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, May 20, 2015

Outdoor writers explore 1000 Islands’ many attractions

In the predawn darkness a dozen camouflaged men and women carrying weapons and packs marched down the streets of Clayton to the village docks. Shortly after 4 a.m. they boarded a large boat and headed off through the black night across the St. Lawrence River. This was not some counter-terrorist group on a training mission nor a detachment of homeland security forces out to thwart a penetration of our northern border. Instead it was a group of serious turkey hunters heading off to Grindstone Island to hunt turkey on that big mysterious island of legend and folklore.
The occasion was the New York State Outdoor Writers’ Association annual conference in the 1000 Islands from May 7 – 10, and a group of us took advantage of a generous offer by Harry Slate of Grindstone Island Hunting Service. Grindstone is a big island with no bridge or public access. It once had many farms, a village, etc. but today has nine year-round residents, a few farms and summer homes along the shoreline. The hunt was interesting but turkeys there are as wary as anywhere and only Dan Ladd bagged one.
Headquarters for the conference was the new 1000 Islands harbor Hotel on the riverfront in Clayton. This four story beautiful hotel evokes memories of the gilded age when guests travelled by train and steamboat to spend time in the glorious 1000 Island region. Modern luxury combined with fantastic service and attention to detail makes this a premier destination for a get-away weekend or a longer stay. All the amenities and attractions of this new four diamond class hotel deserve a separate article that will be forthcoming soon. Check out the hotel at
Writers and guests got to enjoy many of the attractions of the area. For me and some of the other writers many of the attractions were familiar but the fact that we never get tired of them speaks volumes for the quality of the experiences. Some people enjoyed the beautiful weather and had an exciting experience while white water rafting on the Black River with Whitewater Challengers Rafting Company. Most enjoyed a pleasant afternoon boat tour around Wellesley Island on the area’s newest boat tour company, Clayton Island Tours.
Fishing is naturally a big attraction of this area and many of us spent a morning or two aboard fishing charters such as Myrle Bauer’s Net Results Charters, Rich Clarke’s Signman Charters and Keith Dasno’s Gotta Have It Charters. Now you might think that with such a formidable array of anglers, the pike would not stand a chance. But nature has a way of evening the odds and the unusually cold water temperatures had delayed spawning. The pike were difficult to locate and reluctant to bite when we did find them. The few that were caught reminded us that better days lay not too far ahead.
Thanks to Doreen and Jody Garrett, owners of Lucky Star Ranch licensed hunting preserve, some hunters were able to hunt turkey on the 2,000 acre estate while others fished there. After hosting all the writers for lunch, Doreen and Jody who own Otis Technology explained their quality deer management program and their involvement in the Wounded Warrior program.
Other prominent attractions included the tour of Boldt Castle, a traditional guide’s shore dinner and tours of the Antique Boat Museum and tours and tastings at the areas two excellent wineries – Coyote Moon and Thousand Islands Winery. A stroll along the picturesque streets of Clayton reveals the well-kept and unique stores. My personal favorites that I visit every time include the River Rat Cheese store and Michael Ringer’s St. Lawrence Gallery art store.
If you haven’t spent much time in the 1000 Islands-Clayton area you are missing out on a lot. Even if you have, the old and new attractions beckon you to return. Whether it is a time for relaxation amidst the splendor of the islands or an action-filled trip, you can find all of these and more in the islands. For complete information check the Clayton Chamber of Commerce at or 800-252-9806 and the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council at or 800-847-5263.
Second Shift Gobblers: As the spring turkey season enters its final week many hunters are frustrated in not hearing many birds gobble on the roost or are weary of getting up in the middle of the night. One tactic that is often effective in late season is “hunting the second shift.” At this time many hens are nesting and lonesome toms are on the prowl looking for hens, especially by mid morning.
You might consider taking advantage of the situation by sleeping a little longer and going out in mid morning. Give a variety of soft clucks or yelps every half hour and maybe one of those lonesome toms will come to your call. Just be warned that they will often sneak in silently so stay alert.
New Hartford Kids Fishing Derby: The DEC and Mohawk Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited combine to offer the annual New Hartford Kids fishing Derby on June 6. It will be held at New Hartford Athletic Park in Washington Mills. Hours are 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. and there will be prizes, fly tying and casting. Refreshments will be provided by the Saquoit Fish & Game Club.
DEC Alerts Hikers of Muddy Trail Conditions in the High Peaks: Memorial Day Weekend usually sees lots of people hiking in the Adirondacks but hikers should temporarily avoid high elevation trails in the Adirondacks. NYS DEC is urging hikers to be cautious and postpone hikes on trails above 3,000 feet until mid-June.
DEC is asking hikers to avoid high elevation trails in the Dix, Giant and High Peaks Wilderness Areas in the northern Adirondacks because of muddy conditions and the potential damage hiking can cause to vegetation and soft ground.
Hikers are advised to only use trails at lower elevations during the spring mud season to avoid damaging natural resources and to promote safety. Lower trails usually dry soon after snowmelt and are on less erosive soils than the higher peaks. DEC asks hikers to avoid the following trails:
High Peaks Wilderness Area - all trails above 3,000 feet where wet, muddy, snow conditions still prevail, specifically: Algonquin, Colden, Feldspar, Gothics, Indian Pass, Lake Arnold Cross-Over, Marcy, Marcy Dam - Avalanche - Lake Colden which is extremely wet, Phelps Trail above John Brook Lodge, Range Trail, Skylight, Wright and all “trail-less” peaks.
