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Hooks and Antlers
By Mike Seymour
Johnson Newspapers
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Hooks and Antlers

DEC Accepting Public Comments On Proposed Turkey, Deer Regulations

First published: May 31, 2015 at 1:03 am
Last modified: May 31, 2015 at 1:03 am

DEC is currently accepting public comments on proposed hunting changes related to wild turkeys, deer, and the Deer Management Assistant Program .

Pending a review of the public comments, regulation changes could take effect this fall. The comment period closes on June 29. Those interested in submitting comments can find instructions at www.dec.ny.gov, and clicking on Regulations and then Proposed Regulations.

Here’s a closer look at the proposed changes:

Wild Turkey Proposal

Currently, the fall turkey season in the Northern Zone runs from October 1 through the Friday preceding the opening of early muzzleloader season. The season bag limit is two birds of either sex in Wildlife Management Units 6A, 6C, 6G, and 6H, while the other WMUs in the Northern Zone have a one-bird-of-either-sex seasonal limit. For the fall of 2014, the turkey season extended from October 1 to 17.

DEC’s new proposal calls for a two-week fall season across the state with a seasonal bag limit of one bird of either sex. Across the Northern Zone, that two-week season would run from October 1 to 14.

DEC proposes limiting the season length and bag limit because wild turkey populations have declined significantly from peak numbers about 15 ago. Cited causes for the population decline are changes in habitat, higher predator populations, poor reproductive success in years with above-average rainfall during the nesting season, and harvest of hen turkeys during the fall season. By reducing the fall harvest, officials believe turkey populations should increase in the long run.

Since 2012, DEC biologists and researchers at SUNY ESF and Cornell University have studied the biological and social factors associated with turkey management, and part of that study consisted of the annual banding of more than 450 hen turkeys, some with satellite radios. DEC will continue to band and track hens in 2015 and 2016, and the proposed fall hunting changes will be evaluated as part of a four-year research project.

Antlerless Harvests

Five or so years ago, a deer task force comprised of various stakeholders recommended that the deer population in WMU 6A should be increased by 15 percent. In an effort to achieve that increase, DEC stopped issuing Deer Management Permits (DMPs) for that unit in 2011. However, deer numbers in WMU 6A failed to rise because of the harvest of antlerless during bow and muzzleloader seasons, particularly the heavy harvest during the seven-day early muzzleloader season.

As a result, DEC is proposing a rule that will restrict harvest during the early muzzleloader season to antlered deer only in WMU 6A until such time as populations increase to the desired levels set by the task force, and the season may again be returned to an either-sex opportunity.

In contrast to WMU 6A, a number of WMUs across the state do not take enough antlerless deer to keep population numbers at desired levels. Those WMUs are 1C, 3M, 3S, 4J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 8H, 8N, 9A, and 9F where offering an increased number of DMPs each year has failed to see an increase in the antlerless harvest. As a result, a new proposal will allow hunters to take only antlerless deer during the first 15 days of the early/regular bow season and during all of the late bow and muzzleloader seasons in the WMUs just listed.

Deer Proposals

The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) enables wildlife biologists to help landowners and resource managers implement site-specific deer management on their lands. In doing so, DEC issues a special permit for use only during the open deer hunting seasons and a determined number of antlerless tags to landowners and resource managers whose property is in need of site-specific deer management efforts.

Regarding DMAP, current proposals hope to refine the program to improve harvest reporting, increase program accountability, expand opportunities for landowners, reduce the paperwork burden of applicants and DEC, and increase flexibility for DEC staff in administering the program. Individuals will find the proposed DMAP amendments on the DEC web site.

Outdoors Calendar

Today: Turkey season closes in New York state.

Monday: Trap and skeet shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

Monday: Public hearing on SLC Carry Conceal Pistol Law at Court House in Canton at 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Trap shooting at Black Lake F&G at 7 p.m.

June 13: SLR Walleye Association’s Members-Only Tournament (384-3450).

June 13: Women’s Day at the Range at Black Lake F&G at 9 a.m. (287-9398).

June 13: Free fishing classes at Wellesley Island State Park; regular fishing at 11 a.m. and fly fishing at 1 p.m.

June 19-21: St. Lawrence Bowfishing Championship (www.stlawrencebowfishing.com).

June 20: Bass season opens for St. Lawrence and Jefferson county waters.

June 20: Muskellunge season opens on St. Lawrence River; 54-inch minimum-size requirement.

June 27-28: Free Fishing Days on New York state waters.

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Hooks and Antlers: Jefferson County leads way in deer take for 2014

First published: May 24, 2015 at 1:09 am
Last modified: May 24, 2015 at 1:09 am

Eight counties lie completely within the Northern Zone, and those counties are Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Warren. Portions of six other counties comprise the remaining area of the Northern Zone, and those counties are Fulton, Herkimer, Oneida, Oswego, Saratoga, and Washington.

Of the eight counties that lie within the Northern zone, the area ones of Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Lewis, and Franklin yielded the highest deer harvests in 2014 according to DEC’s recently released report.

TAKE BY COUNTY

Jefferson County saw 7,599 deer taken this past season, and 3,346 or 44 percent of those were bucks. The top-producing towns in the county were Ellisburg (439 bucks, and 1,166 total deer), Adams (277 bucks and 665 total deer), Henderson (238 bucks and 624 total deer), and Rodman (284 bucks and 572 total deer).

