Big Birds Keep ECO’s Busy – Onondaga County, NY

ECO Damrath untangling fishing line from the great blue heron

Injured Bald Eagle from Cross Lake. NYSDEC Photo

  On July 6, Lt. Dave McShane and ECO Paul Sherman responded to a report of an injured Bald Eagle on an undeveloped island on Cross Lake. The eagle had been spotted by kayakers unable to provide specific information on the location of the raptor.

The two officers searched the island, but failed to locate the bird. The following day, DEC received additional reports of eagle sightings with detailed location information. ECOs Don Damrath and Mark Colesante responded and searched again, eventually spotting the injured eagle in a blown-down tree.

Approaching cautiously, ECO Damrath persuaded the eagle into a cage. The injured eagle, a two-year-old female, was taken to a raptor rehabilitator where it was determined the bird likely had a broken left wrist. The eagle was transported to the Cornell University Wildlife Health Center for X-rays and further evaluation.

ECO Damrath untangling fishing line from the great blue heron

On July 9, ECO Damrath was dispatched to the Seneca River Dam in Baldwinsville after receiving reports of an injured great blue heron. ECO Damrath arrived to find the bird entangled in monofilament fishing line after going for the bait being used by a 14-year-old fisherman. Moving quickly to prevent additional injury as the line tightened around the bird’s body, the ECO freed the bird from hook and line. The bird immediately flew off.

The young fisherman’s mother thanked ECO Damrath for his assistance and shared her son’s desire to become an Environmental Conservation Police Officer when he grows up.

That’s No Coyote! St. Lawrence County, New York

Coyote hunter lied to fish and wildlife law enforcement officer when a deer was taken out of season in New York State.

On March 26, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Scott Atwood investigated a complaint of a deer being taken out of season in the town of Clifton.

When the officer arrived at a camp described in the complaint, he found fresh blood, drag marks, deer hair, and a pickup truck stuck in the snow at an adjacent camp. A search of the area determined the location of where the deer had been shot. Drag marks led to a small pond where the ECO found a fresh gut pile. ECO Atwood received a phone call from the truck’s owner.

Initially, the man attempted to use a bogus story as to how the deer was killed. ECO Atwood advised the man he had evidence to prove otherwise and gave the subject a second opportunity to tell the truth. The man stated that while he and a friend were coyote hunting, he saw an animal out in a field adjacent to his coyote caller.

Excited to kill his first coyote, the subject took aim using only the moonlight, believing the animal was a coyote. After walking out to the field to where the animal went down, the subject realized it was a doe deer.

Afraid of getting in trouble, the subject chose to gut the deer and keep it. The deer was hidden in the garage at the camp until his return. ECO Atwood charged the shooter with taking deer during the closed season, killing deer except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife law and illegal possession of protected wildlife.

The man’s friend was issued a written warning for illegal possession of wildlife. The man’s gun and the deer were seized, and the deer was brought to a butcher shop where it was donated to the Helping Hands of Hannawa, which provides meals to the local community. 

About NYSDEC: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2017, the 301 ECOs across New York State responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for violations and crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations. If you witness an environmental crime in New York or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.

TURKEY HUNTING SECRETS: “Tag Them” – Part 3 of 3

  • Read the Bird, Listen to his Gobble
  • Understanding Gobble Talk and RESPONDING, or NOT
  • Over-Yelping, Biggest Secret to a Wise Old Bird
Some of the biggest turkey can be fooled with one simple trick that you can learn, see below. Jim Monteleone Photo

By Jim Monteleone

You can read a bird by listening to his gobble and I want to explain the different types of gobbles that you might hear.

A “volunteer gobble” is one where the bird gobbles on his own. Generally that means he is searching for a hen.  If all is quiet you use an owl hooter before good light or a crow call at first light to elicit a gobble. You Tube has examples of owls hooting and crows calling if you need to hear the realistic sounds of either or both.

If he gobbles it’s a “shock gobble” and you are ready to do business when he hits the ground.  You can tell when he has come out of the tree by hearing wing beats or when his clear gobble becomes muffled by the trees and brush. 

A “strutting gobble “is when the bird gobbles repeatedly to your calls but seems stuck or only moving ten or twelve feet and never gets closer.  He is in a strut zone and nature is telling him the hen will come to him when he displays.  In the natural order of things this happens every season.  This is especially true when he has already been breeding receptive hens.  

A “going-away gobble” is when he gobbles frequently and you can tell he’s moving away.  He probably has been joined by a real hen who will lead him to her territory.  You might as well look for another bird or you can wait him out, but it’s going to be a while.

The “come here gobble” is when he gobbles every time you call.  Don’t be fooled.  Go silent on him and make him gobble on his own several (two or three) times before calling again. I call this a “breeding gobble.”  Repeat the same calling sequences and alternate some clucks and purrs with your yelping.  If he stops coming, start cutting if you are well hidden or blending in and have a hen decoy (or hen and jake in the early season), then you’re in business.

If he is cutting your calling sequence off with a gobble or a double gobble before you finish he’s committed to coming.  I call that a “hot gobble.”

No sudden moves and try to restrain yourself from over-calling.  I use only clucks and purrs for the last fifty yards of his approach to gun range. This is where a diaphragm mouth call is my go-to tactic.  A slate or “pot” call is my second choice in avoiding too much hand movement. Patience is your greatest weapon, other than your shotgun now!

Without any doubt my greatest success and most exhilarating hunts have come after a prolonged sequence of back and forth calling.  My nature is not one of great patience, but turkey hunting has taught me to work to lure turkeys in with sweet talk.  Over-calling causes a bird to stay put, and as fired-up as he and you can be.  Slow and steady is the best advice I can offer.

