructors who put in many hours conducting classes in safe and ethical hunting.
Deer and Snow: After a mild snowfall early in the winter, the past few weeks have seen significant accumulation in many areas, especially in the north country. Several feet of snow on the ground in the areas north of Oneida Lake can mean trouble for deer if cold temperatures linger into late March. Once the snow cover hits about 15 inches, the deer yard up in areas of conifers. But cold weather depletes their fat reserve and if they remain confined in these areas for several weeks there could be a considerable loss of life due to malnutrition or starvation.