St. Lawrence County saw hunters take 4,908 deer of which 3,033 or 61.8 percent were mature bucks. Townships leading the way in this county were Lisbon (252 bucks and 426 total deer), Potsdam (200 bucks and 374 total deer), Canton (173 bucks and 322 total deer), and Russell (138 bucks and 321 total deer).

Lewis County saw 3,562 deer taken this past season, and 1,929 or 54.2 percent of those were bucks. The top-producing towns in the county were Denmark (194 bucks and 512 total deer), Croghan (271 bucks and 449 total deer), Lowville (110 bucks and 288 total deer), and Martinsburg (144 bucks and 284 total deer).

Franklin County saw hunters take 1,512 deer of which 981 or 64.9 percent were mature bucks. Townships leading the way were Malone (93 bucks and 167 total deer), Moira (74 bucks and 134 total deer), Harrietstown (83 bucks and 118 total deer), and Bangor (62 bucks and 105 total deer).

TAKE BY WMU

WMU 6A extends across the northern one-third of St. Lawrence County and includes a small portion of northeast Jefferson County and northwest Franklin County. Hunters shot 2,891 deer in this WMU, and that figure represents 9.9 percent of the total Northern Zone harvest. The WMU 6A buck take was 1,910 or 66.1 percent of this unit’s total kill. Hunters here shot 1.3 bucks per square mile and 2.0 deer per square mile.

WMU 6C extends across central St. Lawrence County and includes a north-to-south stretch of Lewis County and a small piece of northwest Franklin County. Hunters shot 3,032 deer in this WMU, and that figure represents 10.4 percent of the total Northern Zone take.

The WMU 6C buck kill was 1,615 or 53.3 percent of this unit’s total harvest. Hunters here shot 1.7 bucks and 3.1 deer per square mile.

WMU 6G includes the majority of Jefferson County extending along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario as well as a small bit of northwest Oswego County and a small bit of northwest Lewis County. Hunters shot 7,036 deer in this WMU, and that figure represents 24.2 percent of the total Northern Zone take.

The WMU 6G buck kill was 2,771 or 39.4 percent of this unit’s total harvest. Hunters here shot three bucks per square mile and 7.5 total deer per square mile.

DISAPPOINTED HUNTERS

Hunters in WMU 6F are very concerned about their low deer takes in recent years. WMU 6F includes lands in east-central St. Lawrence County and west-central Franklin County, lands that extend from Malone in the north to Cranberry Lake in the south and from Colton in the west to Paul Smith’s in the east.

Hunters shot 914 deer in this WMU this past season, and that figure represents 2.2 percent of the total Northern Zone Harvest.

The WMU 6F buck kill was 636 or 69.6 percent of this unit’s total harvest. Hunters here shot 0.5 buck per square mile and 0.8 deer per square mile.

While attending recent meetings of the Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of St. Lawrence County, I’ve heard WMU 6F hunters attribute their poor deer numbers to various factors such as harsh winters, fawn predation by bears and coyotes, taking of does, and the ban on winter feeding programs.

Those hunters, however, seem to agree that the primary cause of low deer numbers is due to poor deer habitat and that poor habitat has been created by logging practices that are not friendly to deer.

Such practices include the removal of tracts of mast-crop trees, conifer stands that served as wintering areas, and the chipping of tops that were once left on the ground and provided both food and cover for deer.

Outdoors Calendar

May 26: Regular meeting of SLC Fisheries Advisory Board at Canton Boces at 7 p.m. (393-2709).

May 30: Muskellunge Season opens in New York State; 40-inch minimum size requirement.

May 31: Turkey Season ends in New York State.

June 1: Public hearing on SLC Carry Conceal Pistol Law at Court House in Canton at 6 p.m.

June 20: Bass Season opens for St. Lawrence and Jefferson County waters.

June 20: Muskellunge Season opens on St. Lawrence River; 54-inch minimum size requirement.

June 27-28: Free Fishing Days in New York State waters.

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Hooks and Antlers: Thousand Islands region teems with outdoor opportunities

First published: May 17, 2015 at 12:43 am
Last modified: May 17, 2015 at 12:43 am

Part of human nature leads us to believe that the grass is always greener in a place other than where we are, and those who spent this past winter in Northern New York can certainly attest to their belief that Florida’s grass is much greener than New York’s.

Last weekend, though, I attended the New York State Outdoor Writers Association’s (NYSOWA) Annual Conference in Clayton, and I can attest that the grass is abundantly green in our own backyards. In fact, since the St. Lawrence River is the heartbeat of that community, I might more appropriately say, “The water is always bluer in Clayton.”

FISHING

NYSOWA conferences mix business with pleasure, and pike fishing on the St. Lawrence was on the pleasure side of the ledger for me. In essence, the 45-degree water temperature made for slow angling, but the hours on the water were still enjoyable ones because of the camaraderie of fellow writers, the knowledge and expertise of local guides, and the overall beauty of the 1,000 Islands region.

Even though pike fishing was on the slow side, we were able to console ourselves by partaking in a traditional 1,000 Islands shore dinner provided the Clayton Guides Association.

Charter captains providing services for the writers were Myrle Bauer of Net Results Charters (686-2122), Keith Dasno of Gotta Have It Charters (783-9826; ksdasno@earthlink.net), and Rich Clarke of Sign Man Charters (888-686-3041; www.1000islandsfishing.com).

CLAYTON WATERFRONT

Whenever I visit Clayton, I’m drawn to the scenic waterfront and Frink Park in particular as the public park is an ideal location for relaxing and enjoying the scenery. During the first afternoon of the conference, I walked over to Frink Park and encountered individuals engrossed in various activities among which were perch fishing, river watching, reading, eating lunch, sunbathing, and photographing the full-size sculpture of a trophy St. Lawrence River muskellunge. Also, a wedding party was taking after-ceremony photos with the river and islands in the background.