Dix Mountain Wilderness Area - all trails above Elk Lake and Round Pond. Giant Mountain Wilderness Area - all trails above Giant’s Washbowl, “the Cobbles,” and Owls Head. DEC suggests alternative trails for hiking, subject to weather conditions. DEC’s website contains additional information on trail conditions in the Adirondacks at or contact the Forest Rangers at (518) 897-1300.
BoatUS Safety Reminders: With the Memorial Day weekend kicking off he unofficial start to summer, there will be an increasing amount of boating activity. The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has four reminders for boating safety:
Keep your life jackets handy. This means readily accessible within arms reach, not still in it’s plastic bag or behind compartment doors buried under junk. Better yet, wear it.
Instruct your passengers on where to sit and how to move about the boat safely. This applies to all boats, but the smallest ones can have biggest problems: swamping, large wakes and overloading can turn your day into one you’d rather forget.
See that all passengers are briefed on where emergency equipment is kept and how to use it. Don’t forget to show how to use the VHF radio, and what everyone needs to do in case someone falls overboard (designate a spotter).
Share your float plan with someone ashore to let them know where you’re headed and expected to return. The simple act of telling someone has been demonstrated to greatly reduce a rescuer’s response time. For more information on boating safety or to take a no cost online boating safety course, go to

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mid-season turkey tips

The Spring Turkey Season is approximately half over and after a slow start for many hunters, the action has picked up a bit. A lot more hunters have gotten birds, although many of the ones that have talked to me have said that they have bagged jakes or two year old birds. Most of the mature toms have flocks of hens with them now.
This can present an extra challenge. Some of the veteran hunters have resorted to making some sharp cackling or cutting calls to raise the curiosity or the ire of some territorial hens and draw the flock closer. Knowing where the flock likes to travel to their strutting ground can be helpful. If the hunter gets close to their route it is easier to call the tom a little ways from the flock to within gun range.
With the emergence of leaves on the trees last weekend, most areas are now in full foliage. Remember that with all the foliage on the trees, the sounds of the gobbles may be muffled. That big tom that sounds like he did a couple weeks ago will actually be much closer. This can present an extra challenge since he can often spot you from the treetops and remain on the roost instead of flying down. Or if he can look down and not see a decoy in the area that the calling sounds are coming from, he will be suspicious and not come to that area.
It also gets light earlier than it did a two weeks ago so allow extra time or pick a sheltered route to your destination so the wary tom will not make out your shadowy figure in the pre-dawn light. If he does, you can bet that he will not be coming down in that area or responding to your call.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to hunt on Grindstone Island on the St. Lawrence River and that was a unique experience. Only my friend Dan Ladd bagged a turkey but it was interesting and saw birds.
Monday morning Dan called me to tell me the good news that he had gotten his second tom. Dan was using a new, innovative set of decoys from Bass Pro Shops called the Crazy Jake and Mating Hen. Not only are they realistic looking but they are animated and operated by remote control. The idea is that they will provoke a jealous tom into action when he sees the younger jake with the hen.
I had seen them previously and was impressed with the looks and action. Dan proved to me that they really work. Early in the morning he was calling and a big tom responded. However it came to the top of a ridge and hung up there. It fanned, strutted and called while it expected the hen to come to him. Since the tom would not come any closer, Dan then activated the jake decoy and pivoted it so that it faced the big tom up on the ridge. Then the turned the jake away from the tom and towards the hen.
That was all it took to infuriate the big tom and it started down the ridge towards the decoys. Dan bagged it at a distance of 30 yards. The bird weighed 21 pounds and had a 9 ½ inch beard.
Youth Turkey Hunt: The Federated Sportsmen Club’s of Oneida County, Region 6 ECOs, National Wild Turkey Federation, Oneida County Sherriff’s Department and New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame teamed up to hold its fifth annual youth turkey hunt. A total of 25 youth participated in the hunt.
Safety day was held April 11 at the Cassety Hollow Rod and Gun Club where youth and their parents attended. A safety and regulations presentation was given by ECO Ric Grisolini. Tim Furner from Gander Mountain and the NWTF demonstrated the setup of turkey decoys and calling techniques. The youngsters patterned their shotguns under the instruction of ECO Mike Dangler, a certified Firearms instructor.
Seven turkeys were harvested on April 25, the first morning of the hunt. Sam and Logan Campbell were teamed up for that hunt. As luck would have it two nice toms came into their decoys. Once both birds were in range they scored a double. Both birds weighted over 24 pounds and had beard lengths of 9 ½ and 8 ½ inches with ¾ inch spurs. This hunt was videotaped so the two brothers will always have that memory of hunting together. All the youth saw turkeys that morning but most hung just outside their range. The largest turkey harvested that day was 25 pounds with double beards of 9 ¼ inches and 5 ¾ inches and 1 5/8 inch spurs
On the second morning of the youth hunt ECO’s and mentors took out thirteen youngsters. They harvested three birds and there were a couple misses. The largest bird that day was 21 pounds with an 8 ½” inch beard and spurs of 1” inches long. The youth all had a great time and received lunch after the hunt.
