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

Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumn is time for shotgun practice

Columbus Day weekend has come and gone and along with the glorious weather for the holiday weekend comes the realization that autumn is upon us. Many of us look forward to autumn and the various sporting opportunities that we have. But we have to realize that our days afield can be as fleeting as the colorful autumn leaves that are already starting to fall.
You had probably planned to get in lots of shotgun practice but now you take the field with the realization that you need a lot of work on your shotgun skills.
There is still time to improve, even by practicing at home in the evening. A lot of shooting skill comes from mounting the gun properly and consistently. Make sure the gun is unloaded and assume the ready position with your feet almost shoulder length apart and the gun butt tucked lightly under your arm.
Keep your head still and focus on a point on the wall. Push the muzzle towards it while raising the gun to your face.
Learn to bring the gun to the place on your cheek that leaves you looking right down the rib or barrel at the target. If you are not, you will be shooting high over your target. Do 50 mounts a night.
Proper shooting form is a key to accuracy. Keep both eyes open with feet in a slightly open stance and about 60% of your weight on the front foot. Your head and neck should be comfortably erect as you bring the gun up smoothly to the cheek and align the master eye.
Your support hand should be forward near the front of the stock. Your index finger should be pointed towards the target and two-thirds of the weight of the gun supported by your front hand.
Of course you also need to practice shooting to get your motion and timing down.
Just because a shotgun delivers a lot of pellets, hitting anything, especially a moving target is far from a sure thing. The brain has to record the speed, distance, and angle of a flying target and instantaneously deliver a command that enables our body and gun to send a swarm of pellets to some point out there in space where they intercept the target.
A common denominator in all of these methods is the need to practice. Shooting trap is a good way to get the reflexes and the brain working on the mechanics and the leads. Skeet shooting is another variation where the clay pigeons tend to come from overhead. And of course sporting clays are used to simulate the different conditions and species such as pheasant, grouse, ducks, or rabbits.
Once you have gotten the mechanics down and practiced enough to sharpen your reflexes, the best thing is actual conditions. For example duck hunters know that because of speed and angle, the amount of lead necessary to hit an incoming or crossing duck increases as it comes in closer. It becomes greatest when the duck is overhead or crosses at a right angle.
You should also determine if your gun actually shoots straight by aiming at spot on paper at 20 yards away from a solid rest. Some chokes might shoot high, to the right, etc. Repeat the test with a different choke.
Shotgun shooting is an art. It starts with gun that fits properly, and using the proper technique consistently. It helps to have your lead foot slightly ahead of where you anticipate the flush of the bird will be. By keeping your stance narrow you will have more room to swing the shotgun without awkwardly twisting the body.
Of course you should keep the cheek on the stock and look down the barrel at your target. Too many people try to get a shot off too quickly and look at the front bead on the barrel, and not down the length of it. Even with the quick take-off and twisting flight of a partridge, take the time to aim.
Make a conscious effort to follow through with your swing. Stopping is the reason that most people mist. The most common mistakes are stopping your swing or lifting your head to double check your lead or see if you hit your target. This causes the gun to stop and you shoot behind your target. By practicing your swing and maintaining lead you can improve your success this fall.
We all know that game birds are no certain thing to hit and there are lots of variables (and excuses) when it comes to actually shooting at one. But by practicing and using the proper form you can tip the odds a little bit in your favor.
SALMON REPORT: Earlier this week the Salmon River was full of salmon, mostly kings. Reports were that the kings had not started to spawn yet. Other waters at the eastern end of Lake Ontario reported similar results. For the latest updates on conditions and suggested techniques, check out the web site or stop in at Jim Dence’s All Season Sports shop on Rte. 13 on the outskirts of Pulaski.
MOOSE-CAR COLLISIONS: It is a sign of the times that the DEC issued a warning for motorists travelling the Adirondacks and surrounding areas to be on the alert for moose-car collisions. The odds of hitting a moose are significantly lower than colliding with a deer, but with the growing population the threat is there. And considering the size of the animal involved, the consequences are much more serious.
With the advent of the breeding season moose are wandering around much more, including in areas where they are not normally seen, and thus the increased danger. They are most active at dawn and dusk and with the dark brown or black body they are difficult to see at the time of poor visibility. Also because of its height, much of the body is above the normal scope of your headlights.
If you are travelling the Adirondacks be sure to stay alert, reduce your speed, and use extreme caution. If you should see one, use your flasher-hazard lights to alert other motorists.
LOCAL ANGLER WINS STATE HONORS: Team ”Lake Ontario Outdoors” angler wins state honors. Jamie Hartman of Newport a member of the Lake Ontario Outdoors Team recently added to his season-long list of honors by winning the New York Side Divisional Tournament on Lake Champlain. By winning the four day tournament Hartman secured his place as the number one Federation angler of B.A.S.S. in New York State and gets to go to Louisiana and fish the Nationals. If Hartman continues his winning ways in Louisiana he will then earn the right to fish the B.A.S.S. Classic.
Recently Hartman secured an eighth place finish in the FLW Tournament held in Clayton with a 10 fish limit of 41 lbs. and 13 oz. Previously he represented Team Lake Ontario Outdoors in the opening weekend FLW Tournament on Lake Champlain and finished first. For these and other impressive finishes throughout the season Hartman was named FLW Angler of the Year for Northeast Division. This award is to be presented at the FLW Regionals in Virginia later this year.
Team Lake Ontario Outdoors anglers Jamie Hartman and Ted Dobs both competed in the B.A.S.S. Open on Oneida Lake during the weekend of September 22 – 24. Hartman finished tied for 13th place, a very respectable finish, considering that there were many pros from the country that compete in the Elite B.A.S.S. circuit.
ONE SQUARE MILE OF HOPE: Congratulations to the Town of Inlet and all the local organizers involved for recently breaking the Guinness World Record for a “floating raft” of kayaks and canoes with over 1900 boats! More importantly they raised a large amount of money to benefit the Susan G. Komen For the Cure fund to assist in breast cancer research. Nice going for everyone involved!