After stopping at Frink Park, I walked along the waterfront shops and attractions on Riverside Drive and then along the marinas and docks towards French Creek before returning to the park via James Street and Riverside Drive. My primary intent on the hour-long walk was to enjoy the ambience of the village and get some exercise. If I had so chosen, I could have spent a full day on that same walk if I had stopped at the various attractions on the route. Among those attractions were historic buildings, numerous shops, various churches, Antique Boat Museum, Save the River, Thousand Islands Art Center, Thousand Islands Museum, St. Lawrence Gallery, and more.

BOAT TOURS

A boat tour is a must-do activity when visiting the 1,000 Islands area, and the writers took a three-hour cruise out of Clayton to Grindstone Island, into Canadian waters, around Wellesley Island, under two spans of the international bridge, and past Heart Island and the famous Boldt Castle. Professional guides provide a running and interesting narrative during boat cruises, and the narrative includes details on historical events, river lore, the islands, its inhabitants, wildlife, and more. Many island homes are owned by multi-millionaires who have the wealth to own homes anywhere in the world; yet, they elect to have vacation homes in the 1000 Islands. Their choice of this area is solid evidence that the grass is greener and the water is bluer in Clayton.

LUXURY ACCOMMODATIONS

The newly-opened 1,000 Islands Harbor Hotel served as the headquarters for NYSOWA’s 2015 Annual Conference, and attendees had high praise for the accommodations and services there. The Harbor Hotel sits in downtown Clayton adjacent to Frink Park, and the facility has over 100 waterfront rooms that offer fantastic river views. Additional offerings include a large riverside patio, indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi, state-of-the-art fitness center, dining areas, 1,000 Islands Bar, and more.

For more information, visit www.1000islandsharborhotel.com.

MORE CLAYTON ACTIVITIES

Today’s column briefly touched on some of the things that make Clayton an ideal destination for readers. For more information, visit the Clayton Area Chamber of Commerce at www.1000island-clayton.com. The site offers a detailed “Walking Tour of Clayton” guide as well as a calendar of upcoming events, a sampling of which includes The Great New York State Food & Wine Festival, Clayton Lions Club Bass Tournament, Gala Fireworks Display, 47th Annual Decoy & Wildlife Art Show, Save the River’s 13th Annual 5K/10K Run for the River, 51st Annual Antique Boat Show & Auction, and the 2nd Annual Clayton Jazz Festival.

Outdoors Calendar

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

Saturday: Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Spring Fishing Derby (654-2481).

Saturday: Spider Rybaak’s Free Fishing Class at Wellesley Island State Park at 11 a.m. and fly fishing at 1:30 p.m.

May 26: Regular meeting of SLC Fisheries Advisory Board at Canton Boces at 7 p.m. (393-2709).

May 30: Muskellunge Season opens in New York State; 40-inch minimum size requirement.

May 31: Turkey Season closes in New York State.

June 1: Public hearing on SLC Carry Conceal Pistol Law at Court House in Canton at 6 p.m.

June 20: Bass Season opens for St. Lawrence and Jefferson County waters.

June 20: Muskellunge Season opens on St. Lawrence River; 54-inch minimum size requirement.

June 27-28: Free Fishing Days in New York State waters.

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Hooks & Antlers: Hunters saw decline in deer harvest in 2014

First published: May 10, 2015 at 12:55 am
Last modified: May 10, 2015 at 12:55 am

The 2014 statewide harvest of 238,772 deer marked a 2.0 percent drop from the 2013 take of 243,567 deer.

Still, this past season’s kill ranked higher than the previous five-year-average of 233,556 deer. Of the 2014 harvest, 108,604 or 45.5 percent were bucks, and 130,068 or 54.5 percent were antlerless deer. The statewide buck kill represents a 5.3-percent drop from 2013 and a 1.8-percent drop from the previous five-year-average of 110,546 adult males.

Northern Zone

Northern Zone hunters saw a more significant decline in harvest numbers than did their Southern Zone counterparts. The total Northern Zone 2014 deer take was 29,075, which represents a 10.2-percent drop from the previous year when hunters shot 32,369 deer. The 16,727 bucks shot was a 14.4-percent drop from 2013 while the antlerless take of 12,348 marked a 3.8-percent decline.

Breaking down the Northern Zone harvest by the type of tag used, Big Game tags accounted for 43.6 percent of the take while Muzzleloader tags represented 23.7 percent of the kill. Deer Management Permits (DMPs) were used for 19.3 percent of the take, Deer Management Assistant Permits (DMAPs) were used for 7.4 percent, and Bow tags accounted for the remaining 6.0 percent of the harvest.

Breaking down the Northern Zone harvest by sex and age of deer, hunters shot 16,727 adult males (57.5 percent of harvest) and 9,003 adult females (31.0 percent of harvest). The 1,749 male fawns taken represent 6.0 percent of the total harvest while the 1,596 female fawns account for 5.5 percent of the total harvest.

Comparing ZONES

The breakdown of tag types used by Northern Zone and Southern Zone hunters contrasts sharply. For example, DMPs accounted for 45.0 percent of the Southern Zone take compared to 19.3 percent in the North, and Muzzleloader tags represented just 4.0 percent of the Southern Zone kill compared to 23.7 percent in the North. Southern Zone hunters used Big Game tags for 30.2 percent of the harvest compared to the Northern Zone’s 43.6 percent, and bow hunters tagged 15.7 percent of the kill in the South compared to 6.0 percent in the North. DMAP harvests were fairly similar at 5.0 percent the Southern Zone and 7.4 percent in the Northern Zone.