A big thank you goes to the following groups or organizations for their donations for this year’s hunt: New York Conservation Officer Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Gander Mountain, Mountain Hollow Game Calls and Mr. Steve Heerkens. Another big thank you goes to the Environmental Conservation Officers, Oneida County Sherriff’s and local sportsmen and women mentors who took the time to take a youth hunting. Thanks also go to the cooks for the event, Brian Day and Larry Chandler, and to the Cassety Hollow Club for the use of their club and to all their members that brought food for the two days of hunting.
Vernon Rod and Gun Club Chicken Barbeque: The Vernon Rod and Gun club will hold a chicken barbeque on Saturday, May 16, rain or shine. The event will be from noon until all are meals are gone. You can eat in or take out service is available. Menu includes half a roast barbequed chicken, coleslaw, salt potatoes, roll and dessert. Support youth and community activities and enjoy a delicious meal.
Paddlefest: This year’s Paddlefest will be held in Old Forge the weekend of May 15 – 17, beginning at noon on Friday, May 15. A change from previous events is that all the sales and booths will be at the Paddlefest store complex just south of Old Forge. Kayaks, canoes and Stand Up Paddleboards will be at the Old Forge Waterfront for test paddling. A shuttle service will be provided. There will be free seminars and clinics and classes in kayaking for a modest fee. There is also a catch and release pike fishing contest with a fishing kayak as the top prize. Details and online registration are available at the website
Friends of NRA Banquet: The Madison County Friends of NRA Banquet will be held Saturday, May 16 at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. In addition to dinner, there will be games, silent auctions, raffles and live auctions. Funds raised go to support local programs such as shooting ranges, women and youth programs.
BPS Go Outdoors Event: Bass Pro Shops Go Outdoors Event will be held weekends of May 16 - 17 and May 23 - 24 at the store in north Utica. The weekend of May 16 and 17 will feature free kids’ activities including kids crafts, free fun photo downloads, Boy Scout demonstrations and Adventure Scavenger Hunt. The weekend of May 23 and 24 will have free family activities including cooking demos and sampling, and how to lessons on capable kayaking, where to go for local family outings, campfire cooking and planning for camping with kids. Check the website for dates and times of each event.
St. Lawrence Pike Fishing: Pike fishing was very slow last weekend on the St. Lawerence River. Earlier I had reported that water temperature there was approaching 47 degrees. However last weekend the temperature was lower, instead of higher, than the week before. We found pike in depths just off the spawning areas but most of them just ignored our variety of lures. It will take warmer water to increase the activity and signal the start of spawning.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Deer harvest numbers down slightly

The NYS DEC recently released its report on the deer harvest for the 2014 season. According to the figure, the total number of deer killed was 238,672 a decrease of 2 percent from the previous year’s total of 243,567. However it was a little bit above the five year average of 233,556.
The number of bucks taken was 108,604 which showed a drop of 5.3 percent from the 2014 total of 114,716. The five year average of bucks killed is 110,546. This is probably a more accurate reflection of the season since the total number includes does and young male and female deer taken on Deer Management Permits. The total number of permits issued in 2014 was up 3.3 percent from the previous year.
A lot of people were curious or waiting for the report on deer killed since so many hunters had complained about seeing much less deer. This is a legitimate concern but we must remember that there can be several factors influencing this. Seeing less deer does not necessarily mean that there are less deer in an area.
Secondly these totals may not reflect a trend or situation in our area or any specific area. These are totals for the state and that can take in a lot of highs and lows. Even within some of the Wildlife Management Units or individual townships there can be a big discrepancy in numbers. Whether we are talking about deer numbers, climate change or personal incomes, remember the old adage – “many a person has drowned in a stream that averaged two feet deep.”
For some of the more popular areas for areas hunters, these are the totals. WMU 6K north of Oneida Lake had 2,671 bucks taken and a total number of 5,232 deer killed. WMU 7M, the large area of Madison County surrounding Route 20, had 4,532 bucks taken and a total of 9,199 deer killed. WMU 7J, which runs west from Oneida along northern Madison County, had 3,197 bucks taken out of a total deer harvest of 8,381.
Even in Madison County the totals showed significant variation. The town of Brookfield had 315 bucks killed while Hamilton had 176 bucks killed and Georgetown had 148. The town of Lincoln harvested 80 bucks in contrast to Eaton’s 237. There are lots of factors influencing these totals including size of the county, the amount of public access, habitat, etc. in addition to deer populations or densities.
It is no surprise that Southern Zone totals far surpassed the northern zone totals. A bigger area with better habitat for deer that supports greater deer densities combined with easier hunting conditions yields the majority of deer harvest every year. Last season there was a total of 206,106 deer taken in the Southern Zone compared to 29,075 deer in the Northern Zone.
What did come as a surprise to me was the large percentage of bucks taken by bowhunters and muzzleloader hunters in each zone. In the Northern Zone there was a total of 16,727 bucks harvested. Approximately 22 percent of these were killed by either bow (893) or muzzleloader (2,961). In the Southern Zone there was a total of 90,702 bucks killed and of that number 22,584 were killed by bowhunters and 3,050 taken by muzzleloader in the post season hunt.
Statewide statistics show that 158,954 deer were taken by gun, 47,842 by bow, 24,420 by muzzleloader and 5,535 by crossbow. Statistics show that taking a doe on a DMP is far from a certain thing. In WMU 7M only 19 percent of DMP holders successfully took a doe. Other units showed similar results.
