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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.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Start preparing for turkey season now

May 1, the opening of turkey season is only a week and half away. Although it may seem like forever to eager turkey hunters, much like a child waiting for Christmas morning, it is really very little time to make preparations for the season. Scouting, patterning your gun and organizing your equipment are all vital components of your success in the upcoming season.

Many hunters have taken advantage of the unseasonably mild weather the past few weeks to scout for turkeys and plan their strategy for opening week. If you haven’t you should make time this weekend or in the days to follow to try and locate birds, as well as pattern them for your early season hunting.

At this time of year the hens will be concerned with the nesting areas, usually pastures of woods with lots of undergrowth for cover. The turkeys will be frequently roosted in tall trees along a hillside where they can easily fly down to open areas directly from the roost. And of course somewhere in the vicinity there is probably an open area used as a strutting ground for the tom to impress the hens.

Since a turkey’s primary defense is its great eyesight, the gobblers like to strut in the open areas. This may include a secluded field, an old pasture surrounded by brush, or even clearcut or woods roads. If you are in the woods and fields keep an eye out for these areas and signs like tracks, droppings or feathers. Be sure to wear camo and move slowly, using cover whenever possible.

Use your binoculars to scout from a distance and avoid spooking birds. And of course avoid temptation and leave your calls at home.

Let’s assume you have located a gobbler’s roosting area, have identified likely strutting zones and morning feeding patterns. Give some serious thought where you want to set up near the roost or along the morning travel route. Too many of us head out to the woods, make a call or two and when the gobbler answers we try to find a place to set up.

Locate likely spots where the birds will come within range with some subtle calling. Do you have an area where you can have good vision of birds coming in to your decoys or set up? You do not want too much brush or obstacles in your way. Have a large tree to rest your back against for both comfort and safety.

Are there obstacles that will cause a gobbler to hang up or not come in close to your calling area? In addition to obvious things like swamps, there are things like stonewalls, fences or small creeks that many a gobbler will refuse to cross when you are calling. Sure, they could cross them easily but remember that you are dealing with a bird that has a brain smaller than a walnut.

Take some time and pattern your gun. If you have not done so before, try different loads to see which pattern best in your gun. Use a turkey head target to see if the gun is centering the pattern at the point of aim. Not all guns and loads will do this.

Check your patterns to see which give you a tight pattern of pellets in the vital neck and head area, and also check to see the effective range of this tight pattern. The most popular gun is a 12 gauge, three inch chamber and full turkey choke.

The effective limit of this gun is about 40 yards, although many hunters limit themselves to 25 yards. Sure, the gun will reach out beyond the 40 yards, but there are too many holes in the pattern at those distances to be effective.

Check out all your camo clothing and have it ready for whatever weather may be on May 1. Take time to test and chalk your box calls, or sandpaper your slate and pencil calls. Practice your diaphragm calls and make sure to rinse them with Listerine and store them in the refrigerator until time to use them. Line up all your accessories like camo gloves, seats, etc. and get your turkey vest or jacket organized and ready to go.

Be sure to get out the insect repellent since bugs will likely be out and searching for prey by opening week.


FUTURE ANGLERS OUTREACH: Once again the FAO with sponsorship and assistance from SHOTS will hold the immensely popular and important event next weekend. The one day event’s sole purpose is to give the basic fishing skills to the entire family so fishing can be a successful experience that they will continue to do on a regular basis. All kids receive a rod and reel, bait and tackle to keep free of charge along with food and drinks to all attendees.

This year’s event will be held at Marion Manor Marina, Oneida Lake on April 29. If you are the parent or guardian of a child that wants to fish, please sign up. This is designed to give basic instruction to youngsters ages 5-12 years and parents with minimal experience. For more information or to register contact Ted Dobs at or call 264-6624.

VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED! Please help with a donation of time to reach our 2012 goal to provide a free day of fishing to 100 area children. Volunteers have one instructor to every child. There are also many other tasks that need attention.

TROUT & SALMON EXPO: The popular Trout & Salmon Expo sponsored by the Mohawk Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited returns to New Hartford this Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. There will be casting contests for kids, clinics in fly tying and casting, and seminars on many types of fishing.