Looking at the take by sex and age, adult males comprised 44.0 percent of the Southern Zone’s total compared to the North’s 57.5 percent, and adult females comprised 38.7 percent of the South’s total compared to the North’s 31.0. The male fawn harvest in the Southern Zone accounted for 9.0 percent of the total take compared to the Northern Zone’s 6.0 percent while the female fawn take was 8.2 percent in the south and 5.5 in the North. Hunt

Youth Deer

Columbus Day Weekend marked the third annual Youth Deer Hunt when junior hunters (ages 14-15) accompanied by a licensed and experience adult mentor are allowed take a deer with a firearm. Last fall saw 9,033 youths or 70 percent of the eligible junior hunters participate, and those hunters took 1,182 deer across the state. That figure amounts to a harvest density of 2.9 deer per square mile.

Youths in the Northern Zone accounted for 150 of those deer, and the breakdown by sex and age was 97 adult males, 43 adult females, five male fawns, and five female fawns. One hundred and twenty-four youths tagged their deer with a Big Game tag while 26 utilized a DMP.

Special Thanks

“Hooks and Antlers” applauds those adult mentors who accompanied youths in last year’s Youth Deer Hunt. Also, applause is echoed for mentors who made it possible for junior hunters to participate in the state’s Youth Turkey Hunt and Youth Waterfowl Hunt as well as all adults who make an effort to take youths hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking, etc.

Such mentors are the essence of the “Pass It On” theme supported by Bass Pro Shops and other organizations across the country.

When adults and youths participate together in a hunting or fishing venture, the generation gap disappears, and the adult becomes more youthful while the young person becomes more mature.

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Hooks and Antlers: Turkey season calls for last minute preparation, safety

First published: April 26, 2015 at 12:59 am
Last modified: April 26, 2015 at 12:59 am

Hunters have only a few days to get things in order for Friday’s opener of New York’s Spring Turkey Season, and among the things to consider are scouting, calling, gear readiness, current regulations, and safety.

SCOUTING

Scouting aids hunters by revealing what birds are in a given location as well as their roosting, feeding, and strutting behaviors. At this point just prior to the season, it is critical that any scouting remains non-intrusive so hunters are advised to scout from a distance by using binoculars. If calling is part of your scouting strategy, be sure to avoid over-calling and to use locator rather than actual turkey calls.

CALLING

Proficient calling is more important in turkey hunting than in most other types of hunting, with the possible exception of waterfowl, so now is time to make sure that you have a variety of calls on hand and that they are clean and in good working order. My calling skills are somewhat mediocre. While my calling does get a bird’s attention, that calling lacks the fine-tuning to lure the bird within range.

GEAR

Turkey hunters use a fair amount of paraphernalia, and chief among that gear is the gun, clothing, and vest. Hopefully, your gun has been sighted in, and you know the limitations of that gun and the selected load. Also, hunters seek concealment from head to toe so the right clothing and footwear should be in order for that first day’s hunt. After all, no one wants to be looking for a facemask at 3:30 a.m.

A fully-stuffed vest is common attire in the turkey woods, and those vests typically hold items such as shells, license, tags, pen, knife, compass, orange hat, insect repellent, map, decoy, calls, head net, seat cushion, flashlight, water bottle, snack, gloves, and pruning shears. The last item is particularly helpful in assuring the set-up site is quiet, comfortable, and allows for ease of movement.

REGULATIONS

The Spring Turkey Season in New York State runs from May 1 to May 31, and hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until noon. Hunters must possess a hunting license and valid turkey tag. The season limit is two bearded-turkeys, and only one bird may be taken per day. Immediately after taking a turkey, the hunter must fill out the appropriate carcass tag and report the harvest within seven days via phone (1-866-GAMERPT) or internet (www.dec.ny.gov).

SAFETY

Hunting accidents are rare, but when one occurs in the turkey woods the likely cause is one hunter mistaking another hunter for a turkey or when a gun is mishandled and accidentally discharges causing harm to the handler or someone nearby. Such incidents are preventable, though, by using common sense, by following some guidelines for safe turkey hunting, and by practicing the basics of firearm safety.

Since red, white, and blue are colors of spring gobblers, safe hunting calls for hunters to avoid wearing those colors. When setting up, hunters are advised to select a spot with good visibility and with back protection such as a tree that is wider than the shoulders and taller than the head. If another hunter approaches your set up, avoid making any motions and speak out in a loud voice to alert the hunter of you presence.

Also, turkey hunters should always avoid the temptation to sneak up on a bird for a shot. For one thing, you may be moving in on another hunter’s calling and set up. From a practical perspective, a turkey would likely spot your movement before you got close enough for a shot anyway.

Common sense calls for spring hunters to always positively identify their target as a bearded turkey and to always avoid shooting at sound or movement. From both a safety and ethical perspective, avoid encroaching upon another hunter who is already in the area or who is already working a bird.

The basics of firearm safety hold true for all shooting and hunting situations, and the first fundamental is to always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Also, firearms should be treated as if they are loaded. When shooting, it is critical that the shooter be sure of his target and what is in front of and beyond that accurately-identified target. In addition, hunters are reminded to avoid running, jumping, or climbing with a loaded firearm.

Outdoors Calendar

Today: 2015-16 Fishing Regulations Guides are available at license-issuing agents.