At some time in the future we will try to glean through the 25 pages of the reports for comparison of local units and areas harvest figures in 2014 to past years. We will try to add some local sportsmen’s observations and opinions on reasons for any changes.
Walleye Opener: Good weather marked the opening of the walleye and pike season on Oneida Lake last weekend. Eager anglers were out in force and some nice fish were taken. Fishing in the creeks and canals was slower than expected causing some discussion and varying opinions among anglers. But fishing in the shallow areas of the lake was very good and those anglers who moved and found the active fish were rewarded with some nice fish on their stringers.
Vernon Rod and Gun Club Chicken Barbeque: The Vernon Rod and Gun club will hold a chicken barbeque on Saturday, May 16, rain or shine. The event will be from noon until all are meals are gone. You can eat in or take out service is available. Menu includes half a roast barbequed chicken, coleslaw, salt potatoes, roll and dessert. Support youth and community activities and enjoy a delicious meal.
Turkey season opens: Turkey season opened last weekend to great weather and high expectations. But a lot of hunters ended up frustrated when they saw few birds and heard even fewer gobbling. The woods were fairly silent and there was not a lot of action among the hunters that I talked to.
Most hunters had trouble finding mature gobblers and of course bringing them into gun range is even more difficult. Some hunters did take jakes which were fairly sizable for year old birds. From a personal viewpoint my seasons started off with excitement as I worked a gobbler along a ridgetop at sunrise. However he ended up flying down over the ridge to join some hens on posted property so the rest of my morning was spent watching deer or a few hens that came into check out my decoys.
Preliminary reports from the Oneida County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs Youth Hunt from April 25 - 26 indicate that it was a great success. A lot of the youngsters got birds, and some of them were trophy size. All had a great time and learned a lot from the ECOs and other mentors who spent time taking the youngsters out on their special hunts. We will have the complete report soon. In the meantime, congratulations and thanks to all who were involved in this worthwhile cause.
Billy Alexander’s Jigs: Many area residents are aware that Bill Alexander of Sylvan Beach is a very successful fisherman. He is also a very successful fisherman in competitive bass tournaments. Sine 1981 when he started fishing competitively he has either won or finished in the top three in several Bassmaster tournaments.
But what many do not realize is that part of the secret to Bill’s success is the fact that he designs and makes his own jigs. Bill understands bass habitat, their feeding habits and other behavior and fine-tunes his lures to take advantage of this. He also believes in using quality components, whether there is money on the line, or just fishing for fun.
Bill also sells his successful line of jigs with a variety of styles. Check his web site The web site gives background, illustration and even tips for using the various types. Of course the name comes from “Made To Order” since all of the lures are individually poured, painted and tied with hair or other material. He has a lot of them, especially the more popular ones, in stock. But otherwise you may have to wait a little bit for customized jigs during the bass fishing season!
Check out the site for useful information and to see the amazing variety available. Support a local person. And at the same time your fishing success may increase.
St. Lawrence River Pike Season Opens: Earlier this week I was in touch with some of my friends who are guides up on the St. Lawrence River. Up there they are excited about the opening of pike season. Opening weekend was nothing special because the water was still cold. However this week the water temperature is 47 degrees and should be getting warmer.
This is approaching the temperature where pike start to spawn so they should be moving into the shallow water and staging off the mouths of bays and shallow creeks. They are looking forward to this weekend and the next two weeks when the action should be good. The suggestions for those who want the excitement of northern pike fishing include using artificial lures such as stickbaits, crankbaits, jigs or spinnerbaits.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Local anglers eagerly await walleye opener

This Saturday, May 2, will be the second big opener of the fishing season and one that many local anglers eagerly await. The season for walleye, northern pike and pickerel will open this weekend but for the overwhelming majority of local fishermen the most popular fish by a large margin is the walleye. And the consensus of most of the walleye fishermen and women is that Oneida Lake is the place that you want to be.
Generations of local anglers have grown up fishing for walleye on Oneida Lake and its tributaries. Despite some changes and periods of tough fishing, fishing on Oneida Lake is a strong local tradition. When you add the fact that walleye are one of the best tasting fish you can see why it is so popular.
Oneida Lake has a reputation as being one of the best fishing holes in New York State. But as we all know that does not mean that you can just throw any old lure in anyplace and haul in lots of fish. The sheer size, the uncertainty of weather and other variables make fishing success anything but a certainty.
To help eager anglers put the odds in their favor, we turned to Ted Dobs for advice for this weekend’s season opener. Ted is a local resident who has logged countless hours on Oneida Lake fishing for walleye and bass. In the past he has guided extensively on the lake and still puts in a lot of time figuring out the fishery.
When I asked Ted for his predictions and advice earlier this week, he said that it was the coldest spring that he can remember, even with the trend of colder spring weather in recent years. He said that it really makes things easier since it delays the spawning period and the males feed like crazy right after spawning. Catching lunkers may be more of a challenge since the larger females have probably just finished spawning and are probably resting.
The creeks and canals were loaded with walleye last week and they should still be there this weekend. Ted Dobs suggests using stickbaits like Rapala or similar lures and fishing the tributaries at night or at periods of low light like daybreak. He also says that bucktail jigs, sonars and three inch twister tail grubs work well all day long.
