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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, September 20, 2012

Shotgun success takes practice and skill

If you watched the Olympics this summer you should have noticed that an American woman, Kim Rhodes, won a gold medal in skeet by shooting an amazing 99 out of 100. Incidentally Kim has been sponsored in her Olympic training by Otis Technology, a company based in upstate New York that manufactures high quality gun cleaning products.

OK, admit it. You had intended to stock up on clay pigeons, trap loads for your shotgun and practice a lot this summer and early fall to be ready for hunting season. But we know what infamous road is paved with good intentions. You kept putting it off and now the only way you can break 80 out of 100 clay pigeons is to jump up and down on the box!

Fortunately 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.

Patterning a shotgun is not really fun, but then again, neither is missing. Staple a 40 inch square of paper to a backstop and shoot from a solid rest. Label your target with gun, choke, load and distance information. Shoot plenty of times since you can’t evaluate loads or your aim on only a couple of shots,
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. The most common mistakes are stopping your swing and 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.

Short Casts

Columbus Day Weekend Youth Deer Hunt: The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has confirmed that junior hunters ages 14-15 will be able to hunt deer during a special youth firearms deer season over Columbus Day Weekend this year, October 6 through October 8, 2012.

The youth deer hunt will take place Columbus Day weekend in both the Northern Zone and Southern Zone. Junior hunters with a big game hunting license will be eligible to take one deer of either sex with a firearm when properly accompanied by a licensed and experienced adult. Junior hunters may use a Deer Management Permit or Deer Management Assistance Program tag for an antlerless deer or, during the youth firearms season only, they may use their regular season tag to take a deer of either sex.

“Bowhunting seasons remain open during the youth hunt, but I encourage bowhunters to set your bow aside for the weekend and be a mentor for a youth’s first firearms deer hunt,” Commissioner Joseph Martens stated.

While there is pending legislation that may impact future youth hunts, until it has been acted on, DEC’s regulations remain in effect. More details of the Youth Firearms Deer Hunt and rules for junior hunters and their mentors are available at:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Adirondacks provided great end to summer

