By RON KOLODZIEJ
For The Recorder
Where do I begin? This is one of those times of year when everything seems to be happening at once.
In an attempt to bring you up to speed on everything, permit me to go back a few weeks and begin with the Sept. 13 to 16 joint Outdoor Writers Association of America/New York State Outdoor Writers Association Conference in Lake Placid. As I mentioned in a previous column, OWAA conferences are held annually in a variety of nationwide locales to give their national membership a sampling of what other areas have to offer, while NYSOWA generally meets annually at venues within the state. The national organization has visited New York only twice over the years, hitting Rochester in 1948 and Niagara Falls in 1991. The New York State Outdoor Writers Association wisely scheduled its annual conference for Lake Placid during the same time so members of both organizations could benefit from attendance at both conclaves.
Almost 300 outdoor media professionals attended the four-day gathering and many arrived earlier or stayed later to avail themselves of available pre- or post-conference activities. The seminar schedule for Friday, Sept. 13, was a bit looser since many of the attendees were still arriving, but I was scheduled to present a talk on newspaper writing during a mid-afternoon session entitled "Becoming an Outdoors Communicator." It went over well and I'm pleased I was asked to do it.
The following day was jam-packed with interesting seminars and presentations, including an address from the Keynote Speaker, Tim Gallagher, who has authored a book entitled, "Imperial Dreams: Searching for the World's Rarest Bird in the Drug War Zone of Northern Mexico." The subject of his book is his search for the perhaps now-extinct Imperial Woodpecker, arguably the largest woodpecker in the world at two-feet long and which is -- or was -- found only in old growth pine forests in remote stretches of the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of Mexico. The birds' presence hasn't been documented in some time so its survival is doubtful, at best. Incidentally, the Imperial Woodpecker of Mexico is, or was, related to the much smaller Ivory-Billed Woodpecker recently rediscovered in Louisiana.
I enjoyed the author's presentation very much and bought a copy of the book. I heartily recommend it. I'm not an accomplished bird watcher by any stretch of the imagination, but this book reads more like an adventure novel and has all the ingredients of one. The travails and physical challenges he faced were enormous -- including run-ins with narcotics traffickers -- and I found it especially interesting because I trod a few of the same trails he did while I was on my Gould's turkey hunt in those same mountains a decade ago, though the circumstances weren't quite as bad then as they've become more recently. I guarantee you'll enjoy this book, whether you're a birder or not. It has something for everyone.
After a number of other interesting presentations, including a DEMO Day at the Adirondack Loj, attendees visited the North Elba Show Grounds for a delicious repast and a simulation of a helicopter rescue by Forest Rangers and the NY State Police. The Environmental Conservation Police also demonstrated the use of K-9 dogs in enforcement actions.
The following day, we enjoyed a presentation by DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens and I had the opportunity to speak with him at a round-table discussion. I'll save a description of that chat for a future column.
Then, on Sunday, our schedule included dinner and a visit to the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. I last visited there several years ago and can say that it certainly has grown bigger and better in the intervening years.
Monday included a Shooting Day at Heaven Hill Farm and additional seminars as well as the awards presentations, the annual business meeting of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association and the formal closing banquet.
There's a lot more to tell about the joint conference, but I'll have to leave some of those items for a future column or two.
BRUINS & TURKEYS
The early bear season is now open and the northern zone early bow season opened yesterday, Sept. 27. The Department of Environmental Conservation expects hunters to have a banner year on New York State's No. 1 big trophy animal. Bruin populations are way up, so much so that in some areas they're reached nuisance levels. It's hoped the upcoming season, coupled with the early season, will help reduce the bear population to more manageable levels. Right now, bruins are wandering the hinterlands looking for anything edible and trying to fatten up prior to their winter nap. That should be good news for hunters. Last season, the northern zone gave up a total of 606 bruins, 386 of them during the early season, 39 during the bowhunting season, 49 during the muzzleloader season and 132 during the regular big game season. Statewide, hunters took 1,337 black bears last year.
High populations are not so, however, for turkeys. Turkey populations are low throughout the state and unless we have a mild winter we may have a few problems getting our gobblers next spring. Time will tell but for the moment, populations are low and that doesn't bode well for the spring season. The Farmer's Almanac predicts a cold, snowy winter and if that comes to pass, that's bad news for both the deer and turkey populations.
A Youth Pheasant Hunt is scheduled for today in the Tribes Hill/Fultonville area and it's probably too late for you to visit that hut -- but you should know about it, anyway. The event is being sponsored by the Montgomery County Republican Club and you can get more information on the results of the hunt in next week's column.
Tomorrow, the Canajoharie Forest, Fish & Game Club will host a Youth Pheasant Hunt at its club grounds.
I'm certain you don't need any reminders for this, but on Tuesday, Oct. 1, the statewide coyote hunting season opens -- as does the early bowhunting season for deer & bear (where permitted) in the southern zone. Also, the cottontail rabbit season opens statewide; the varying hare season opens in the northern zone; the pheasant season opens in the eastern half of NYS; the fall turkey season opens in the southern and northern zones; and, the ruffed grouse (partridge) season opens in the southern and western zones. In any event, all those dates are included in the calendar that accompanies this column.
NEW STORE TO OPEN SOON
In the event you're interested, the new BASS Pro Shop store in Utica's Riverside Mall will open for business on Wednesday, Oct. 9 and will feature an Adirondack ambience. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new store will begin at 6 p.m.that evening
Hand-painted murals wrap the store's interior and depict familiar scenes of the region. One gets the sense of traveling through upstate New York landscape's as the murals transport the viewer through a series of panoramic vistasâ all beautifully replicated with the stroke of an artist's brush.Through the use of special lighting techniques, the murals take on a living, breathing quality.
This 60,000 square foot "outpost store" is the firm's second store in the state, the first being the 85,000 square foot store in Auburn. They join some 77 stores the firm currently operates, including three in Canada.
The store has hired approximately 200 associates from the Utica area that have a passion for the outdoors so customers can depend on local experts to help answer their questions. It will also offer free outdoor skills workshops for adults, kids and families that will help maximize outdoor fun by teaching new skills and improving existing ones.
A special Evening for Conservation to help benefit area conservation groups will take place the night before the official grand opening. This exciting, celebrity-packed event is free and open to the public. Information regarding this event will be available soon.
Today is National Hunting and Fishing Day. In 1972, Pres. Richard M. Nixon signed a special proclamation designating the fourth Saturday in September as National Hunting and Fishing Day. This annual special day celebrates the role outdoorsmen and women have played in conserving and improving the country's natural resources, including their contribution of over $30 billion over the years in special taxes on various sporting goods items as well as countless hours of volunteer work spent on habitat improvement and other related projects.
Legendary angler and tournament competitor Bill Dance is the Honorary Chairman of this year's National Hunting and Fishing Day. He joins an elite group of entertainers, sports figures and others that have served as honorary chairs, including Hank Williams, Jr., Travis Tritt, Tracy Byrd, Jeff Foxworthy, Jay Novacek, Robert Urich, Wade Boggs, Ward Burton, Arnold Palmer, Terry Bradshaw, the USA Olympic Shooting Team, Tony Stewart and T. Boone Pickens.