There are those times when a bird will rush in, but this isn’t the norm for mature birds. They have experience in gathering hens and also instinctively seem to know when something is unnatural.

If you follow the earlier tips, knowing the bird is closing the distance and your gun is on your knee waiting, watching and calling sparingly increases your odds dramatically.

There are those times when a bird will rush in, but this isn’t the norm for mature birds. Read what to do. Joe Forma Photo

I use two “secret” tactics for my toughest birds.  The first is yelping over a gobbler when he tries to gobble. As soon as the first note comes out of his beak I cut him off with some fast yelping or cutting.  Do this after you have him fired up if he stalls.

The other “secret” is the mock challenge of two hens cutting at each other.  It simulates the scene of two hens sparring for dominance over the right to breed in the territory.  I use one box or slate call and a mouth call, and cut like two girls arguing.  I do some alternating cuts on each call or some cuts like they are trying to “yell” over each other simultaneously.

I hope there’s something in here for hunters from “newbies” to veterans with decades of experience. Think safety in every move you make and never take chances.

You now have the “secrets” and you’re ready to experience. 

Good Hunting and Great Memories!

      

TURKEY HUNTING SECRETS: CALL THEM – Part 2 of 3

  • Learn the Language of Turkey Talk
  • Clucking, Yelping, Cutting, Cackling and more
  • Realism, Patience, Sounds and Tones

By Jim Monteleone

Try to learn with as many calls as possible, there are box calls, pot calls, tube calls and mouth calls (the most effective).

A lot of folks believe that the skill in calling turkeys is the most critical element of hunting.  Although it plays a significant part in filling a tag, I consider it about 33 percent of the outcome.  

Part one focused on finding turkeys.  You can’t call what you can’t locate!  

Part one also mentioned the knowledge of the bird, so understanding turkey talk is the key to what specific vocalization will work and when to use it.  This is what I call getting into the gobblers head.

Turkey talk begins with the most simple of sounds, the “cluck.”

Turkeys make this sound more than any other, by far.  It means “Here I am.”  It can mean “come here,” or in conjunction with some purring, it can mean “this is my feeding area.”

The cluck is generally made throughout the day.  

It’s worth mentioning turkeys can recognize each other’s “voice.” This is especially true in the fall when hens and poults form a flock.

The yelp takes on multiple meanings depending on the rhythm, volume and cadence of the sounds.

Call just enough to make the birds try to find you. Patience is key. Joe Forma Photo

There is an assembly call that gathers a flock and a mating yelp as well.

Yelps and clucks are used in very low volume tree calling.  They (yelps) are also incorporated with an excited and loud fly down cackle.

The other loud call is “cutting” and this can be a game changer for spring hunting.

Cutting to a gobbler is from a receptive and frustrated or angry hen.

Cutting can be used along with yelping to impart a scenario where the hen is “pleading” to the gobbler to join her.  In nature, this becomes a standoff between the hen and the gobbler when neither is yielding ground.  

Hens have territorial boundaries and my theory is that the hen knows that leaving her territory is likely to cause another hen to fight.

Gobblers travel in overlapping boundaries to find and breed as many hens as possible.

I have literally taught young hunters to call using nothing but a yelp and a cluck on a friction call at seminars.  They learn in minutes.

Realism is another factor in raising your skill level.  

Birds call in one form or another all day, but situational realism is what fools a turkey.

A fly down cackle includes a couple of clucks after a series of fast yelps.

A cackle is only seven or eight notes that begins with a few yelps and leads to quick excited yelps.

An assembly call starts with moderate volume yelping and goes a little faster and louder with each note for a total of maybe twelve to fourteen notes.

Mating yelps (from the hen) can start slow and speed up or just the opposite, starting fast and tailing off.

The gobbler will let you know what he likes if he is cutting the distance by moving toward your location.

This bearded hen is a bit unusual in nature, but it happens. Joe Forma Photo

Realism isn’t calling back to him every time he gobbles.  

Yelping too often will generally cause the bird to stand his ground.  Make him look for you by throwing your calls from what seems to be a different direction.  Using a mouth call, you do this by moving the palm of your hand in front of your face like a baffle to simulate the bird’s movement.

There is more on calling and closing the deal in the next segment.

In regard to calling, nothing beats practice and most of the hen vocalizations can be heard on You Tube with keys words “Turkey calling.”

Try to learn with as many calls (box calls, pot calls, tube calls and especially mouth calls) as possible.

With practice, you can replicate all the sounds a hen turkey makes with a diaphragm mouth call.  

A diaphragm mouth call is the most versatile and requires no hand movement.  Except it requires one thing more: practice, practice, practice!

 

 

Best Walleye Fishing in 30 Years! New York’s Eastern Lake Erie

  • 2017 Angler Survey Catch Rates are nearly THREE TIMES GREATER than 30-Year Average
  • Anglers Harvested More than 70,000 Walleye in 2017
  • Walleye Fishing Expected to Remain Exceptional for Years to Come
While fishing Lake Erie with Captain Dan Korzenski of Hooked-Up Sportfishing from Dunkirk Harbor, NY, Ted Kokur and his three buddies landed more than 20 walleye in a morning of fishing. Korzenski is a noted trolling expert with charter openings for 2018 (716-679-9320, dkkorzenski@hotmail.com).

Stickbaits, spinner/worm rigs and spoons fished in, or just above, the thermocline in summer last year, produced limits of walleye for anglers near and far.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that walleye fishing on Lake Erie during the 2017 season experienced the highest recorded success in nearly 30 years.