Seminar Schedule: 10:00 –Bill Girvan – Bait Fishing Techniques, 11:00 - Randy Kulig - Fishing the West Canada, 12:00 –Bruce Montoya – Fishing the Salmon River, 1:00 - Dan Josephson – Adirondack Brook Trout, 2:00 - Eric Dresser - “How to” Wildlife Photography, 3:00 - Capt Rick Pecci – Fishing Lake Ontario.

There will be 50 vendors and displays ranging from Trout in the Classroom, wildlife artists Tom Lenweaver and Tom Yacovella, tackle manufacturers and several tackle and equipment manufacturers. Meet book authors Mike Kelly and Spider Rybaak for signed copies of their latest books.

The location is New Hartford Recreation Center on Mill St., just off Kellogg Road. For more information contact Ken Ziobro at

OUTDOORSMEN HALL OF FAME BANQUET: April 28 will be the Annual NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame Banquet held at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. Social hour will begin at 5 p.m. followed by dinner at 6 p.m. Highlights will be the individual inductions of the nine new inductees to the Hall of Fame. The public is invited to meet these and other statewide heroes of conservation who have done much to preserve outdoor sports.

Also honored that evening will be S.H.O.T.S., the local organization who has done so much to benefit handicapped and terminally ill hunters and sponsor many programs that benefit the youth. They will be recognized as recipients of the Outdoorsmen of the Year award.

Please turn out and help honor all of these sportsmen. Reservations must be made by April 22 by calling 363-3896 or 829-3588.

YOUTH TURKEY HUNTING WEEKEND: Youngsters who meet the qualifications will have the opportunity to hunt this weekend before the regular season opens on May 1. Eligible hunters are 12-15 years of age and must hold a junior hunting license and a turkey permit.

Youth must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or adult with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. The accompanying adult must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult may assist the youth hunter, including calling but may not carry a firearm or bow, or kill or attempt to kill a wild turkey during the youth hunt. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day.

The bag limit for the youth weekend is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth's regular spring season bag limit of two bearded birds. A second bird may be taken beginning May 1. All other wild turkey hunting regulations are in effect.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Proposed DEC deer regulations would impact hunting seasons

Last week’s column previewed the proposed changes in deer hunting regulations that were recently released by the DEC. If you had to summarize the prevalent reaction of most area hunters it would be “looks like bowhunters won.”

If the proposed changes are adopted by the DEC it will create a fixed Southern Zone (SZ) opener on October 1. Bowhunters will gain an additional 15 days of hunting in the SZ and an additional four weekends in most years.

Bowhunters in the Northern Zone (NZ) also gain an additional week or possibly two, although the week at the end of the regular season is of questionable value. The proposed change would push the openers of the muzzleloading and regular firearms season a week later to give bowhunters an extra week before the gun season. Any post season archery in the NZ is likely to be irrelevant due to cold weather and snow in mid-December.

Most people would think that bowhunters would be happy in getting these increased opportunities and changes that they have been lobbying for. But many bowhunters are upset at the Youth Hunt planned for Columbus Day weekend. Already New York Bowhunters, Inc. (NYB inc) has cranked up the propaganda machine and probably has its members racing for the phones and writing letters.

First let’s make several things clear. There are quite a few people who hunt with bow and arrow who have expressed legitimate concerns about safety, etc. NYB inc is an organization that represents its members well but not all bowhunters are members of NYB inc. And NYB inc has done many good things but they have often earned the enmity of other sporting groups in New York because of their short-sightedness in fighting for exclusive use of “their season.”

Essentially NYB inc does not want anyone else afield or in the woods during their nine weeks of excusive deer hunting, and that includes youth hunts or small game hunters. If you read the arguments by David Kosowski, legislative chair for NYB inc in last Sunday’s “Post Standard” you can see how shallow these were.

Neil Dougherty, the respected head of North Country Whitetails attacked this position in “Outdoor Life” last October in an article entitled “Don’t Let New York Bowhunters Inc. Eat Our Young.”

If anyone has reason to complain it would be the NZ firearms hunters. By pushing the season back to give the small number of NZ archers and additional week it means that regular hunters will have the end of the season in mid December.