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

Friday: Spring Turkey Season opens in New York State.

Saturday: Northern pike, walleye, and pickerel seasons open in New York State.

May 14-17: Henderson Harbor Spring Classic Fishing Derby (Henchen Marina at 938-5313).

May 16: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation CNY Chapter’s Annual Banquet in Cicero (Dan at 882-8694).

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Hooks and Antlers: Bear take in Northern Zone is ‘typical’ in 2014

First published: April 19, 2015 at 12:50 am
Last modified: April 19, 2015 at 12:50 am

Northern Zone hunters harvested 518 black bears during the 2014 seasons, and that number marks a 36 percent increase over the 2013 take of 380 bears. Still, the 2014 take was right in line with the five-year average (2009-2013) kill of 519 bears and the historic average (1991-2000) harvest of 515 bears.

HARVESTS BY SEASON

Available food sources typically affect whether Northern Zone hunters shoot more bears during the Early Season or the Regular Season. For example, hunters took 291 bears during this past year’s Early Season and 84 bears in that season in 2013 while the 2014 Regular Season saw 159 bears shot and the 2013 Regular Season accounted for 246 kills. Bow hunters took 26 bears in 2014, an increase over the previous year’s take of 15 bears; muzzleloaders shot 42 bears last year, an increase over the 2013 harvest of 35 bears.

INTERESTING BEAR FACTS

The largest bear taken in the state in 2014 had a dressed weight of 646 pounds, and that bear was taken during the Regular Season in the Town of Wells in Hamilton County. Across the state, hunters harvested one bear per 29 square miles of land.

Hunters reported 24 tagged bears, and 16 of those animals had been tagged in New York for a variety of reasons such as research, relocated urban bears, nuisance responses, or released rehabilitated bears. Of the remaining tagged bears, three were originally tagged in Pennsylvania, two in New Jersey, and one in Massachusetts.

Because of black bears expanding their range in the state, DEC opened new areas to hunting in 2014, and two of those areas were Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 6A and 6G, units that border the St. Lawrence River and the eastern basin of Lake Ontario. Hunters in WMU 6A shot seven bears while WMU 6G hunters shot a single bear.

TAKE BY WMU

The top-producing WMUs this past season were 5H, 6C, 6J, and 6F. Hunters in 5H shot 162 bears, and that WMU is a large Adirondack one extending across Herkimer and Hamilton counties and into portions of Oneida and Fulton to the west and Essex and Warren to the east. WMU 6C extends across central St. Lawrence County and into a portion of Lewis to the west and Franklin to the east. Hunters in 6C harvested 84 bears. WMU 6J is that section of the Adirondacks where the counties of St. Lawrence, Lewis, Herkimer, and Hamilton merge, and hunters here accounted for the taking of 81 bears. WMU 6F consists of land in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, an area where hunters killed 47 bears in 2014.

COUNTIES AND TOWNSHIPS

St. Lawrence and Lewis counties were the Northern Zone leaders with respective takes of 99 and 85 bears last year.

Other counties and their harvests were Herkimer (61), Hamilton (51), Essex (35), Franklin (31), Clinton (30), Warren (29), and Jefferson (23).

Hunters in St. Lawrence shot 51 bears in the Early Season, 35 bears in the Regular Season, four in Bow Season, and nine in Muzzleloader Season. The top-producing townships were Parishville (11), Pitcairn (11), Hermon (10), Clare (10), and Hopkinton (9). Hunters in Lewis took 63 bears in the Early Season, 14 in the Regular Season, five in Bow Season, and three in Muzzleloader Season. The leading towns were Croghan (24), Greig (15), Watson (15), Diana (9), and Lyonsdale (9). Actually, more bears were killed in the Town of Croghan than in any other township across the Northern Zone.

Franklin County hunters took 20 bears in Early Season, 10 in Regular Season, none in Bow Season, and one in Muzzleloader Season. The leading towns were Bellmont (6), Waverly (6), and Malone (5). In Jefferson County, hunters shot 17 bears in Early Season, five in the Regular Season, one in Bow Season, and none in Muzzleloader Season. Wilna and Antwerp were the leading towns with kills of 12 and seven bears respectively.

RODS AND REELS FOR YOUTH

The St. Lawrence River Walleye Association is holding a Rod and Reel Collection on Saturday, April 25 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Corky’s Collision on East Orvis St. in Massena. Collected items will be used to benefit local youths who are without rods and reels. Organizers ask that any donated rod or reel be in good-working order. For more information or pick-up, call 212-7410.

Outdoors calendar

Monday: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

April 25: Greater Odgensburg Chamber of Commerce’s Sportsman Show at Lockwood Civic Center (393-3620).

April 25: SLRWA Rod and Reel Collection for youths who lack gear (212-7410).

April 25-26: Youth Wild Turkey Hunt Weekend.

April 27: Trap and Skeet Shooting at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club at 5:30 p.m.

May 1: Spring Turkey Season opens in New York State.

May 2: Northern pike, walleye, and pickerel seasons open in New York State.

May 14-17: Henderson Harbor Spring Classic Fishing Derby (Henchen Marina at 938-5313).

May 16: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation CNY Chapter’s Annual Banquet in Cicero (Dan at 882-8694).

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Hooks and Antlers: April is prime month to pursue steelhead on Salmon River

First published: April 12, 2015 at 1:02 am
Last modified: April 12, 2015 at 1:02 am

The Salmon River offers world-class fishing for salmon and steelhead, and there is no better month to pursue steelhead than April. This month marks spawning time, a time when the river sees its highest number fish for the year.

The steelhead will be in one of three stages: pre-spawn, actively laying, or post-spawn. While fish can be caught in any of the three stages, those that are finished spawning become active feeders and are the easiest to catch. Post-spawn steelhead are also called drop-back fish because they work their way back to Lake Ontario.

PLACES TO FISH

The Salmon River has 12 or so miles of fishable water for steelhead, but certain locations can get crowded as anglers, too, invade the river in April. When fishing conditions do get a bit tight, anglers are reminded to practice common courtesy.

Ten miles of river are free to fish, and a sensible strategy for those unfamiliar with the river is to stop at a local store and pick up a map. Such maps will identify access points, adjacent roads, bridges, popular fishing pools, and more. Expect a fair number of fellow anglers at any of the easy-to-access sites.

Two free-to-fish sections are limited to fly-fishing only, and tackle is restricted to traditional fly rod, fly reel, fly line, and artificial fly. The Lower Fly Section extends from the County Route 52 Bridge in Altmar upstream 0.25 mile to the marked boundary at Beaverdam Brook.

The Upper Fly Section extends from a marked boundary upstream of the NYS Fish Hatchery property to a marked boundary 0.6 mile upstream at the Lighthouse Hill Reservoir tailrace. For additional regulations on the fly-fishing sections, consult the current regulations guide.

The Douglaston Salmon Run covers two miles of the Salmon River, and this is a pay-to-fish section. Because the number of anglers along this stretch is controlled, conditions are typically less crowded. For daily and seasonal rates, check out the Douglaston website at www.douglastonsalmonrun.com. This is a worthwhile site for anglers along any stretch of river because the site is updated daily with information on fish activity, water conditions, angler success, angling techniques, and more.

STEELHEAD TECHNIQUES

Both spin fishers and fly fishers take their fair share of steelhead along the river. Spin fishers cast and retrieve various spoons or spinners, and they also drift eggs, beads, or Berkley-type trout worms with the current flow.

Fly anglers, too, work their flies or eggs with the natural current flow. The use of floats has become extremely popular among anglers who present their offering in the current flow. No matter which technique an angler uses, he or she wants to get the offering near bottom for the best results. Too, anglers are advised to practice stealth in approaching fish-holding areas.

DRIFT BOAT FISHING

The more water an angler covers, the more likely he is to improve his steelhead success. Thus, drift-boat fishing is an ideal way to pursue steelhead on the Salmon River. I had such an opportunity last spring when Leo Maloney, editor of Adirondack Outdoors, and I hooked up with Captain Chris Mulpagano of Get the Net guide service.

We launched at the Compactor Pool in early morning, and fished public waters downstream from there. Our basic technique was casting out a brightly-colored bead situated above a No. 6 hook and letting the offering drift with the current flow. The set-up also included several split shot to keep the bead down and a float to aid in recognizing takes by a fish.

Mulpagano’s intimate knowledge of the river and his expert boat handling put us on more steelhead than any pair of anglers deserves to catch and release in a day. Also, the catch included several brown trout and native rainbows. The veteran guide also offers trips for salmon, brown trout, and walleye. For more information, call 387-2623 (home) or 430-7512 (cell).

Outdoors Calendar

Today-May 1: Those on vessels under 21 feet must wear PFDs.

April 18: SLC Trappers Association’s Annual Sportsmen Recognition Dinner (528-2953 or 389-5096).

April 25-26: Youth Wild Turkey Hunt Weekend.

May 1: Spring Turkey Season opens in New York state.

May 2: Northern pike, walleye, and pickeral seasons open in New York state.

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Hooks and Antlers: Wounded Warrior Turkey Hunt seeks local support

First published: April 05, 2015 at 1:14 am
Last modified: April 05, 2015 at 1:14 am
WILD HUNT - Joel Schneller of Heuvelton took this antelope during a Wounded Warrior Hunt in New Mexico. (Photo Provided)

In the fall of 2013, Joel Schneller received a phone call from Mike Dimmer, a soldier stationed at Fort Drum. Dimmer was looking for places to hunt, and that interest led him to call Schneller who was an army veteran, skilled hunter, and Environmental Conservation Officer living in Heuvelton.

The pair spent several evenings hunting raccoons, and when Dimmer called this past fall, Schneller assumed the wounded Iraqi veteran was looking for another hunting trip. Instead, the Alabama resident invited Schneller to participate in a New Mexico antelope hunt arranged for wounded warriors.

MISSISSIPPI TURKEY HUNT

In addition to the antelope hunt, Schneller was invited to participate in a wounded warrior turkey hunt in Mississippi last month. Joining him on that hunt was Harold Cole, a Vietnam veteran from Rosie.

As the St. Lawrence County duo approached Crystal Springs, the host community for the hunt, they passed a sign for Hazlehurst, and that name rang a bell for Cole. When Cole went to Vietnam in 1970 as a 19-year-old soldier, he met Hal Granger of Hazlehurst, and the two became friends. That friendship stemmed from their similar interests in hunting and fishing.

When hunt organizers learned of Cole’s relationship with Granger, they sought out the Mississippi veteran and arranged for a meeting of the two soldiers who hadn’t seen each other in 45 years. That encounter left the pair overcome with emotion, and they have since made plans to do some hunting and fishing together.