Captain Korzenski is a local professional charter captain and shares his fish-catching success methods with all of his clients on each trip, if they want to know how.  A good thing if you own a boat and want to come back and try walleye fishing with your own tackle.  The local stopover bait and tackle store for daily catch rate success is Bill’s Hooks (5139 W. Lake Rd., Dunkirk, NY; 716-366-0268), just a few miles south of the city of Dunkirk on Route 5.  Visit with Gerri Begier there and allow yourself to learn about hot lures, snaps, swivels, fluorocarbon, leadcore line, rods, reels and a dozen other things you never knew about walleye catching, lure making and finding fish if have the time.

Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “The New York State waters of Lake Erie are world famous for outstanding angling opportunities for walleye, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch,  Our Lake Erie waters have consistently ranked among the top three most heavily fished waters in the state and the fishery generates more than $26 million in economic activity annually.  Anglers should take advantage of Lake Erie’s current conditions and experience this world-class walleye fishery for themselves in 2018.”

DEC has conducted an angler survey on Lake Erie to estimate fishing quality and fish harvest annually since 1988.  In recent years, walleye fishing quality has been generally increasing.  Survey results for 2017 revealed record-high walleye catch rates that are nearly three times greater than the 30-year average.  DEC estimates that anglers harvested more than 70,000 walleyes in 2017, a level not achieved since 1989.

Walt Gaczewski of Elma, New York, 80 years young, full of smiles, has his hands full walleye fishing with charter captains from the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (www.great-lakes.org/ny/elecba; 716-672-4282) last summer.  Steelhead, giant smallmouth bass, yellow perch and white bass are also secondary catches during Lake Erie walleye fishing outings off Chautauqua County, NY.

This exceptional fishing was due in large part to contributions of strong walleye reproduction in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2015.  Recent evidence also suggests that walleye reproduction was strong again in 2016.

Walleye are one of the most popular gamefish in New York, as they put up an exciting fight during the catch and make for a tasty meal on the table.  Walleye are aptly named because of their unique eyes that have a reflective layer of pigment called the tapetum lucidum, which allows them to see very well at night and during other low-light periods.  This layer also gives walleye their “glassy-eyed” or “wall-eyed” appearance.

Lake Erie is continually ranked among the world’s top walleye fishing destinations by angler publications with an abundance of trophy-size walleye ranging from 8-10 pounds, with local tournament winners often landing fish exceeding 11 pounds.

If you are looking to organize an office party outing, Captain Lance Ehrhardt from the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (716-672-4282) can provide a listing of local charter captains that catch fish.  Erhardt prefers to keep the live bait worms on shore – he is a stickbait expert, but has clients reporting summer catches of more than 40 walleye a trip during hot summer outings.  Imagine that!

Given that walleye typically live 10 years or more in Lake Erie, combined with excellent reproduction rates in recent years, anglers should experience continued, exceptional walleye fishing in future years.

For the latest Lake Erie fishing hotline report updated weekly in summer, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9217.html.  For lodging and other information for vacation planning, wine country tours, microbrewery locations, campsites, boat launches and more, visit http://www.tourchautauqua.com/.

Boat speed, surface temperature, bottom temperature and frequent turns into “secret lake areas” where fish are found allow anglers to reap schooled walleye benefits.

 

Hunt SMART! Hunt SAFE! WEAR ORANGE

With several more weeks of Big Game Season left to enjoy in New York State (and many other states), The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation reminds hunters to put safety–your own and others’–FIRST!

Check and abide by the legal hunting hours

Check New York’s official sunrise and sunset hours every time you go out hunting. They change every day and in different locations in New York State!

Watch DEC’s new video on hunting safely.

Firearm Safety Rules Save Lives

  • Assume every gun is loaded.
  • Control the muzzle. Point your gun in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Be sure you can clearly identify your target and be sure you can see what’s beyond your target.

Wear Hunter Orange

Did you know…

…More than 80 percent of big game hunters wear blaze orange?

…Hunters who wear blaze orange  are seven times less likely to be shot?

…Deer cannot tell blaze orange (or pink) from green?

Both hunters shown below (one wearing camo and the other wearing  orange) are invisible to deer if they don’t move. What would you want to be wearing if there were another hunter nearby with a deer between you?

New York State DEC Announces Nov. 18 Start of Regular Firearms Season for Deer and Bear Hunting in Southern Zone

Hunters are Encouraged to Pass on Young Bucks

NYSDEC encourages hunters to pass up the shot on young bucks. Joe Forma Photo

With the start of New York’s most popular big game season slated for Saturday, Nov. 18, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos is encouraging hunters to be safe, enjoy the natural beauty of the environment, and consider passing up shots on young bucks.

“New York has some of the best hunting opportunities in the nation, and our ongoing conservation efforts and hunter safety programs are providing ample opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy all New York has to offer,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Deer and bear hunting is also an important tool for New Yorkers to assist our wildlife management efforts and critical for controlling populations especially in areas and habitats where deer overabundance are causing ecological damage. The opening of the Southern Zone regular season is a cherished tradition for many families, drawing friends and relatives together for a weekend afield. I wish all hunters a safe and successful season.”

Deer hunting has been changing in New York, with more hunters opting to voluntarily pass up shots at young, small-antlered bucks in favor of letting them grow to be older, larger bucks. DEC is encouraging hunters to make a difference for the future of the deer herd and increase their likelihood of seeing older, larger bucks by choosing to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow.

Regular Firearms Season for Deer and Bear Begins Nov. 18
The 2017 regular deer and bear hunting seasons in New York’s Southern Zone begin at sunrise on Saturday, Nov. 18, and continue through Sunday, Dec. 10. The Southern Zone regular season is New York’s most popular hunting season; approximately 85 percent of New York’s 575,000 licensed hunters participate. Harvest during this season accounts for nearly 60 percent of the total statewide deer harvest and between 30 to 60 percent of the statewide bear harvest.