Ted’s personal favorites for the east end of the lake and areas like the canal or Fish Creek are a white twister tail rigged on a 3/8 ounce jig head or a ½ ounce sandpike colored (brown and white pattern) jig tipped with a chartreuse colored twister tail grub. He believes the fish should be concentrated and hungry at this time so there is no need to get fancy with lures. You just need to keep moving until you find active fish.
For those fishing the lake, Ted feels that it is always a safe bet to fish sonars. His personal favorites are silver and chartreuse in clear water. He switches to gold color on overcast days or periods of low light, and uses a firetiger pattern if the water is a bit discolored. Bucktails with live nightcrawler also work very well on the lake. When tipping your jigs with worms, anglers should always use a stinger hook and do not use more than half a worm on the jig.
The most popular color jigs have always been the black and purple but Ted reminds anglers not to discount brown, black or even the old school yellow jig that was so popular in the 1980s. He believes that color plays a factor but said that size and keeping the jig in contact with the bottom is often the deciding factor in enticing a walleye into biting.
Ted is optimistic that it should be one of the best springs ever for walleye fishing and the bite should last well into the summer. There will obviously be a lot of anglers out there this weekend so if the action does slow down when fish are pressured, try moving away from the traffic. Fish will be hungry but enough pressure will shut them down. Often you are better off by fishing in some areas that have less fish but are more willing to bite than a large school that has been harassed by anglers and reluctant to bite.
Deer Harvest Figures: The deer harvest press release is due out shortly but earlier this week a friend gave me a sneak peak at the lengthy report. We will have a more detailed report when the full report is available but in the meantime there are a few figures worth considering.
The total number of bucks taken in 2014 was 108,604 compared to 114,716 killed in 2013. This was a decrease of 5.3 percent. The total number of deer for the state was down only 2 percent but that figure reflects the fact that a lot more DMPs were issued.
In the northern zone, there were 16,727 bucks taken compared to 90,702 in the southern zone. In region 7M there was a total of antlerless 3,631 deer taken from 19,878 permits issued, for a success rate of about 18 percent. This percentage is slightly less that previous year’s success rate.
Cicero Lions Club Walleye Derby: The Cicero-Mattydale Lions Club will hold its 37th annual walleye derby on opening weekend of the season on Oneida Lake and the lower tributaries. Dates are May 2 and 3 with fishing from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday. There will be over $10,000 in cash and merchandise prizes for the top 25 fish based on length. There will also be daily bonus draw tickets and tagged fish prizes.
All entries must be weighed in between the hours listed above and fish must be live. For complete rules and details, as well as weigh stations, check the website Entry fee is $10. You can register online at website or at various weigh stations around the lake until midnight on Friday.
Spider Rybaak’s book: Spider Rybaak is a well-known outdoor writer, author and fisherman who has just published his latest book – Fishing Oneida Lake. Spider has always believed in a hands-on approach whether it is fishing, teaching or writing and this newest book is no exception. Spider lives in Canastota and spent considerable time fishing his way around the entire lake and talking to local experts at various spots.
His book gives a brief overview of the lake and its fishery and then literally takes you around the lake to all of the fishing spots from bays, buoys and bridges. At each spot he gives a description, fishing species found there and his advice for being successful.
The book is organized by seasons as it covers the trips around and on the lake. Thus you know what you are likely to find at a certain pier or cove at a specific time of year and how to go about fishing there. In addition to his own personal advice, Spider is quick to bring in anecdotes or suggestions from local characters. Not only is the advice helpful, it makes for much more enjoyable reading than some of the “cookie cutter” publications that too often litter book shelves today.
Pick up Spider’s book and you will quickly see that one size does not fit all when it comes to fishing different areas or species on Oneida Lake. For a complete guide to the 67 specific locations that he has chosen, get your copy of Fishing Oneida Lake. It is available at local bookstores, tackle shops or from the publisher, Burford Books, at

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Turkey season opens next week

Just over a week from today, May 1, will be the opening of the spring turkey season. Hunters have been eagerly awaiting this day for some time. Practicing calling, patterning the shotgun and checking out our gear has been an important activity for most of us. Spotting the flocks and observing them with binoculars is one part of scouting. Another important aspect will be locating the roosting areas of the tom turkeys. Cruising the back roads or hiking the ridge trails before dawn and listening to the sounds of gobbling is the usual method of pin-pointing toms.
Avoid temptation and leave the regular calls at home. The last thing that you want to do is call in a tom with yelps, etc. and then “educate” or spook the bird. Even in their tiny brain the idea that a hen calling is a fake makes a big impression.
Once you find the roost, look for strutting areas. These are usually clearings in the woods or old pastures where toms will parade in full strut to attract and impress the hens. Consider possible locations to set up between the roost and strutting areas for calling. Especially on rainy days the turkeys like to be in the open. Woods clearings, secluded fields or log roads are common places they frequent during rainy periods. Look for signs like feathers or droppings to find evidence of turkeys or their travel routes.
Check for good calling locations as well as alternates. Look for a large tree that you can sit against and is wide enough to protect and cover your back. This is important for safety to protect you against unethical or unsafe hunters who may carelessly shoot in your direction. It also helps protect against the infernal coyote or bobcat that may come into the calls and pounce from behind when they see a movement.
Is there adequate open space ahead of you to see and shoot a turkey? You do not want to be in too thick cover because it will hinder you from pointing the gun in different directions. Remember that the birds do not usually come from the direction that you think they will.
Think about where you will place your decoy if you plan on using one. It should visible to an approaching tom and hopefully draw him into an area where you can get a shot. Take time to measure the distance of a possible shot.
Consider all the things that may cause a tom turkey to “hang up” and not come in to your call.  Are there potential obstacles like small streams, stone walls, fences, etc. between you and the route of the bird? Remember that even though the bird could easily clear these obstacles they rarely ever will. After all, you are dealing with a creature with a brain the size of a small walnut.
Consider routes that will lead you to the area in the darkness. Remember that even in the gray light of pre-dawn a turkey perched high in some hardwood tree can see a camouflaged hunter making its way across an open field. Get there in darkness and hopefully under cover of trees and brush.
Have alternate spots. Not only might the turkeys move their area but you might find some other hunter in the area when you get there on opening morning. Be safe and ethical and go somewhere else.
Check out your gear and start lining up your jackets and vests with the essentials you will need. There are always lots of little things to get ready but now is the time to start. Doing your homework now and paying attention to little details may pay big dividends later.
Walleye and Pike Season Near: May 2 will be the opening of the walleye, pike and pickerel season, and local anglers are eagerly anticipating that weekend. Local Environmental Conservation Officers have been enforcing the ban on fishing certain tributaries before the season and have made several arrests on poachers who have caught walleye during the closed season. Next week’s column will feature advice from some of our local experts on where to go and tips on fishing.
Cicero Lions Club Walleye Derby: The Cicero-Mattydale Lions Club will hold its 37th annual walleye derby on opening weekend of the season on Oneida Lake and the lower tributaries. Dates are May 2 and 3 with fishing from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday. There will be over $3,500 in cash prizes for the top 25 fish based on length. There will also be daily draw tickets and tagged fish prizes.
All entries must be weighed in between the hours listed above and fish must be live. For complete rules and details, as well as weigh stations, check the website or e-mail
Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend: This weekend, April 25 and 26, is the Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend which allows youngsters age 12 – 15 who have a junior hunting license and a turkey permit, and have the permission of a parent or guardian, to hunt with a mentor as described below.
Youth 12 to 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. Youth 14 to 15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or an adult over 18 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian.
Bear Harvest: Recently the DEC released the statistics on the past bear season. A total of 1628 bears were taken, exceeding the previous season by nearly 300. In the 2013 season 1,358 bears were taken which was slightly above the five year average of 1301 for the state. These numbers reflect the increasing population of bears throughout much of New York State and the revised regulations which now hold an open season in most areas.
The Northern Zone/Adirondacks had a total of 518 bear taken compared to 2013. The last five years average was 519 and the historical average is 515. In the southern zone 1,110 bears were killed compared to 978 the previous year and the five year average of 782.
Oneida Lake Team Walleye Trail: After a successful year in 2014, the Oneida Lake Team Walleye Trail has big plans for 2015. They have announced that there will be four tournaments this year on May 17, June 28, July 26 and August 23. We will have details as the dates approach. For more information check the website at

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fine tune your calling for turkey season

“Turkey Hunting Ain’t a Sport; It’s a Disease!”
-Ben Rogers Lee

The above quotation by the legendary turkey hunter and one of the first professional call makers, Ben Rogers Lee, realistically sums up the feeling that many of us who have become addicted to turkey hunting have. The sport really grows on you. There are few things that can compare to being in the woods as the first rays of light come over the eastern horizon and the forest resonates with the gobble of a big tom turkey about a hundred yards away.
There are a lot of factors that determine the difference between success and failure in turkey hunting and calling is only one of them. Nevertheless it is an important one. Spring turkey seasons opens on May 1, a mere two weeks away. Veteran turkey hunters have marked the calendars and are checking their gear.
Even though many of them are quite proficient at calling in turkeys, they will still be practicing their calls. The point is that we don’t practice to achieve perfection. We practice to achieve realism and have the confidence that we will make the proper calls easily when the time comes.
In the real world the gobblers will sound off and the receptive hens will come to the gobbler. But hunters have to change the equation and sound like an eager hen that refuses to come and finally gets the lovesick gobbler to come to the call. Often in the early season the hens are not quite ready to breed but the toms are fired up and will respond to effective calling. This is especially true with the less dominant or satellite toms.
The basic calls that a hunter will make during the spring season are the yelp, cutt, cluck, purr and occasionally the cackle. These can be made with a box call, slate and pencil or diaphragm (mouth) call. Each has its advantages. The box call is the easiest to use and has the greatest volume. Many hunters feel the slate and pencil call is most realistic. Diaphragm calls leave the hands free and can be made without movement even though they are initially harder to learn to use.
The yelp is the most common call and sounds roughly like a two syllable “yee-awk.” If you are using the slate and pencil you make a small “c” or fishhook shaped movement on the slate pot in the area between the perimeter and the center of the pot. There are different methods of holding the pencil but it should be done lightly and it will produce a sharp, realistic sound.
With a box call you need to practice to make a consistent call with the proper amount of pressure, speed and swing. Give the paddle a full swing across the edge of the box and don’t lift the paddle off the box. The motion should be easy and done consistently, although you will want to vary the calls when you are in the field.