JEEP SULLIVAN’S

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

Both the antelope and turkey hunts were set up by Jeep Sullivan’s Outdoor Adventures, Inc. of Bonifay, Fla. Operated by Jeep Sullivan, Outdoor Adventures arranges wounded warrior trips at no cost to the participants. Sullivan said, “We have to give back to these veterans. By the grace of God, these are the guys that let us live the lives we have here.”

Jeep Sullivan’s Outdoor Adventures is able to offer the no-cost trips for wounded warriors due in large part through donations from sponsors and benefactors. As a 501(c)(3) corporation, they accept contributions (including in-kind donations), and all donations are tax exempt for the given year. For more information on Jeep Sullivan’s Outdoor Adventures, visit www.JeepSullivan.com.

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY WOUNDED WARRIOR HUNT

During his participation in the hunts, Schneller said to Dimmer, who arranges wounded warrior outings with Jeep Sullivan, “Is there anything I can do to help your efforts?” Hearing the offer, Dimmer told Schneller that if he could get places to hunt, places to stay, and meals; Outdoor Adventures would take care of transportation and license costs for five wounded warriors from across the country. And so, a Wounded Warrior Turkey Hunt will take place in St. Lawrence County during the last week of May.

CURRENT SUPPORT

The hunt has received significant support to date as Nick McNamara of Basswood Lodge in Rensselaer Falls has offered lodging, and Gilbert Green’s Country Club in Heuvelton is donating a meal. New York Conservation Officers Association has offered financial support while individuals assisting in the hunt include Matt Lochner, ECO Lieutenant from DEC Region 8; Jason Pollack, owner of Dual Game Calls and Pennsylvania state-champion caller; Nick McNamara of Basswood Lodge; and Eric Brunet of Ogdensburg.

LOCAL SUPPORT NEEDED

Local organizers continue to seek support for meals. Also, organizers want to present the participants with special North Country gifts such as maple syrup. Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible contribution can do so at the Jeep Sullivan Outdoor Adventures account at Community Bank, 78 State St., Heuvelton, NY 13654 (344-2421). For other donations or more information, contact Laura Pirie at 854-4808.

Outdoors Calendar

Today-May 1: Those on vessels under 21 feet must wear PFDs.

Wednesday: Deadline for commenting on 2015 waterfowl season dates (mcnamara624@yahoo.com).

April 18: SLC Trappers Association’s Annual Sportsmen Recognition Dinner (528-2953 or 389-5096).

April 25-26: Youth Wild Turkey Hunt Weekend.

May 1: Spring Turkey Season opens in New York state.

May 2: Northern Pike, Walleye, and Pickeral seasons open in New York State.

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Hooks and Antlers: Melting ice means yellow gold rush for perch anglers

First published: March 29, 2015 at 1:54 am
Last modified: March 29, 2015 at 1:54 am
TAKING AIM - Frank Barr gets help from his uncle to sight in his bow during a session of the Kids Archery League at the St. Lawrence Sportsmen’s Club range. (Provided Photo)

Yellow perch thrive in many area waters, and ice out brings fantastic fishing for what is arguably the best tasting of all freshwater fishes. In fact, the delicious taste of perch has earned this species the nickname “yellow gold.”

Spawning

After ice-out in April when water temperatures move into the upper forties, yellow perch migrate to shallow bays and tributaries to spawn. Under the cover of darkness, perch seek out marshy areas and flats with vegetation where females deposit gelatinous strands of eggs on cattails, reeds, brush, or weeds.

Perch, unlike smallmouth and largemouth bass, do not protect their nests, but for the most part, these fish remain in the general vicinity of their spawning through the month of May.

From the angler’s perspective, this behavior translates to large numbers of fish concentrated in relatively small, near-shore areas, making yellow perch accessible to both shore and boat anglers for a period of six weeks or so.

Locating Spring Perch

Like other times of the year, spring finds yellow perch travelling in schools. This time of the year, however, offers advantages for the angler as schools are large and close to shore. When attempting to locate perch, fishers should think weedy bays and any nearby structures or edges.

Usually, the best spot in a spawning bay is the drop off at the edge of weedy flat. If that doesn’t produce, anglers should check out both the shallow water and the deep water adjacent to the drop off.

A good starting point for deciding where to pursue spring perch is to visit a local bait shop because such shops are in daily contact with anglers.

Once on the water, clusters of boats clearly give away the location of fish. When approaching a group of boats, do two things. One is to respect the space of other anglers and to fish a reasonable distance from them, and the other is to determine if they are catching fish on a drop off, weed line, etc., and then set up accordingly.

Clusters of shore anglers also signal good perch spots. Again, avoid “crowding” such fishers. Even though shore anglers are limited in their mobility, they, too, should move as much as their situation allows.

If moving around is not an option, the good news is that perch are roamers that routinely move in and out of areas, so patience can have its rewards.

Since perch are roamers, though, anglers should not always expect to catch fish where they were biting yesterday or even an hour ago. Certainly such spots must be checked, but continually stay on the move to locate an active school.

Basic Technique

Yellow perch are bottom-oriented so anglers need to present their offerings close to bottom. Also, perch generally prefer smaller offerings over larger ones. Since perch are not finicky feeders, they will hit both artificial offerings and live baits. If the fish do show a preference, it is usually just a mild one.

The most popular artificial offering is a tube jig or a twister-tipped jig. Productive colors include white, yellow, green and chartreuse.

Jigs tipped with maggots or piece of crawler see increased strikes because these tippings add both scent and texture, and even though perch are not fussy eaters, they will quickly expel an unappealing offering. Lively minnows and fresh crawler-pieces are the top choices of bait anglers.

During the spring, perch may feed throughout the day, but as a general rule the best activity occurs in early morning and early evening as it does during other times of the year. No matter when you decide to head to the water for some spring perch fishing, though, be sure to take a young angler along.

Perch Regulations

The statewide regulations for yellow perch allow for year-round angling, and the daily limit is 50 fish of any size. For the waters in Jefferson County, however, special regulations call for no daily limit on yellow perch so anglers are permitted to keep any number they desire. Likewise, the regulations for the Great Lakes and its tributaries allow anglers to keep any number of perch in Jefferson County.

Outdoors Calendar

Today-May 1—Those on vessels under 21’ must wear PFDs.

Tuesday—DEC public meeting on bass seasons at Dulles State Office Building, Watertown at 7 p.m.

April 1—New fishing regulations take effect.

April 1—Trout season opens.

April 8—Deadline for commenting on 2015 waterfowl season dates (mcnamara624@yahoo.com).

April 18—SLC Trappers Association’s Annual Sportsmen Recognition Dinner (528-2953 or 389-5096).

April 25-26—Youth Wild Turkey Hunt Weekend.

May 1—Spting Turkey Season opens in New York State.

May 2—Northern pike, walleye, and pickeral seasons open in New York State.

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State’s new freshwater fishing regulations take effect April 1

First published: March 15, 2015 at 1:19 am
Last modified: March 15, 2015 at 1:19 am

Changes in the state’s freshwater fishing regulations typically occur every two years at which time DEC issues a new regulations guide.

DEC recently adopted dozens of rule changes, and those new regulations will take effect on April 1, 2015. The new regulations guide will be available sometime in March.

Today’s column takes a look at some of the regulation changes, but a full text of those changes is available at DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov where you will have to type “Recently Adopted (Previous Twelve Months)” into the site’s search guide.

Muskellunge

The previous statewide regulations for muskellunge called for a 30-inch minimum-length requirement although that requirement was 40 inches for Chautauqua Lake and the rivers and streams in St. Lawrence County. The new regulation sets the statewide minimum length requirement for muskellunge at 40 inches.

Also, the traditional muskellunge season has always opened on the third Saturday in June, but the new statewide regulation calls for opening the season three weeks earlier on the last Saturday in May.

The minimum length requirement for muskellunge in the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River has been increased from 48 inches to 54 inches. That 54-inch requirement has been in effect for Lake Erie and its tributaries.

While the statewide regulations call for a muskellunge opener on the last Saturday in May, the St. Lawrence River, as well as the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, will continue to open on the traditional third Saturday in June.

Trout and salmon

Special regulations for trout are in effect more than any other species, which is understandable due to the variety of trout species, trout waters, and angler interests. Thus, many of the new trout regulations deal with minimum size, daily creel limits, season dates, and angling methods.

One regulation calls for a catch-and-release season for trout on sections of the Salmon River in Franklin County while other regulations eliminate the previous special regulations that allowed for catch-and-release-only fishing on Cold Brook and the West Branch of St. Regis River in St. Lawrence County.

Prior statewide regulations allowed for a daily limit of five trout (brook, brown, rainbow, and splake) of any size while the new regulation establishes a special regulation of a daily creel limit of five fish with no more than two fish longer than 12 inches for some waters in Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, and St. Lawrence counties.

For Star Lake and Trout Lake in St. Lawrence County, trout regulations have been modified to increase the minimum size limit to 12 inches and to reduce the daily creel limit to three. Also, year-round angling will be allowed for landlocked salmon on Star Lake, and ice fishing will be permitted.

New regulations also establish an open year-round trout season for St. Lawrence County’s Sylvia Lake, with a 12-inch minimum size limit and three-fish daily creel limit, and with ice fishing permitted. Too, Millsite Lake in Jefferson County will have a year-round season with a 12-inch minimum and daily limit of three fish for both trout and landlocked salmon.

Gear and use of gear

To streamline what devices may be used for ice fishing, a new regulation modifies the statewide regulation to now allow an angler to use a total of seven ice fishing devices/lines that may include any combination of tip-ups, jig poles, tip-downs, etc. Ice anglers on Lake Champlain are allowed to use a total of 15 devices.

Many gear-related changes deal with Lake Ontario tributaries. One regulation permits the use of floating lures with multiple hooks with multiple hook points on all Lake Ontario tributaries with the exception of the Salmon River. A second regulation clarifies the current regulation for the Great Lakes tributaries restricting the use of hooks with added weight was not intended to ban the use of small jigs, while a third clarifies that the use of flies with up to two hook points is legal on all Great Lake tributaries.

Also, new regulations expand the prohibition of weight added to the line, leader, swivels, artificial fly or lures to all Lake Ontario tributaries (i.e. beyond a limited group of tributaries) from September 1 through March 31 of the following year. Also, a new regulation calls for replacing the Lake Ontario tributary regulations for St. Lawrence River tributaries in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties with the statewide terminal tackle restrictions.

Outdoors Calendar

Today: Ice shanties must be removed from NYS waters.

Today: Cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare seasons close in Northern Zone.

Saturday-Sunday: Parishville Sportsmen’s Gun Show at Fire Hall (265-5944; 265-2922).

March 24: SLC Fisheries Board hosts DEC public meeting on bass seasons at VFW Post, Canton at 7 p.m.

March 31: DEC public meeting on bass seasons at Dulles State Office Building, Watertown at 7 p.m.

April 1: New fishing regulations take effect.

April 1: Trout season opens.

April 25: Greater Ogdensburg Chamber hosts Sportsmen’s Show at Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad Building.

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