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Amsterdam, NY ,


Photo submitted Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds a hefty largemouth bass during the Aug. 23 "Governor's Challenge" on Owasco Lake in Cayuga County.


Hunting preserves open for business

Saturday, August 30, 2014 - Updated: 4:08 AM

Mark my words, by the time you get ready to slip into your pajamas this weekend someone will have said something about how fast summer slipped by. For sure, radio and television newscasters will mention it. You may have even commented on it yourself. That's just the way it is when Labor Day rolls around, even though the autumnal equinox is still three weeks away.

It arrives during the late hours of Sept. 22, and by then, serious trout fishermen will be taking advantage of cooler water temperatures; anglers will be lined up along the Salmon River hoping to get a jump on the early run of Chinook salmon; squirrels will have had three weeks to figure out those orange vested guy's and gal's traipsing through the woods have more than hiking on their mind; the new Sept. 6-21 early bear hunting season the DEC established in nine Southern Tier wildlife management units will have ended; the September Canada goose hunting season will be coming to a close; area youngsters anxious to take part in the Sept. 27-28 Youth Waterfowl Weekend will be counting the days and telephone lines at license shooting preserves will be ringing off the hook as upland bird hunters -- with or without their own bird dog -- begin reserving choice dates for fall and winter hunts.

How do I know this you ask? Because I owned and operated the J.R. Shooting Preserve for more than a decade and you could literally bet the farm it would happen.

I mention this because more than sixty shooting preserves -- or hunting preserves as they are also known -- open across the state on Monday, and while it's still too warm to turn your pooch loose on ringneck pheasant, chukar partridge or quail for any length of time, these pay-for-play facilities provide hunting opportunities amid outstanding cover you can no longer find in the wild.

Despite the DEC's statewide release of some 30,000 pheasants, both hens and the more colorful roosters can be harder to find then the proverbial needle in a haystack. And, while that can frustrate the hunter, one can only imagine how the dog feels.

In any event, there are about a dozen of these facilities within close proximity of everyone who owns a scattergun including, Marshville Wings, 518-673-4470; Stonewall Game Preserve, 518-488-8489; Hull-O Farms, 518-239-6950; Thunder Meadow Shooting Preserve, 518-966-8320; Stuyvesant Outdoor Adventures, 877-261-5889; Austerlitz Club, 518-392-3468; Lidos Game Farm, 518-329-1551; Tompkins Hunting Club, 607-637-4574; R&R Farms, 607-832-4311; Mountain Spring Lodge, 607-538-1838; Mountainview Preserve & Kennels, 607-638-9509 and Fox Hill, 607-638-9410.

Granted, you have to pay in advance for each bird you want to send the dog out to find, but unlike clay targets, you get to eat whatever shoot. Cost varies at each facility, but generally speaking a group of 3-4 hunters can expect to pay $250 or more for a 10 bird pheasant hunt.

Governor's Challenge yields more photos than fish

I received a call from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's communication director Gareth Rhodes last week regarding my invite to the Aug. 23 "Governor's Challenge" -- a fishing competition that along with members of the media, included 15 Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament fishing pros and of course, state and local politicians.

Held on Owasco Lake in Cayuga County, the so-called Challenge was designed to highlight and promote fishing and vacationing opportunities in upstate New York -- or in this case, the Finger Lakes.

I've fished several of the 11 Finger Lakes in Central New York: Owasco, Cayuga, Keuka and Seneca. Of the four, Cayuga and Seneca were the most productive. Now that's not to say the other two lakes -- or the remaining seven I haven't fished -- are not as good. As anyone who has ever dunked a worm or tossed an artificial lure into the water will tell you, the catching part of this sport changes from day to day or within minutes for that matter. That's why they call it fishing.

In any event, I told Rhodes I wasn't going to make it because something else came up. In truth, I didn't want to drive to Auburn for what essentially would become a photo op to boost Cuomo's standing within the sporting community -- even if it did include a "Taste NY" luncheon.

I might have had second thoughts had that luncheon included a couple of bottles of Finger Lakes wine; then again, maybe not. I figure if Cuomo wants to promote tourism through his "NY Open for Fishing and Hunting" initiative, he can start with the Hudson River estuary by directing DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens to roll back the 15-inch size limit the agency imposed on largemouth and smallmouth bass in 2006.

Since that 12-to15-inch size limit was imposed, it has created a negative economic impact throughout that region contributing to the lost of millions of tourism dollars.

Ending the confusion

The DEC recently came out with the official crossbow regulations a narrative that appeared in this space on Aug. 2. But, there seems to be some confusion as to whether a licensed hunter must retake the hunter education class to use a horizontal bow during any of the small game or big game hunting seasons. The answer to that is no -- although for many, that wouldn't be a bad idea.