Maybe some of the most fun is just seeing deer come toward your stand on opening day, but choosing to take a doe early or not, especially during the rut, is a tough call for many hunters.  Joe Forma Photo

Following the regular deer and bear seasons in the Southern Zone, late bowhunting and muzzleloading seasons will run from Dec. 11 through Dec. 19. Hunters taking part in these special seasons must possess a hunting license and either bowhunting or muzzleloading privilege(s).

In the Northern Zone, the regular deer and bear hunting season opened Oct. 21, and will close at sunset on Dec. 3. The Northern Zone includes the Adirondacks, Tug Hill Plateau, Eastern Lake Ontario Plain, and the Champlain and St. Lawrence valleys. A late bowhunting and muzzleloading season for deer will be open in portions of the Northern Zone from Dec. 4 to Dec. 10.

DEC Encourages Hunter Safety
While statistics show that hunting in New York State is safer than ever, mistakes are made every year. DEC believes every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, and Commissioner Seggos is encouraging hunters to use common sense this season and to remember what they were taught in their DEC Hunters Education Course.

Firearms Safety:

  1. Point your gun in a safe direction.
  2. Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  3. Be sure of your target and beyond.
  4. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

DEC also encourages hunters to wear blaze orange or pink. Wearing orange or pink prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal, or shooting in a hunter’s direction. Hunters who wear hunter orange are seven times less likely to be shot.

When hunting in tree stands, use a safety harness and a climbing belt, as most tree stand accidents occur when hunters are climbing in and out of the stand. Also, hunters should never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded rifle and never set a tree stand above 20 feet.

Help Protect New York Deer from Chronic Wasting Disease
Although no new cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in New York deer have been found since 2005, DEC continues to take the threat of CWD seriously. CWD is fatal to deer, and if introduced, could spread rapidly. Once established, CWD is practically impossible to eliminate from the wild deer herd. Preventing CWD from entering New York is the most effective disease-management strategy. Hunters can help protect New York’s deer herd from CWD by following these tips:

  • If hunting outside of New York, debone or quarter the deer before returning to the state, and follow the law about importing carcasses or carcass parts from outside of New York. CWD Regulations for Hunters.
  • Use only lures or attractant scents that do not contain deer-based urine.
  • Dispose of carcass waste in a landfill, not on the landscape.
  • Report any deer that appears sick or is acting abnormally.

Report Your Harvest – Remember: Take It – Tag It – Report It
Hunter contributions to deer and bear management don’t end when an animal is harvested. All successful hunters are required to report their harvest of deer and bear within seven days. Failure to report is a violation of the Environmental Conservation Law and reduces the data DEC uses to manage deer and bear populations. Hunters may report via DEC’s online game harvest reporting system or by calling the toll-free automated reporting system at 1-866-GAME-RPT (1-866-426-3778).

Additional Reminders for the 2017 Southern Zone Regular Hunting Season
Choose non-lead ammunition for high quality meat and reduced risk of lead exposure to humans and wildlife.

Hunger Has A Cure… The Venison Donation Program (link leaves DEC’s website) is a great way to help those less fortunate while assisting with deer management in New York.

For specific descriptions of regulations and open areas, hunters should refer to the 2017-2018 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide available on DEC’s website. Hunters are urged to review all regulations and safety tips in the guide. Hunters may also be interested in DEC’s Hunting the Black Bear in New York (PDF, 727 KB) or reviewing DEC’s unit-by-unit Deer Hunting Forecasts.

BLACK BEARS ACTIVE in New York State DIX MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS

  • Black bears have been active stealing food.
  • Campers, hikers, and rock climbers om alert in two locations

Campers and hikers are encouraged to keep all food, toiletries, and garbage in a bear resistant canister to avoid attracting black bears.

Campers are also advised to avoid cooking and eating after dark. Prepare and eat food away from the tent site.

If approached by a bear, do not give it food. Make noise and try to scare it away. Call the DEC Regional Wildlife Office at 518-897-1291 to report encounters with bears.

Hikers and campers may also want to consider carrying bear spray as a precautionary measure for close encounters. If you do so please read the instructions carefully before setting out on the trail and be sure to follow the instructions if you use the spray.

Gill Brook

Bears have approached hikers and campers in the area around Gill Brook, Indian Pass, Mt. Colvin, Elk Pass, and Nippletop. These bears are approaching closely in an attempt to intimidate people into giving them food. DEC warns hikers and campers not to reward bears by dropping packs or otherwise providing them with food.

DEC recently captured and euthanized the most aggressive of the bears. A bear with one purple ear tag and one green ear tag had been approaching numerous hikers and campers very closely and not backing down.

Another bear with one red ear tag has been a reported problem but has not behaved as aggressively has been encountered less frequently.

Chapel Pond

Other bears have been stealing food from campers and rock climbers in the area around Chapel Pond, including the Beer Walls. Campers are hikers are encouraged to keep all food, toiletries, and garbage in a bear resistant canister or out of sight in motor vehicles.

Rock climbers should rack up at their vehicle, leave all food in the vehicle, or carry any food with you as you climb. Do not leave packs on the ground for bears to destroy.

DEC has temporarily closed one of the campsites at the Chapel Pond Outlet while it attempts to capture the bears. Captured bears will be given unique colored ear tags, hazed, and released. 

For more info, click here: Prevent human bear conflicts.