Experts suggest making the “cutt” (a short, sharp call) by holding your hand around the call and using your thumb to hold the paddle against the rail. Then pop the paddle gently with the fingers of the other hand. To make a purr hold the call horizontally and edge the paddle gently across the side of the box, lifting it sharply at the end.
Although you want to make realistic calls, the more important thing is to know the cadence and know when to make the calls. For example while the tom is on the roost, you should make a few soft tree yelps to let him know where you are. But don’t overcall. Wait until he flies down before you start your regular yelps.
Start with a few (three or four) yelps or purrs and then gradually extend the sequence and volume. When the gobbler responds but fails to come towards your calls you might want to try a cackle or change the pace of your calling. If a gobbler does start to come in to your calls, make a few soft purrs and stop calling. He knows where the calls came from and will circle around trying to find the hen that he thinks made them.
Don’t be discouraged if your calls do not sound like the instructional video or tape of calls. My friend and mentor, the late Ward Coe used to say that some of the worst calls that he ever heard came from a real hen.
This is also a good time to check your shotgun and see where your gun shoots and how it patterns. If you are using a different gun or a different load you will want to know if your gun centers the pattern, or if it shoots high, etc. at the point of aim. This is necessary to put the greatest concentration of pellets in a small area around the head and neck area of the bird.
Different guns, brands of ammunition, and different loads shoot differently. Use a large piece of butcher paper with a 40 diameter inch circle and see how many pellets and where they are concentrated in the smaller circles at different shots. You want to have 60 pellets in a 15 inch circle to be effective at killing a turkey.
Number 5 shot is a good compromise with good density and penetration/energy at 50 yards. Many hunters like the newer Hevi Shot which gives both density and energy at 55 yards or more but it is expensive. At a cost of $35 or more for a box of five shells, practicing can get expensive in a hurry!
Practice your calls and your shooting and be ready when the season arrives.
Learn to Speak Fly Fishing: Despite its recent resurgence in popularity, a lot of people shy away from fly fishing because they’re afraid it will be too expensive or too difficult to learn. Let’s face it. If a total beginner walks into a fly shop and asks what’s needed to get started, the reply could scare anyone away:
“You’ll want a 9 foot 5 weight rod, a matching 5 weight disc drag reel, 50 yards of Dacron backing, a weight forward floating line, matched to rod, with a 9 to 12 foot tapered leader with a 4X tippet. Try working the edges of the stream with a black wooly bugger or you could dead drift a size 12 beaded prince nymph. If the fish are feeding on dries, you might want to try a size 14 Adams.”
Holy cow! There’s no denying that’s a whole lot of information to swallow for someone who is unfamiliar with the sport. Perhaps the lingo and the seemingly limitless amount of gear on the market is partially to blame for fly fishing’s notorious reputation.
In its upcoming class, titled, “Learn the Sport of Fly Fishing,” Madison County Trout Unlimited Chapter 680 seeks to de-mystify the sport so that beginners are better equipped to start fly fishing on their own. Participants will learn the basics, including the different kinds of fly rods available and how to choose the right one for this area. They will also learn about fly fishing flies and how to tie the essential fly fishing knots. Finally, the class will cover how to cast a fly rod and where to find fish in our local waters.
“Madison County and the surrounding area have so many opportunities for fly fishing,” said TU680 President Shaun LaVancher. “We want to make it easier for more men and women try it and hopefully get involved in Trout Unlimited.”
This four-week class will be held each Wednesday in May from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Fenner Conservation Club, five miles east of Cazenovia at 3479 Cody Rd., Cazenovia, NY 13035. The cost of the class is $60. All the gear needed for the class will be provided. As an added bonus, all participants will receive a one-year membership in Trout Unlimited and a copy of the book, Fly Fishing Tactics.
The class is limited to 12 students, so those interested are encouraged to register early. To sign up, call Shaun LaVancher at 315-436-9432 or visit
BPS Turkey Hunting Seminars: Bass pro Shops in Utica will hold Turkey Hunting Seminars on April 18 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  At 1:00 p.m. Lucas Diperna will host a seminar on “Spring Turkey Calling, Tips for Success. Learn how to select the right call and use it for a successful hunt. At 2:00 p.m. Mike Olsen will hold a seminar entitled “Selecting the Right Decoys. Mike will help you make the right choice in a turkey decoy and offer placement tips to bag a trophy turkey. Representatives from Hevi Shot will be available from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to answer any questions you might have about their product.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New York Conservation Officers Association to be honored

The New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame (NYSOHOF) is an organization dedicated to conservation and preserving the tradition of outdoor sports. Its main function is to induct men and women who have devoted many years to enhancing the outdoor sports or major accomplishments. In addition, the NYSOHOF periodically recognizes outstanding effort and achievement through their special awards. These are distinct from induction into the Hall of Fame but are considered prestigious recognition for some outstanding job. One such honor is the Extra Mile Award.
Conservation and law enforcement professionals do an important job in protecting the state’s resources ranging from fish and wildlife to the health of the environment. They regularly enforce the laws protecting fish and wildlife, monitor pollution and at times, they even put their lives on the line. Yet even with all of these responsibilities many of them go beyond the call of duty to help educate the public or create a new generation of ethical sportsmen and stewards of our natural resources. This “extra mile” that they often go can take many forms.
