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Hunters set their sights on woodchucks

Saturday, June 07, 2014 - Updated: 4:08 AM


Now that the spring turkey hunting season is a thing of the past and hunters have gone through the necessary chore of cleaning their scattergun's what is there for enthusiastic sportsmen to do?

Trout and walleye fishing is one option, but when water temperatures warm even hungry trout get lethargic. And, even if you do find a decent pool with fish, there's a good chance someone will be swimming or bathing in it. Walleye fishermen can always go deep for marbleye's and bass fishermen can play catch and release with largemouth and smallmouth bass until the June 21 opener for that species. But with the exception of hunting woodchucks there isn't much a hunter can do until fall.

Also known as a groundhog or pasture pig the woodchuck can be found in every corner of the state; but unlike deer and squirrels that are enjoyable to watch, woodchucks are generally regarded as a pest with homeowners and landowners alike taking all sought of measures to get rid of them.

In suburbia these animals are generally removed by licensed nuisance animal control agents, but in rural areas they're usually dispatched by gun.

Found in fields and farmlands, where the combination of food and cover provides satisfactory habitat, the first step to having a successful woodchuck hunt is access, which in most cases is easily obtainable. This is especially true on farmland where these critters feeding and burrowing habits can cause a significant amount of damage.

Used for mating, raising young, hibernating and escaping danger burrows are commonly located in fields and pastures and are easily identifiable by a large mound of dirt at the entrance -- which the resident rodent frequently sits atop of to look for danger.

Considered a varmint, woodchucks can be hunted between hibernation periods with an unlimited bag limit. But hunters must possess a valid New York small game hunting license, and it is always wise to check with the landowner about restrictions.

Since woodchucks primarily feed in the early morning and evening, the best time to hunt these critters is between sunup and 9 a.m. and again from 6-8 p.m. Not that's not to say they can't be hunted throughout the day. When not feeding, they sometimes bask in the sun during the warmest periods of the day.

They often stand up on their hind legs to search their surroundings and provided they're not alarmed this offers the best opportunity for a shot. They are however easily spooked and will quickly run for the nearest hole if it senses anything out of the ordinary.

That's why complete camouflage is a must. Think of it as turkey hunting with a rifle; but unlike turkey hunting, shots are generally taken at long distances - some at 200 yards or more.

While some hunters take afield with big game calibers such as .30-06 and .308; preferred calibers include: .22 LR, .22 Hornet, .222, .22-250, .223 .243 or 17HMR -- with or without a scope.

Shotguns can also be used, but you're going to need a lot of patience to get close enough for a quick, clean kill. Much the same as turkey hunting shotgun shooting distance should be within 30 yards preferably using a 12 gauge loaded with No. 4 or No. 5 shot. Getting close is even tougher for archers since bowmen can't shoot from a prone position.

If you're going to crawl around in fields, make sure you protect yourself from ticks by spraying your clothing with insect repellent -- preferably one that contains permethrin. Just remember to keep this chemical off your skin.

Since it supposedly kills ticks on contact, it's the best product you can use to avoid the little buggers.

You should also spray your skin with a repellent that contains Deet. Studies have shown that as long as concentrations of Deet are 30 percent or less the chemical is safe, even for children and women who are pregnant. It is recommended to keep the chemical away from your eyes, regardless of the concentration.

On the fishing front

Dave Allen of Dave's Bait Shop in Northville (518-863-8318) tells us boaters are catching both walleye and brown trout trolling planner boards on Sacandaga Lake. Unfortunately when he left the message, he didn't say what lure fishermen were using; but after checking with former Amsterdam Recorder outdoor scribe Ron Kolodziej -- who for many years ran a charter service on the big water -- I learned his favorite lure was a Junior ThunderStick, with a metallic Rainbow Trout color pattern during the day and a Purple Scale just as the sun went down.

There are a whole slew of shallow and deep diving lures you can use but as Allen pointed out in his message, while most of the walleye have been throwbacks, those that have been caught in deeper waters have been keepers. Dave also wanted to remind area anglers about his month-long fishing contest that pays down to four spots for pike, walleye, trout as well as white and yellow perch and come June 21, black bass. The entry fee is $10.