Already much of the time there is very little hunter activity in the end of the season because of snow and cold weather. So in a typical year the NZ hunters will lose two weeks of actual hunting due to weather.

The DEC will establish mandatory antler restrictions in many parts of WMU 4 in southeastern New York. This has always been somewhat controversial but at least it will be implemented by wildlife professionals instead of some ill-informed legislators.

The DEC said that by letting yearling bucks go by, hunters should expect a decrease of 45% in the total buck harvest.

Proposed changes would allow the use of Deer Management Permits to be used by bow and muzzleloader hunters in those areas where issued. Bear seasons would be adjusted to be consistent with deer seasons.

You can check these details and some of the earlier opinions and statistics on the website

The web page to send comments was not operating as of the time this column was written. Written copies are also available and you can also comment by writing.


FAO: Future Anglers Outreach (FAO), a program designed to get families outside by giving basic instructions to youngsters and their parents will be Sunday, April 29 at Marion Manor. FAO and its major partner, S.H.O.T.S. will provide all youngsters with a rod and reel to keep. There will be one mentor per family. Tackle, information pamphlets and refreshments will be provided 8 – 12. Volunteers are also needed to help as mentors or with the other tasks. For information or registration contact Ted Dobs at or 264-6624.

TURKEY HUNTING SEMINAR: Shawn Fox, owner of Fox Custom Calls and a veteran turkey hunter will conduct a seminar for hunters on Sunday beginning at 9 a.m. Location will be at “A Bite To Eat” Diner on Rte 69 in Camden. The program is free and hunters of all ages and experience are welcome.

CLAYTON TAKE A KID FISHING CONTEST: The 35th annual Take-A-Kid Fishing Contest will be held in Clayton-1000 Islands, NY on Sunday, June 3. The event is sponsored by the Clayton Fishing Guides Association, in cooperation with the Clayton Chamber of Commerce.

The names of 48 young anglers will be drawn and they will fish with members of the Clayton Fishing Guides Association on charter boats. The two young anglers catching the largest fish on each of the eight trips will win a top quality fishing rod & reel outfit.

Young anglers can enter the drawing by visiting:

Entry deadline is midnight April 16.

Postal entries should be submitted on a post card and include the youngster's name, complete mailing address, telephone number, date of birth, age, the name of the publication they saw the contest announcement in and the name of the outdoor writer who wrote the story. Address postal entries to Take-A-Kid Fishing Contest, 36418 Pelo Rd., Clayton, NY 13624. Mailed entries must be postmarked no later than April 16. Only one entry per person will be allowed. Duplicate entries will result in all entries for that person being discarded.

TROUT & SALMON EXPO: The popular Trout & Salmon Expo sponsored by the Mohawk Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited returns to New Hartford on April 21 from 10 am until 4 p.m.

There will be casting contests for kids, clinics in fly tying and casting, and seminars on Adirondack brook trout, Salmon River steelhead fishing, fishing Lake Ontario, West Canada Creek, and wildlife photography. There will be 50 vendors and displays ranging from Trout in the Classroom, wildlife artists, tackle manufacturers, and book displays, and several tackle and equipment manufacturers and more. The location is New Hartford Recreation Center on Mill St., just off Kellogg Road. For more information contact Ken Ziobro at:

L.O.O.: The Spring Issue of Lake Ontario Outdoors magazine is out and full of information from catching oversized brown trout on Lake Ontario to stream trout fishing to turkey hunting with a bow, or fly-tying. Pick up your free copy today at Hanifin Tires, Herb Philipsons, or Sweet Temptations Café in Oneida.

STEELHEAD: The mild weather of the past few weeks will bring an early end to the steelhead fishing as fish are spawning on the gravel areas of tributaries and starting to drop back to Lake Ontario. For the latest information on conditions and tips contact All Seasons Sports Shop in Pulaski at 298-6433.

THANKS: Thank you to everyone who attended the Community Forum at the Dispatch offices two weeks ago and thanks to David Johnson of the Sports Staff who arranged and facilitated things. It was fun sharing ideas with fellow fishermen and I hope that we helped some people. You can see the program online as well as send pictures of your interesting or big catches and comments at: