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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.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas wishes

Merry Christmas to all of our readers. Over the years I have learned that many people in addition to sportsmen read this column. Many enjoy the outdoor themes, others are interested in the issues and many enjoy finding out about people they know making the news. Thanks to all of you who have given information, advice or encouragement this year and in the past.
As I have mentioned previously in this column, remember the real meaning and spirit of the holiday we celebrate next week. It is always good but especially at this time of year to remember the less fortunate in our community, the landowners who let you enjoy their resources and others who have made your enjoyment of the outdoors possible.
I am sure that all of you have been good and that Santa will smile favorably when he goes over your names on his list. As we have mentioned in other years, Santa is especially pleased with the many volunteers who have taught hunter safety classes, helped with fish stocking and similar tasks. Santa also is happy with the people who have made special efforts for youth hunts, kids fishing derbies and other activities.
On the other hand Santa is certain to leave lots of coal in the stocking of Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, chairman of the Conservation Committee, who personally refused to allow a vote on the crossbow bill which a majority of sportsmen were in favor of.
Santa will probably have to have a couple special deliveries of coal from Hazleton, Pa. to fill the stockings of many of the environmental extremist groups who have been pushing their narrow agenda of keeping much of the Adirondacks off limits to the average sportsmen. In fact, he should dump a truckload on the porches of the leaders of “Protect the Adirondacks” and the Sierra Club for their frivolous lawsuits against the creation of trails in the Adirondacks and their efforts to block development that would benefit the people of Tupper Lake.
In the past we have given ideas of shopping locally or giving gifts of yourself. If you need a last minute Christmas gift for someone, consider a membership in a conservation organization or some of their merchandise. For the bird lover on your list check out for membership on the mailing list and other benefits. Another worthwhile cause is saving the Seneca white deer herd, the largest of its kind in the world. See for details.
My wife Carol and I would like to extend our heartfelt wishes that everyone has a great holiday season spent with friends and family. We hope that the peace and joy extend not only through this season but throughout the coming year. Merry Christmas!
Steel Report: Holiday activities and the nasty weather have kept most anglers away from the steelhead fishing. Cold temperatures and lake effect snow earlier this week have made it uncomfortable for anglers, as well as difficult to fish. On the Oswego River, the fishing for shore anglers was very difficult but some nice fish were taken from driftboats. Whitakers Sports Shop in Pulaski reported a similar situation on the Salmon River. Fishing was slow although the anglers from drift boats took some steelhead on lures and an occasional pink egg sack. Slush ice was a factor on the Salmon River, especially in the earlier part of the day.
Lake Ontario Outdoors and Adirondack Outdoors: FishNY announces that the winter editions of its two magazines, Lake Ontario Outdoors and its newest publication Adirondack Outdoors, are both available locally. The magazines focus on winter sporting opportunities including ice fishing, steelhead fishing, skiing and other popular activities of outdoor sportsmen. Lake Ontario Outdoors is an inclusive outdoors magazine encompassing the upstate region while the new Adirondack Outdoors is the only publication that devotes its attention on sportsmen’s interests in the Adirondack region. Locally there are free copies available at Corner Diner in Sherrill, Sweet Temptations Café in Oneida, Herb Philipsons and Hanifin Tires.
“Wild Hogs Not Fair Game”: New York State DEC announced the proposal of new regulations that would prohibit hunting or trapping of free-ranging Eurasian boars in New York. The proposal is designed to ensure maximum effectiveness of DEC’s statewide eradication efforts. Public comments on the proposed regulations will be accepted until January 25, 2014. Wild pigs are a great threat to natural resources, agricultural interests, private property and public safety wherever they occur. “Many hunters have offered to assist our efforts by hunting for boars wherever they occur, but experience has shown this to be counter-productive,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. Shooting individual boars as opportunities arise is ineffective as an eradication method and this often causes the remaining animals to disperse and be more difficult to remove. The full text of the regulation change and instructions for submitting comments can be found on DEC’s website at Comments on the proposed regulations can be sent by email to or mailed to: Kelly Stang, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.
Possible Record Muskie: Waterwolf Charters has made the news again with a possible new record muskie taken on the St. Lawrence River out of Clayton. The IGFA, which maintains records of catch and release muskellunge based on length, is waiting to certify the catch by John Forjohn of Ambler, Pa. who was fishing with Capt. Bob Walters and First mate Darryl Raate. The fish measured 51.8 inches on the special measuring device before being released. IGFA keeps records of the fish measured and photographed on the certified device. The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame based in Hayward, Wis. keeps records based on weight and those fish, including one caught by Bob Walter’s charters a couple years ago, are larger. Walters acknowledged that larger fish probably have been caught and released but they were not measured and certified.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

One final shot: Deer season ends this weekend

This weekend is the end of the northern zone and southern zone deer seasons. The season which started with much promise and anticipation six weeks ago is now down to a final few days with most of the hunters holding faint hopes and facing disappointment.
It is easy to get discouraged but there are enough examples of late season success to give everyone hope. A few years ago Terry Yardley and I hunted the last day of the season just ahead of a major storm and got a deer about mid day. A couple years later Dick Cooper shot a nice buck late in the afternoon of the final day.  Last year despite deep snow and cold temperatures, Joe Beckwith closed out the northern season by taking a deer near Florence.
Are there deer out there? Yes. Are they going to be easy to get? No. There are additional factors working against the hunter at the end of the season. The weather is colder. Deer have been pressured and are more wary. The rut is essentially over. There are far less hunters afield moving deer around.
We have to adjust if we want to be successful. Although some people will advise sitting in your usual tree stands for the end of the season, others see this as a waste of time. Deer have been pressured in many cases and will spend much of the day bedded in heavy cover. Your best bet is to watch food sources, especially those that adjoin areas of heavy cover.
Most of the deer, especially bucks, will feed during the night or just about dusk. Don’t waste your time deep in the woods along some doe trails or funnels. You might consider watching in the heavy cover near food sources if you can.
Hunt the fringes or thickets. Deer will frequently seek refuge in the most inhospitable areas such as patches of honeysuckle, multiflora rose or other nasty vegetation. If you have the stamina and the weather isn’t too extreme, you might consider staying in your stand all day. Even though the deer are unlikely to move much, they often get up and stir a bit at mid-day when the weather is cold.
If you know that other hunters will be putting on a final push during the last weekend, consider the possible escape routes of deer and be on watch in these often thick areas. For most of the past couple weeks the hunting pressure has been light, but in some cases there will be groups of hunters pushing the woods for the final opportunity of the season.
Consider still hunting the heavy cover where you think the bucks might be bedding. Although the current trend is to not disturb core or bedding areas, this is the last weekend so what do you have to lose? Deer will have all year to get over the fact of being disturbed and they will return to their old haunts soon enough when the season is over.
If you have several hunters, the best bet is to probably put some hunters on watch along the likely escape routes while others still hunt or slowly move through likely areas. Remember, you want to nudge the deer towards the other hunters, not send them flying into the next zip code.
Although the weather forecast calls for milder weather this week it is likely to turn colder by the weekend. Deer have generally moved off the high ridges and into the sheltered valleys with the coming of snow and cold weather the past couple weeks. Look for the sheltered areas out of the wind, especially the lowlands with heavy evergreen cover that are near their wintering territory.
Dress warmly. You won’t be able to spend the entire day afield, much less sit still, if you are cold. With colder temperatures and snow cover in the higher elevations both north and south you need to be prepared for harsher conditions than earlier in the season. Dress in layers than can be added and removed as needed. Be sure to wear some warm, wicking undergarments such as Under Armor or other material like Thermax, etc.
Have insulated boots, wool socks and gloves with gore-tex and insulation. Carry spares so you won’t have to be moving or heading back to your vehicle when a deer finally does appear.
Good luck to everybody. Be safe and let us know of any interesting stories from the final weekend.
DMP Transfers: With the end of the regular season, a lot of hunters will not have filled their Deer Management Permits (“doe tag”). Many will probably not have the opportunity to go hunting this final weekend. A recent change in the hunting regulations allows hunters to transfer their unused permits to other licensed hunters.
However the hunter who receives and carries this permit must record the number on his or her own license. One of the plastic tags in our string of tags and permits has a space for recording the numbers of the DMPs that we receive from others. Once you have taken a deer on that permit you must fill it out and attach it to the carcass as you normally do. You must report the kill by calling 1-866-426-3778. See page 28 of the current Hunting Guide for instructions.
Remember Landowner: At any time of year, but especially now with the end of hunting season and the onset of the holiday season, it is appropriate to remember the landowners who let you use their property with some gift. Some small gift will show your appreciation for them for letting you hunt or fish on their property. It also helps mark you as a considerate and responsible sportsman and may go a long way towards getting permission to hunt or fish there again next year.
Muzzleloader Season: Regular firearms seasons for deer in both northern and southern zones close at sundown this Sunday, December 8. Monday, December 9 will be the beginning of the special muzzleloader and bowhunting season in the southern zone that will extend until December 17. Hunters with a special muzzleloader license or bowhunting privilege may take a deer of either sex during this time. However in Regions 3 and 4 in southeastern NY where there are antler restrictions. Only a buck with at least 3 points on one side may be taken. Hunters may use any unfilled DMPs in areas where the permits are valid.
Christmas Shopping: As we mentioned previously, please try to do your Christmas shopping locally whenever possible. Try to buy American, and especially New York, made products. There are lots of them if you carefully check. Even if a Remington 870 shotgun won’t fit in your budget or a Placid Boatworks pack canoe won’t fit under your tree, there are lots of smaller items or stocking stuffers that are available. For example, the best jigs for bass and walleye are made by Bill Alexander (MTO jigs) based on his tournament winning experience. Jeff Upfold makes great ice fishing lures with the e-chip implanted. Dave Smith ties excellent salmon and steelhead flies that are available at Fat Nancy’s tackle shop in Pulaski.
Turkey calls made by Lou Pulverenti (Boss Tom Calls) or Shawn Fox of Camden have a proven record and are of high quality. Other good calls for waterfowl, turkey, etc. that are made in NYS are produced by Oak Ridge or Quaker Boy.
You will be spending your money locally and getting a great product at the same time when you patronize the above people.
Feeding Birds: With the coming of snow and cold weather many of the area songbirds will be flocking to local backyard birdfeeders. If you want to attract and enjoy birds all winter long, now is the time to put out feeders. It is best to have a variety of feeders for various food and of the type that certain birds prefer. Tube feeders with thistle seed will attract finches and chickadees. Tube, hopper or sheltered feeders with black sunflower seeds will appeal to most birds, including cardinals, chickadees, juncos, redpolls, finches and tufted titmice.