Injured Black Bear draws attention in Wellsville, New York

  • Bear struck by car, scared, climbed tree
  • Bear was tranquilized and examined
  • Released to Coyle Hill State Forest, Allegany County
    For many, black bears symbolize wilderness and wildness, but increasingly, bears can be found in semi-rural environments, agricultural areas and occasionally, in urban centers. NYSDEC Photo

    On July 5, Environmental Conservation Officer’s Russ Calanni and Jason Powers, and Lt. Don Pleakis and Division of Wildlife staff, worked to safely remove a black bear that had climbed a tree in a residential neighborhood in the village of Wellsville after being hit by a car. Although it was not seriously injured, the bear jumped a fence and took cover in a tree. It started to draw attention from the neighbors and the decision was made to tranquilize the bear and remove it from the village. ECO’s Calanni and Powers, members of DLE’s Chemical Immobilization Team (CIT), darted the bear and safely removed it from the tree.
    The Wellsville Police Department stopped traffic along busy State Route 417 while the tranquilization and removal took place.
    After loading the bear into a trap, it was transported to Coyle Hill State Forest, where the bear was examined, tagged, monitored, and then released.

    Black Bear distribution in New York. Primary range refers to areas where breeding bears were known to occur. Secondary range includes areas with routine bear sightings. Transient and dispersing bears may be found in all of upstate New York, including areas generally considered unoccupied by bears. Courtesy NYSDEC

    New York’s black bear population is currently estimated at a minimum of 6,000-8,000 bears in areas open to hunting, with roughly 50-60% of the bears inhabiting the Adirondack region, about 30-35% in the Catskill region and about 10-15% in the central-western region. In addition, bears are now well established in many other areas, including the Tug Hill, Hudson Valley and across the Southern Tier of New York, and transient bears are routinely encountered throughout the Lake Ontario Plains, Mohawk Valley, and St. Lawrence Valley. With the exception of Tug Hill, these other areas include a greater proportion of agriculture or have higher human densities, making them less suitable for bears due to the higher likelihood of human-bear conflicts.
    Black bears are an important and natural component of New York’s ecosystem. Whether you live or recreate in the bear country, please help maintain and protect the bears, and at the same time protect yourself and your property by not feeding bears and by reducing bear attractants.
    If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

NYSDEC Eastern Lake Erie Fishing Report – June 10, 2017

Lake Erie and Harbors

Fishing from a very windy Sunset Bay in Irving, NY, retired Charter Captain Bob Rustowicz and teammates, caught a few walleye from Day 1 of the Southtowns walleye Association Tournament in Lake Erie.

The night bite along the nearshore reefs has fallen off. Most walleye anglers are now targeting daylight hours and catches have been slowly improving in 40-60 feet of water near major spawning areas. Productive methods include trolling with worm harnesses or stickbaits just off the bottom, or by slow trolling (1 mph or less) with a bottom bouncing rig and worm harness. Working deeper edges off the walleye spawning structures is also worth a try. Some walleye anglers are still doing well at night off the Buffalo Harbor’s outer breakwalls out to 30 feet of water, with a few catches inside the harbor as well. There have been some decent yellow perch catches recently out of Cattaraugus Creek starting in 60 feet of water. Anglers fishing in around 50 feet of water report plenty of nuisance goby. Live emerald shiners fished near the bottom work best for perch.

Smallmouth bass are still available in and around Lake Erie harbors and their breakwalls. Early this week, Dunkirk Harbor anglers were catching between 15-35 smallmouth per outing. On Lake Erie, depths of 20-30 feet of water over rocky shoals has recently been productive. Good spots to try include Myers Reef, Seneca Shoal, Evans Bar and Van Buren Reef. Many smaller reefs, rock piles and humps will hold bass as well. Tube jigs, jigs with twister tails, deep diving stickbaits, live minnows and crayfish are good bass baits. For more information see the Smallmouth Bass Fishing on Lake Erie page.

Lake Erie Tributaries

Some smallmouth bass are still available in the Lake Erie tributaries. However, with low and warming waters in the small to medium streams, the bite is fading. Best chances for bass is in the lower end of Cattaraugus Creek.

Upper Niagara River

Smallmouth bass catches are on the rise around Grand Island. Bass fishing is by catch and release only, artificial lures only in the Niagara River north of the Peace Bridge, until the regular season opens on third Saturday in June.

Chautauqua Lake

Musky fishing along weedlines has been productive since the season opened. Good techniques include trolling large stickbaits along weed edges or casting stickbaits over weed beds and retrieving towards open water. There has been some decent walleye fishing during daylight hours. One group caught a bunch of keepers in 15-18 feet of water by drifting with bottom bouncing rig and worm harness and by trolling (1.3 mph) with harnesses or deep diving stickbaits. See the Fishing for Walleye page for more information. Yellow perch and sunfish seem to biting well lake-wide inside of 10 feet of water. Perch catches are also good in deeper areas.

Inland Trout Streams

Trout streams throughout the region are in great shape with moderate flows. Warming water temps also have more bug and fish feeding activity at the surface. Sub-surface nymphs are good bets early in the day, while dry flies can be productive in the afternoon. Look for hatches of March browns, sulphurs, caddis flies and stone flies on the streams that have them. Productive offerings for spinning anglers include worms, salted minnows and small inline spinners. Western New York anglers have a variety of Wild Trout Streams and Stocked Trout Streams to choose from. In addition, Public Fishing Rights Maps are available for many of the region’s best trout streams. Check out the Fishing For Stream Trout page for introductory information on trout baits, lures, equipment and fishing techniques.

Spring Trout Stocking

All of Region 9’s trout stocking waters have been stocked with all of designated stocking increments. For County lists of stocked waters check the Spring Trout Stocking 2017 page. Hatchery staff stocked some surplus two-year-old brown trout in the following waters between May 23rd and 26th: Genesee River – 400 brown trout from Wellsville to PA border; Cattaraugus Creek – 400 brown trout in Erie and Wyoming Counties; Cohocton River – 275 brown trout; Oatka Creek – 275 brown trout.

Genesee River Angler Diary Program

DEC Region 9 Fisheries Unit will be running an angler diary program for the Genesee River during 2017, and is currently looking for anglers to keep diaries. The diarist program aims to record data for trout and bass fishing trips on the Genesee River from the Pennsylvania line downstream through Letchworth State Park from March 1st through October 31st, 2017.

If you fish the Genesee River (even once) and would like to contribute your observations by keeping a diary, please call DEC Fisheries at (716) 379-6372 or email fwfish9@dec.ny.gov.

More Information:

If you need more fishing information or would like to contribute to the fishing report, please call or e-mail Mike Todd (716-851-7010; michael.todd@dec.ny.gov). Good Luck Fishing!

The fishing hotline can also be heard at (716) 679-ERIE or (716) 855-FISH.

Connecting Conservation, Families, and the Outdoors

Ringneck Pheasants in the wild are scarce in many states, but conservation programs to raise them and return them to country farm fields are active in many regions of the United States. Joe Forma Photo

By Forrest Fisher, with excerpts from NYSDEC

No matter what state you live in, children typically learn about conservation and the outdoors from adults who accompany them as they explore. Plenty of times the kids teach the adults as well as the adults teaching the kids! If you are looking for ideas on how to enjoy the outdoors with the young people in your life visit the web sites listed below.

New York State has provided a wonderful guideline for all other states to follow. Outdoor Discovery (http://www.dec.ny.gov/public/84455.html) is an online newsletter from the New York State Department of Environment Conservation (NYSDEC) for families. It encourages New Yorkers to explore outdoors and learn about the environment. Each issue introduces subscribers to a seasonal environmental topic or nature topic, suggests a related activity and lists family friendly events at DEC’s environmental education centers. DEC Outdoor Discovery is free and emailed to subscribers every other Wednesday, it also appears on DEC’s website.

DEC operates environmental education programs (http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/74.html) statewide. These include two environmental education centers from Albany to Buffalo, plus regional environmental educators who serve New York City, Long Island and Central NY.

The DEC’s residential environmental education summer camps (http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/29.html) have be operating for over 60 years. The camps serve boys and girls ages 11-17, who attend a week long program exploring the outdoors and learning about the environment. Campers can even participate in a hunter safety class and receive their hunter safety certificate. The four summer camps are located across the state, two in the Adirondacks, one in the Catskills and one in Western New York.

National Wildlife Federation advocates spending at least one hour each day outdoors in nature. Their web site Be Out There (http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature.aspx) provides ideas for reconnecting kids with the many benefits of the great outdoors. Good for both mental and physical health, spending time outdoors is also fun and helps kids build a connection to nature. Using the “NatureFind” feature visitors can find outdoor activities in their area, and across the country.

Nature Rocks (https://www.natureworkseverywhere.org/home/) from the Children and Nature Network, The Nature Conservancy and R.E.I. provides ideas for exploring outdoors with children. They also offer a search feature to locate programs, sites and outdoor play groups, known as Nature Rocks Flocks in your area.

Hot Lake Erie Walleye – It’s Late September!

-Dunkirk to Cattaraugus Creek is HOT ZONE
-Stratified Lake Helps Focus Forage and Predators

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The Lake Erie walleye fishery of Chautauqua County, New York, near Dunkirk Harbor, can be spectacular at times – times like right now. Late September, 2016.

1st mate Dennis Gullo hollered out, “Setting the starboard side outside diver to Index 1-1/2 with ring, 10 foot leader, 17 pound test fluoro, we are at 155 back Captain.” Captain Roger Corlett softly replied, “What bait is on that one?” Gullo replied, “The 5-inch Pirate Lure Brown Trout.” “Yea, that’s been a good one lately,” Corlett grinned.

On the other side, Corlett deployed another diver with ring set to an index of three and 170 feet back, using a similar Rainbow Trout pattern lure. In the next two hours, both lures caught big walleye and memorable moments were made for everyone on board the charter boat named “89-Surprise.”

Captain Corlett modifies his lures to assure wide swing action (wobble) at 2 to 2.5 mph and to assure positive hook-ups without bent hooks. “I like to remove the front treble and replace the middle treble with a #2 VMC or Mustad, or other top high-strength hook that won’t bend and allow the fish to get away that we worked so hard to fool.”

Midwest Outdoors editor, Dave Mull, was all ears too. Shared tips and advice are hard to find on most days among fisherman, but Captain Corlett was schooling us about things that he does every day, his standard winning fish-catching tactics. Things we are not likely to soon forget.

Without proper professional science and management of Lake Erie, these conversations among happy fishermen might have never taken place. Thanks to the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in Dunkirk, New York, the walleye resource for Lake Erie’s eastern basin is well managed under the watchful eyes of Don Einhouse, Lake Erie Unit Leader, and his staff.

Lake Erie Unit Fisheries Leader, Don Einhouse, lower left, heads up a program that allows anglers to meet on a regular basis and review the “State of the Lake”, allowing questions and answers. This provides a renewable network of valuable communication between recreational anglers and the fisheries staff. Forrest Fisher Photo

The walleye resource is composed of local spawning stocks (eastern basin) as well as fish from summertime migration movements of western basin spawning stocks. Proof of the science and nature working together is that the walleye fishing quality in recent years has generally been very good. From the chart below, review and note that the success is largely attributable to excellent spawning success observed in 2003, 2010, and 2012.

The Lake Erie Fisheries Unit advises that measures of walleye fishing quality in 2015 were the fifth highest recorded in the 28 year survey. New York’s most recent juvenile walleye survey indicates a moderate spawning year in 2014. Overall good recruitment through recent years, especially from 2010 and 2012, suggests adult walleye abundance in the east basin will remain satisfactory for the next several years. Good news for walleye anglers.

The western basin of Lake Erie experienced a high walleye recruitment event in 2015, which should also help to support New York’s walleye fishery in the future. A new research initiative that began in 2015 uses acoustic telemetry to study walleye movement and assess the contribution of west basin migrants to the New York walleye fishery. A $100 reward is associated with the return of each tagged fish along with the internal acoustic tag.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit is responsible for research, assessment and fisheries management activities for one of New York’s largest and most diverse freshwater fishery resources. A variety of annual programs are designed to improve understanding of the Lake Erie fish community to guide fisheries management, and safeguard this valuable resource for current and future generations.

The staff at the Lake Erie Fisheries Unit includes Donald Einhouse, Lake Erie Unit Leader; James Markham, Aquatic Biologist; Jason Robinson, Aquatic Biologist; Douglas Zeller, Research Vessel Captain; Brian Beckwith, Fisheries Technician; Richard Zimar, Fisheries Technician; and MariEllen (Ginger) Szwejbka, Secretary. The staff is supported by Steven LaPan, Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head and Phil Hulbert, Chief of the Bureau of Fisheries.

The complete annual report on Lake Erie is available on NYSDEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/32286.html, or by contacting DEC’s Lake Erie Unit office (contact information below).

For comments to the Lake Erie Unit, please send to NYSDEC Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit e-mail: fwfishle@dec.ny.gov.

It’s all About the Fish and Some Help from Friends

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Salmon and trout rearing pens have delivered a powerful addition to the Lake Ontario and Lower Niagara River recreational fish industry. This beautiful cold-water monster was caught April 10 near Lewiston, New York, below Niagara Falls. Frank Campbell/Niagara Region Charter Service Photo

It’s all about the fish.  Fishing groups and other business organizations are getting ready to start putting their pens together in an effort to accept salmon and trout from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  Pens?  Are we talking writing implements?  What’s the explanation?

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Since 1998, groups have been building holding pens for salmon and trout in Lake Ontario for a two-fold purpose: improve the survival rates of the fish being stocked; and to imprint the fish to a particular area or body of water.  This is crunch time and early to mid-April is usually when volunteers rally to get the annual effort kicked off.

For example, the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association (LOTSA) in Niagara County, New York, spearheads an effort in the Port of Olcott at the Town of Newfane Marina.  Since 2005, the group has been building these holding pens to house some 67,000 Chinook salmon for three to four weeks.  The club added another pen in 2006 to hold 3,500 steelhead.  It’s all about the fish.

On April 9 at 9:00 a.m., volunteers convened at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott to assemble the pens and secure the netting.  This is all in preparation for receiving the fish from DEC on April 13 at 1:00 p.m.  Things start to happen quickly once that is complete, but much more volunteer support is always needed.  When the fish are in the pens, they must be fed 4 or 5 times a day.  Fishermen and women; youngsters with their Dads; Boy Scouts and other groups, all pitch in to lend a hand at feeding the adopted fish for the port.  If you are local or nearby to the area and want to know more, go on the LOTSA website at www.lotsa1.org to sign up or identify additional information.

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During recent studies conducted by DEC, the agency discovered that fish survival rates in the pens actually out-survive the direct stocked fish at a rate of better than two to one – good news when you are trying to get the biggest bang for your angling buck.  However, the study isn’t over with yet.  This is the final year for checking fish that have been fin clipped and outfitted with coded wire tags in the snouts of the kings, many of which were reared in pens first.  Local angling leaders are pushing to expand those efforts, too, by getting more people involved with the collection process.

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Led by LOTSA and the Niagara County Fisheries Development Board, the interested parties are hoping to get freezers in place by May 1 at Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York, to complement the freezers in Wilson and Olcott.

Because of all the big fishing contests during the month of May, it is hoped that many of the participants will cooperate and look for the missing adipose fin, giving them cause to save the head of the fish and ultimately the coded wire tag for biologists.  All the information of that fish is on the tag – including where and when it was stocked.  The study should be completed this coming fall after the salmon run – three-year old fish that will be facing their end of its life cycle.

Again, this is more information to allow DEC to better manage the fishery.  There are 10 different pen-rearing projects along the south shore of Lake Ontario as far as the Empire State is concerned; more on the Canadian side of the lake.

It’s a perfect way to “share the outdoors.”

It’s all about the fish!

Goose Season Hunting Tips for New York’s Southern Tier

Due to expanding numbers of local goose populations in the South Area of New York State, there will continue to be a relatively new late Canada goose season, March 5 – 10, this year.

Hunters will be allowed to harvest five birds per person per day.  The South Area starts in Niagara County (at the Lake Ontario shoreline) and extends south in Western New York through Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties and further east along the Pennsylvania/New York border.  Check out the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) website at www.dec.ny.gov for the exact boundary location.

Scouting is Important

Scouting is typically 90 percent of whether or not you’ll be successful.  You’ll need to know what the birds are doing and where they’re going each day.  Remember, these birds were hunted earlier this year, especially if they are local birds, so they’ve been part of the action since last September.

Simplicity is the key.  A small number of quality-looking decoys may be a better situation than having an excessive number of imitation birds.  Good camouflage is a must, too.

Use Good Camo

By good camouflage, we mean a few different things.  One, you’ll need to match to the surroundings as best as you can.  If you’re using ground blinds, you’ll need to use whatever vegetation is available for that specific area.  If you have corn stalks in your lay-out blind or ground blind from last fall and there’s nothing like that around, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.  Don’t leave anything out around your blind that can give you away either. If there’s snow on the ground, you need to blend in as best you can.

One thing that may aid the cause is using helpful tools like Wing Wavers to help these birds focus on movement – and away from where you’re set up. By using Wing Wavers or something similar, the movement will help to attract geese near where you’re hiding out.  It will also draw their attention away from you and that’s a good thing.