What it says is that hunters must carry a signed self-certification in the field when hunting with a crossbow as proof of compliance. For those of you who intend to hunt with a crossbow the self-certification certificate can be downloaded from the DEC website at

DEC extends fishing regulations

Due to the new fishing license structure that now runs one year from the date of purchase, the DEC has extended all freshwater fishing regulations through March 31, 2015. I mention this so there is no confusion when you purchase a new fishing license and the licensing agent hands you last year's regulations guide. Also with the discontinuance of the Sportsmen, Super Sportsmen and Conservation licenses a fishing license is now a separate $25 purchase.

A resident one or seven day licenses is also available at $5 and 12 respectively. For non-residents it's $10 and $28.

The new freshwater fishing regulations will take effect April 1, 2015 and a new regulations guide will be available from all licensing agents at that time.

The guide is also available online at, as well as the new free New York Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife mobile app. The app is available for iPhone and Android devices; users can download it for free in the iTunes App Store and the Android Market.

The proposed new regulations will be available for public review and comment beginning in mid-September at

In a somewhat related matter, I recently learned the new Accela electronic licensing system the DEC and many of its 1,100 license agents have been having so much trouble with has had a negative impact on the Conservation Fund to the tune of at least $1million in lost license sales since January. My source went on to say that since the Accela system is hooked up with other state agencies he believes the Conservation Fund should be reimbursed from the General Fund.

Lake Champlain lamprey control set to start

In a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the DEC and Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, aka Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative, six tributaries and three delta areas of Lake Champlain will be treated with lampricides during the months of September and October.

According to scheduling, the DEC will be treating the Boquet, Ausable, Little Ausable, Salmon and the Great Chazy rivers in New York and Lewis Creek in Vermont, beginning with the Boquet River on September 9th.

While trout and salmon populations of the lake are the primary beneficiaries of these efforts, lake sturgeon, walleye, and many other species also benefit from sea lamprey control. Sea lamprey control also generates economic activity by increasing angling opportunities and the time that boaters, anglers, and their families spend in the Lake Champlain area.

Annual sea lamprey assessments continue to show the success of the program where an average of 54 sea lamprey wounds per 100 lake trout and 15 per 100 Atlantic salmon were recorded in 2013. This is down from a high of 99 for lake trout in 2007 and 79 for Atlantic salmon in 2003.

Larval sea lamprey lives in rivers and on deltas for about four years before transforming to their parasitic phase and emigrating to Lake Champlain where their effect on the fishery becomes apparent.

Information on the treatment schedule for each of the treatments, progress reports, updates on treatments, and water use advisories can be obtained by calling 1-888-596-0611.

Duck stamp turns 80

There may not have been any cake or candles to blow out when the Migratory Bird Stamp celebrated its 80th anniversary Aug. 22, but it was certainly a conservation milestone definitely worth talking about.

Since its inception in 1934 the "Duck" stamp have generated more than $800 million and helped secure over 6 million acres of wetland habitat in the U.S., with most of the thanks going to conservation-minded hunters.

However, what few hunters don't know is that the propellant behind that stamp was ignited by the Boone and Crockett Club.

According to B&C Marketing Director Keith Balfourd, it was Boone and Crockett members who in 1927 launched the American Wild Fowlers -- an organization that would later become Ducks Unlimited.

"With partnership from this new organization committed to waterfowl, B&C engineered passage of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929, establishing the federal refuge system. Major funding for waterfowl came in 1934 with the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act," Balfourd said in a prepared statement.

"Duck stamps were one of the key funding mechanisms that brought many waterfowl species from vanishing to flourishing. Other bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species benefited, too," Balfourd continued. He added, "This should be a point of pride for all hunters. It certainly is for Boone and Crockett, whose members played an important part in the history of North American waterfowl, including the duck stamp."

Illustrated by B&C Club member and Nobel Prize-winning political cartoonist Jay Darling, the first duck stamp was sold on Aug. 22, 1934. That first date-of-issue stamp sold for $1 with total sales reaching 635,000. Within five years, annual sales surpassed the $1 million mark and benefits from that conservation movement have continued to grow.

Ducks Unlimited Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt echoed those remarks in a DU press release saying, "The Duck Stamp is one of the most important conservation stories of the past century. The best way to celebrate this 80-year anniversary is to go out and buy a stamp, because 98 cents of every dollar from duck stamp receipts goes to conserve wetlands and associated habitats."

Meanwhile the DU supported bipartisan Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014, which is now under consideration by Congress, would raise the price of the Duck Stamp from $15 to $25.

Dropping anchor 'til next time.

Contact DICK NELSON at


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