Meanwhile Ryan Lewis of Bob Bait and Tackle in Corinth (518-654-9391) reports that just about everyone who tosses a line into the Kayaderosseras Creek have been catching some hefty brown trout, while several big pike have been pulled out of the Hudson River between Corinth and Hadley.

It's touch and go along the Salmon River in Pulaski. According to Dave Wood of Woody's Tackle (315-298-2378) anglers seem to be looking far and wide for pods of fish, but steelhead are the most active as they are making their way out of the rivers and streams back into the lake with a few salmon being taken in deeper water.

Fly fishermen are focusing on the Upper Fly Zone in hopes of catching an Atlantic, Skamania or Brown Trout. In the lower end of the river anglers are picking up smallmouth bass in the deep holes such as Papermill, Longbridge and Black Hole.

Proposed anti-gun legislation expected to pass state Assembly

On Tuesday June 3, the state Assembly approved bills 3244-A (Microstamping) and 3941-A (Safe Storage).

The bills now go to the Assembly Codes committee where quick passage is expected. The bills then go to the floor for a vote and since Democrats outnumber Republicans 107 to 43 both bills should easily make it through despite a vigorous debate by Assemblymen Marc Butler, Steve McLaughlin and others who understand the impact these bills will have on gunowners, gun manufacturers and ultimately the state economy.

Early this year both Smith and Wesson and Sturm Ruger announced that rather than try to comply with a California law that requires some handguns to have technology that imprints a tiny stamp on the bullet so it can be traced back to the gun they will stop selling certain firearms in the Golden State stating "the technology is unworkable in its present form and can actually impair a gun's performance."

In a press release addressing the company position S&W wrote: "Smith & Wesson does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms. A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes. The microstamping mandate and the company's unwillingness to adopt this so-called technology will result in a diminishing number of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistols available for purchase by California residents."

"This is the latest attempt to undermine the Second Amendment in California by politicians with little to no knowledge of firearms, who seek to impose their liberal values upon those who choose to protect their families with the constitutional right to own a handgun," said Chuck Michel, West Coast Counsel for the National Rifle Association, an Adjunct Professor at Chapman University and author of the book "California Gun Laws."

Now just because these bills pass the assembly doesn't mean they automatically become law. They still have to be pass by the state Senate, and according to New York State Rifle and Pistol Association president Tom King, the only hope gunowners have to stop this onerous legislation lies in Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos power to stop bills from coming to the floor for a vote. To that end King is urging gunowners and others who feel these bills are just another attempt to keep firearms out of the hands of law abiding citizens to call your Senator and urge him or her to impress upon Skelos your outrage at this draconian legislation and consequences to the gunowners should it pass.

To find your Senator visit: .

Outdoor Life to provide grant money

Outdoor Life -- a nation-wide sporting magazine that debuted in 1898 - recently announced the expansion of its Open Country program. Launched in 2012 Open Country takes aim at a critical issue for sportsmen: access to public lands for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. New this year, Outdoor Life will award monetary grants to six grassroots projects making a difference on the issue. For more information visit: .

Outdoor Life plans to highlight six grassroots groups or individuals who are actively working on public land access and/or public land habitat improvement projects. Each of the six projects will be covered this fall in the publication and online with links to fundraising pages, offering Outdoor Life readers the opportunity to assist. Thanks to the support of Outdoor Life's Open Country partner, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, each of the six designated projects will receive a $500 mini-grant.

Applications for Outdoor Life's Open Country Grant Awards program are available at the above website. Grant applications must be received by June 16, 2014.

Crossbow regs are now listed in the State Register

A public comment period regarding hunting with crossbows will be open through July 17. Essentially the document addresses all aspects of where, when, and what species can be hunted. Text of proposed rule and any required statements and analyses may be obtained from: Bryan Swift, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754, (518) 402-8922, or by email at: .

Comments on these regulations should be sent to Swift at the contact info listed above, and New York Crossbow Coalition president Rick McDermott is urging everyone interested in making the crossbow a legal hunting implement to contact Swift as soon as possible. "This is just as important as all of the calls sportsmen made that got us to this point," McDermott.

Be assured the New York Bowhunters will be telling its members to call urging their senator to vote against it, so numbers will matter.

-- Dropping anchor 'til next time


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