The NYSOHOF recognizes the importance of efforts such as those that the conservation and law enforcement professionals do regularly without fanfare. The NYSOHOF wants to publicly recognize these men and women and will annually select deserving candidates for the Extra Mile Award and honor them at the annual banquet. This year’s award goes to the New York Conservation Officers Association.
The New York Conservation Officers Association (NYCOA) was started in 1986 and its members include both active and retired officers. Each year this association raises money through raffles and golf tournaments to help support its members and to sponsor hunting, fishing and trapping events for our youth. They sponsor kids to DEC camp each year and award college scholarships.
This organization has donated a substantial amount of money each year to help other groups sponsor youth hunting, fishing and trapping events all across the state. In addition many of the officers help them connect with the local sportsmen’s organization in their area and often donate their personal time as well.
The NYCOA held golf tournaments to raise money for the “Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation Inc.” and have donated over $50,000 to the “Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation” from these events. Each year NYCOA supports fishing clinics for children and the disabled, women’s outdoor education clinics, youth duck, goose, turkey and pheasant hunts, and firearms safety and marksmanship classes with financial aid and mentoring.
Because of their time and effort spent beyond their required duties and for promoting worthwhile causes in the field of conservation and outdoor sports, the NYSOHOF has selected the New York Conservation Officers Association for the Extra Mile Award for 2015.
NYCOA will be honored at the Annual Banquet to be held Saturday, April 25 at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. That same evening Teri Maciag will receive the Sportsperson of the Year as reported last week. Among the regular inductees will be Dave Simmons who has been active in Madison County Friends of NRA among other organizations. Friends, family and the public are invited. Registration and social hour will begin at 4:30 p.m. with dinner served at 5:30 p.m. Reservations may be made by April 18 by calling (315) 363-3896 or (315) 829-3588.
IFHCNY: Independent Fur Harvesters of Central New York will hold its next meeting on Sunday, April 12. Food served at 1:30 p.m. with meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. On April 18 there will be a Trapper Training Class. Call Rich Palmer at 720-5227 if you can help with this class. The Annual Spring Banquet will be April 19 at Empire Buffet in Dewitt,
Turkey Season: Spring turkey hunting season is less than a month away so many hunters are getting eager. With the milder weather and disappearance of most of the snow cover, flocks of turkey have been spotted in fields throughout the area. Remember that they are searching for available food and this may not be the spot that you will find them in when the season opens in May. When scouting remember to view them from afar with binoculars to avoid spooking them. Make sure that you leave the calls at home and avoid the temptation since you don’t need to “educate” these already wary birds. Youth hunting weekend will be April 25 and 26 when youngsters get the opportunity to hunt under the supervision of an adult family member.
Cicero Lions Club Walleye Derby: The Cicero-Mattydale Lions Club will hold its 37th annual walleye derby on opening weekend of the season on Oneida Lake and the lower tributaries. Dates are May 2 and 3 with fishing from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday. There will be over $3,500 in cash prizes for the top 25 fish based on length. There will also be daily draw tickets and tagged fish prizes.
All entries must be weighed in between the hours listed above and fish must be live. For complete rules and details, as well as weigh stations, check the website or e-mail
Learn the Sport of Fly Fishing: Learn about fly rods, lines, leaders, how to tie knots, how to cast and where to find fish. The cost of this four session class is only $60. Everything you need will be provided. As an added bonus all attendees will receive a one year membership in Trout Unlimited (a $35 value), plus a copy of the book Fly Fishing Tactics (a $7.50 value).
The class will be held every Wednesday in May (May 6, 13, 20, 27) from 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 pm at the Fenner conservation club, 3479 Cody Road, Cazenovia. For more information or to sign up, call Steve LaVancher at 436-9432 or visit the website at
Madison County FNRA Banquet: The Madison County Friends of NRA will hold its annual banquet on Saturday, May 16 at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. From 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. there will be cash bar, games and silent auctions. At 6:00 p.m. will be a buffet dinner followed by live auction. Proceeds will benefit central NY projects such as local shooting sports, youth education programs, firearms safety programs, range improvement and conservation programs in NY State.
Table reservations with bonus tickets in a variety of options are available by mail, phone or website Deadline for banquet reservations is May 1. Call Ralph Meyers at 264-1087 for tickets or information.
VNSP Events: Vernon National Shooting Preserve announces that the full range course is now ready for sporting clays. The Ruffed Grouse Society Shoot will be April 18. A NYS Hunter Safety Course will be held April 18 and 19. Call 796-4587 to register or for more information.
VNSP will conduct two Novice Shooter Clinics on Saturday, May 2 and Saturday May 9. Learn the Fundamentals of Gun Safety, Introduction to gun maintenance and basics of shooting including topics like grip, stance, lining up your sights, loading and unloading your new firearm. Instruction by professional, certified instructors will cover pistol, rifle and clay pigeon shooting with your shotgun.
Register for one of the two dates. Cost is $25 for two to three hours, dependent on class size. Expect to shoot 50 rounds of ammunition (not included). Clinic size limited to 10 new learners. Preregistration required. Call 315-829-2529, leave name and date you want to attend or email
Oneida Lake Team Walleye Trail: After a successful year in 2014, the Oneida Lake Team Walleye Trail has big plans for 2015. They have announced that there will be four tournaments this year on May 17, June 28, July 26 and August 23. We will have details as the dates approach. For more information check the website at