Knowing where the birds are and where they want to be at different times of the day is the key to success for any waterfowl season.  Much will depend on the weather for that time of year and how much open water is available. We might spend one or two days scouting before I even hunt a day.  If the birds are on private land, be sure to get permission.

We play the wind and weather to our advantage.  You don’t have to be big on blinds, with some preferring to hunt the hedge rows – especially if there are deep ditches and good natural cover.  That’s all you need to be successful.

Snow Goose Season Also Open -BONUS

The bonus is that this is a time of year when snow goose season is also open.  We’ve hunted these same areas this time of year before and noticed a good number of geese around too.  This should be fun!

The wind is a key ingredient to success.  Birds will enter a field before landing by flying into the wind, so if you can position yourself for either pass-shooting or getting the birds to land in your decoys, it can be a rewarding hunt.  Try throwing out a dozen or so decoys and use them as a starting point for the birds.  Once the birds start landing in a field, they’ll start to pile in.  When that happens, we’ll usually get plenty of shooting.  Add, if it’s windy, the muffled sound will often go unnoticed to the birds milling around in the field adjacent to us.

When we hunt the water, we’ll be using floating goose decoys just like we would for duck hunting – leaving an opening for the birds to land in.  Later in the day is usually better for us, when birds are returning to the water after spending time in local fields feeding.  This year (2016), with the mild winter and not much ice cover, there should be plenty of water available for local bird populations.  With the mild weather, it could entice flight birds to start heading north early.  If that’s the case, we could see a mix of flight birds heading north into this South Area.

Time will tell.

Mandatory Antler Restriction will be Voluntary for Most of New York State

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Proper doe herd and yearling buck management go hand in hand, and enhance a healthy deer herd and hunter friendships too, when the balance of proper management and success is achieved. Mike Ostrowski (L) and Rich Davenport (R) shared in a successful 2015 fall hunt in Randolph, New York, located in Cattaraugus County, Region 9.

When the New York State Conservation Council (NYSCC) Big Game Committee met last week at Pine Bush Discovery Center in Guilderland, New York (near Albany), the guest list was filled with many time-honored members of the New York State big game hunting community, including New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Director of Fish and Wildlife, Ms. Patricia RiexingerRiexinger has provided leadership over the years and with her presence, the added asset of management authority and capacity to discuss in detail, a decades-long issue among the hunting fraternity: the issue of yearling buck management.

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The NYS Study on yearling buck management is over, concluding that voluntary hunter restraint will supersede suggested New York State Department of Environmental Conservation mandatory antler restriction regulations for the next five years in the Empire State. Joe Forma Photo.

According to Western New York representative and big game committee co-chairman, Rich Davenport, “The first half of the meeting served to review the Structured Decision Making (SDM) study which was conducted to determine what issues/ initiatives to undertake when there is an absence of biological need to implement any regulatory action.”

Davenport added, “Specific to the issue of “Yearling Buck Protection” (YBP), commonly known as Mandatory Antler Restrictions (MAR) on buck harvest, no biological or ecological need exists; the study determined that the issue of YBP/ MAR is purely a “social” or “political” issue within the ranks of the hunting community.”

Approximately 7,000 surveys were sent out across NYS and roughly 40 percent of recipients responded. This survey was not a vote, but rather, was collecting various ideas and detailing the complexity of hunter attitudes to provide a better picture of trade-offs and desires across a wide area of interests. Davenport says, “The interests were “bucketed” in several zones termed “buck management zones” that were created for continuity in regional positions by hunters in these areas.  The zones were defined to include the following areas: 1. West Adirondacks, 2. Eastern Adirondacks, 3. Long Island, 4. Southeast (Catskills), 5. Mohawk Valley, 6. Lake Plains, 7. Southern Tier.”

The NYSDEC team concluded, “After all returned information was studied, six different alternatives were in play, as follows: 1. Mandatory antler restriction (MAR) throughout all areas, all seasons, excepting youth hunters; 2. Partial MAR through early archery seasons extending through first week of regular season; 3. One Buck per Hunter; 4. Shorten Hunting Seasons by one week in southern zone, two weeks in northern zone; 5. Promote voluntary restraint on buck harvest; 6. No changes.

Davenport explains, “The weighting of information for modeling was to develop a resilient model and final weighting was concluded as follows: 1. Hunter Desire/ Satisfaction – 75 percent; 2. Population estimating and management – 15 percent; 3. Costs of implementation (all costs, not just money) – 10 percent.  After all information was gathered, each option was put through the model for “scoring”, with the highest scoring options resulting in future decisions to make.”

Results showed that across all seven buck management zones, the top decision to make concerning buck management was no change.  A surprise.  Second choice in all but the southeast region was to promote voluntary restraint.

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The knowledgeable Davenport adds, “Discussions on the decisions, which actually surprised the DEC, as they believed coming into this exercise that regulatory opportunity would reveal itself, centered on effectiveness of voluntary restraint. Trends currently in New York concerning yearling buck percent of antlered harvest shows a significant downward trend over the past decade, indicating that voluntary restraint is already being embraced by hunters, and although it is expected that the percent of yearling buck harvest will plateau, no program gets yearling buck protection perfect. This is true with MAR or not, and QDMA’s position remains, that any restrictions set forth on buck harvest would be removed once harvest make up is achieved.  The NYSDEC results of the SDM are consistent with the decision making of the NYSCC positions on the issue.

Director Riexinger went on record to state, “This issue is now behind the Department, and will not be brought up again for at least 5 years.”  So MAR is dead for now across all of NYS, though existing wildlife management units that already have MAR in NYS will remain unchanged (Southeast).

Davenport concluded, “The good news is that now, other issues and concerns that have suffered on account of continuous MAR decision-making and argument, such as addressing urban deer management issues and many other challenges, should now receive proper attention.”

We live, we grow, we learn.