The red maples along the Moose River were showing lots of color, water lilies were scarce having reached the end of their growing season — as well as suffering depredations of the local beavers — and most of the deer had donned their gray winter coats. Loons were travelling to various lakes and preparing for the journey south in a few short weeks. Cool mornings with heavy mist over the lakes and ponds gave further testimony to the end of summer.
These were the common scenes that we witnessed the past two weeks that we spent in the central Adirondacks. We were blessed with gorgeous weather up until the end so we were able to get in lots of kayaking, fishing and other outdoor sports that the area offers. There were lots of local people from Canastota, Sherrill, Oneida and the area enjoying the end of summer at Nicks Lake Campground.
We celebrated an end of summer party on Labor Day with our friends the Kiefers and Tickners. Naturally a lot of the conversation centered around paddling and especially the upcoming 90 Mile Classic, the three day canoe and kayak race from Old Forge to Saranac Lake. Most of the Kiefer and Tickner families are involved in the race or serving as pit crews for the Classic.
If you are planning on spending time in the Adirondacks this fall, give serious thought to some canoeing and kayaking. The scenery will be especially gorgeous, wildlife will be more evident and the weather will be pleasant for paddling. With some recent rains the low water levels of this summer have risen somewhat.
Tickners Moose River Outfitters (369-6286) will be open through Columbus Day, except for this weekend. Trips down the North Branch of the Moose, the popular River and Rail where you paddle down the Middle Branch and take the train back, or shorter trips along the Middle Branch down to the Lock and Dam make for a great day. Adirondack Exposure (369-6699) just south of Old Forge will be open Friday through Monday and offers shuttle trips on all area waters.
Fishing continued to be tough as the lower water levels and warmer temperatures have most of the fish concentrated at deeper levels or the bottom of ponds and shallower lakes. I caught some nice bass but not nearly as many as in previous years. One day while talking with my friend Mitch Lee in Inlet he commented that brook trout were generally concentrated on the bottoms of ponds and not feeding very actively.
For information on fishing conditions and suggestions on where to go, be sure to stop in at the Inlet Information Office and ask Mitch. Of course, he is also a wealth of knowledge on where to hike, paddling suggestions, accommodations and events like Inlet’s Fall Festival. Call 1-866-GO INLET.
We did not see the big bull moose that often frequents Helldiver Pond in the Moose River Plains, but at this time of year the bulls often start wandering in search of mates. If you are lucky enough to see one, be sure to give them a wide berth since they are especially aggressive and ornery at this time of year.
In addition to the Moose River one of our favorite paddles is the South Inlet of Raquette Lake up through the wetlands into the forest to “Gold Dust Falls.” Osprey and a variety of songbirds gathering for fall migration — as well as an occasional beaver — added to the scenery.
To make your autumn especially enjoyable include some time in the central Adirondacks. The usual attractions and sports will be awaiting you along with pleasant weather and a colorful panorama of leaves. The chairlift at McCauley Mountain Ski Area or hikes up Bald Mountain, Black Bear Mountain or Rocky Point can give some spectacular views. But don’t wait until Columbus Day. Peak foliage is usually the end of September and some think it may be early this year.
Short Casts
S.H.O.T.S.: Are you interested in helping handicapped or disabled sportsmen? Do you want to support activities for youths such as turkey hunting, fishing and more? How about a chance to win guns and other sporting equipment? Do you enjoy having fun and associating with fellow sportsmen and women?
If so, then you should plan on attending the S.H.O.T.S. Banquet tomorrow at the Rusty Rail. There will be various games, raffles and auctions for all types of sporting goods. For more information contact Andy Jeski at 363-5585.
S.H.O.T.S. (Sportspeople Helping Others Through Sharing) has lived up to its name by being involved with sending handicapped sportsmen on a trip of a lifetime, taking handicapped youngsters fishing and donating lifetime licenses to adults and youngsters. They have donated thousands of dollars to area schools to fund the National Archery in the Schools Program so youngsters can take archery in physical education classes and learn a lifelong sport. Other youth activities include turkey hunting seminars where children can build box calls to keep. This year they became the major sponsor of Future Anglers Outreach that provided over 150 children with rods and reels and taught them basics of fishing.
Shotgun Practice: Admit it, most of us had planned on doing some practicing with our shotguns over the summer and now it has slipped away. Small game season will soon be upon us. At the very least practice mounting your shotgun properly. Make a point of getting out and shooting a few rounds of trap or if possible get in some sporting clays. Practice will pay off when the season opens.
Tours of Seneca Army Depot in October: Seneca White Deer, Inc. (SWD) will offer public military history tours of the most secure portion of the former Seneca Army Depot during the first three weekends in October. SWD President Dennis Money says that there are less than 400 spots available.
These tours will visit only the area known as the “Q,” which is located at the northern end of the former Depot. The “Q” was the most secure area of the Depot and reputedly stored nuclear weapons. The “Q” at the Seneca Army Depot has always intrigued the general public and was one of less than two dozen ever built around the world by the United States government.
The tours will last over an hour and provide opportunities to photograph formerly secret buildings, the military police compound and the ammo igloos. Actors will portray MPs of past decades and explain their duties to protect the secret weapons housed inside the igloos found in the “Q” area.
Another highlight of the tour will be the opportunity to enter one of the now abandoned storage igloos and see artifacts associated with the Depot.
“The 2012 tours are a continuation of the tremendously successful tours conducted in 2006 and 2009,” said Money. “While the main theme of these tours will be the military history of the Depot and the ‘Q,’ visitors should expect to see deer, mostly brown, a few white deer, hawks, pheasants and possibly some coyotes.”
The tours will take place on Saturdays and Sundays, October 6-7, 13-14 and 20-21. Buses will depart each hour from the Varick Volunteer Fire Department, located on NYS Rt. 96A from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The facility is easy to find and signs will also be strategically located to help people find their way. Directions can also be found on the back of the registration form.
Adult tickets are $15, seniors (61 and over) $12 and children ages 12 and younger are $8. Registration information is available by calling Young’s Travel Service at 315-568-4112 or by visiting:
The Reel Deal: If you are one of the people who put your fishing tackle away because of fall hunting seasons, be sure to care for your tackle properly. One thing you should absolutely do is lighten the drag on your reel. Leaving the drag set too tight on your reel over the winter can ruin it, so make sure it is at a light setting.