Friday, October 7, 2011

October forces hunters and fishermen into tough decisions

A quandary that many of us find ourselves in at this time of year is whether to go hunting or fishing. Throughout much of central New York there are opportunities for turkey and grouse hunting that we have been waiting for all year. But as the water cools, fishing for species like bass is often at its best. And of course the exciting sport of salmon fishing on Lake Ontario tributaries has a limited window of a few weeks.

What is the answer, especially we so many people only have a limited time to engage in these fun activities? Perhaps consider a “cast and blast” trip where you combine hunting and fishing activity.
Consider one case of combining salmon fishing with grouse hunting. Fishing some of the tributaries of Lake Ontario like South Sandy Creek is often best early or late in the day when salmon are moving upstream. On the other hand grouse do not like to get up early and are more likely to be feeding from mid morning through the afternoon.
Pack your waders and your fishing gear, upland hunting bots, clothes, and gun and head off in the direction of Altmar. The areas for the two sports are close enough so that you can fish the morning for salmon in the Salmon River or South Sandy Creek and then after lunch hunt some area like ‘Orton Hollow State Forest or Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area on the way home.
Perhaps your main desire is bowhunting or turkey hunting. You can easily combine those in areas south of here by going deer or turkey hunting early in the morning around Hamilton or Erieville. Change your gear, have an early lunch and spend the rest of the day fishing for bass in Lake Morraine, Eatonbrook Reservoir, or the lower Chenango River.
Maybe you would prefer waterfowl hunting and walleye fishing on Oneida Lake. Until the trout season closes on October 15, you can try some back country duck hunting for mallards or wood ducks on a beaver pond early in the morning. Later when ducks have stopped moving you can fish for brook trout at mid day. Northern zone deer hunters can get in their sport early or late on state land near Redfield or Osceola and find time in between to battle steelhead on the Salmon River or smaller streams like Orwell Brook.
Thanks to the abundance of public land in much of upstate New York and its proximity to excellent fishing waters for various species, it is possible to combine both hunting and fishing in the same day. If your time is limited and you can’t decide what to do, try doing both. A “cast and blast” outing can be productive and put something different and special in your fall adventures.
DEER – CAR COLLISIONS: This is the time of year when deer hunting gets underway with the opening of bowhunting in the southern zone and muzzleloading in the northern zone right around the corner. But it is also the time when deer are in the news in another less popular way – deer-car collisions.
There are close to 57,000 deer-car collisions in New York State annually and the majority of them occur in October and November. Not only is this a significant economic loss in automobile damage, it is a serious threat to human injury or even fatalities. Those of us who live in Central New York are aware of this threat. However there are ways we can minimize this threat.
Most deer travel in groups so when you see one, be alert for others that may follow. Many times the first may be aware of you while it crosses the road, but the others rush to catch up and are more likely to dash heedlessly into the path of your car. If it appears that you are going to hit a deer, resist the urge to swerve. That could turn a potential property damage accident into a possible fatal rollover.
Whenever possible drive with your lights on high beam. Be especially alert in areas where deer are frequently seen. Certainly you should not be texting or some other asinine activity when you need to devote full attention to your driving.
Most of us, especially sportsmen, are aware that deer are most active at dawn and dusk. Yet every year some bozo in an official capacity will warn people of the danger and blame the fact that “hunters are stirring the deer up.” If you hear that statement this year, remind that person that this is a foolish, erroneous statement and then give them a two-handed, over the head, wedgie!
All year long deer are most active just before and after sunset. And guess when our heaviest traffic, with most people coming home from work, occurs at this time of year? Yes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when these two peaks coincide there will be more accidents.
If you should be unfortunate enough to have an accident, remain calm and pull over to the side of the road. Remember that you must call and report this accident to authorities. Don’t try to move the deer out of the road unless you are certain it is dead. An injured deer can inflict serious injury on anyone.
Hopefully this year you will not be a statistic and any deer that you come in close contact with will be in the woods while hunting.


CANOE & KAYAK STORAGE: For a lot of people this weekend represents the end of canoe and kayak trips. If you are getting ready to store your canoe or kayak for the winter there are some things you should keep in mind.
If at all possible store them inside a building since ultra violet light will cause the colors to fade. Don’t toss them alongside some building and cover them with a tarp since water will be trapped between the tarp and the vessel and cause discoloration or even damage, to the material.
Canoes can be stored upside down at the ceiling of a garage or shed since the gunwales or edges are the strongest part of the canoe. However kayaks should not be stored that way since they will take a permanent bend or “set.” The strongest part of a kayak is the side. The best way is to loop two straps through strong eye bolts on the side of the garage or shed and suspend the kayak. That way the bottom will be flush against the wall and the straps will be supporting the side, which is the strongest part.
SALMON FISHING REPORT: Last weekend marked the start of the long-awaited major salmon run up the Salmon River. By early this week all the major pools from Douglaston Run to Pulaski were loaded with coho and king salmon. Fly fishermen were reporting success on Comets, Wooly Buggers, and streamers while bait fishermen were doing well with egg sacks in blue, pink, or chartreuse colors.
On the Oswego River the water levels were high but there were a large number of fish in the river. Hot-n-tots, estaz flies, and egg sacks seemed to be the lures of choice. Be careful when fishing the river and heed warning signs and even wear a PFD.
Out west the major river that had large concentrations of salmon was the Oak Orchard River above Point Breeze. On other streams anglers were hoping that cold rains would bring an influx of fish.
MADISON COUNTY T.U. PROGRAM: The Madison County Chapter of Trout Unlimited will hold its monthly meeting on Thursday, October 20. Special guest speaker will be Ed Mills, the Director of Shackleton Point Reseach Station. He will give a presentation and answer questions from the audience. The meeting will be at 7 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Main St. in Chittenango. The public is welcome and urged to attend.
LAKE ONTARIO OUTDOORS: The current issue of “Lake Ontario Outdoors” magazine features an article on getting started salmon fishing by noted guide and author Jay Peck. Other articles give insight on steelhead fishing, curing fish eggs, tying flies, and events on the lake. Read the account of Capt. Bob Walters getting the biggest muskie in many years on the St. Lawrence. Hunters are not neglected with Bill Saiff giving advice on backcountry duck hunting and deer hunting tips from Mike Seymour and Scott Locorini. Copies are available at Phildons, Hanifin Tires, Herb Philipsons, and Sweet Temptations Café.