Illegal Exotic Snake Breeding Den Identified in Orange County, New York
157 Venomous Snakes removed
29 species in all
This year on Feb. 20, a Newburgh, NY man pled guilty to misdemeanor commercialization charges and agreed to pay a $500 fine related to the possession of more than 150 venomous snakes seized from his home.
On Jun. 2, 2019, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital contacted NYSDEC at Central Dispatch reporting a subject was bitten by a venomous snake. The subject received several doses of antivenom. Darren Paolini explained he was bitten by a Taiwanese Pit Viper (Ovophis Makazayazaya) at his residence where he was attempting to breed the snakes. He was bitten on the left hand and transported himself to St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital for treatment, then was transferred to Jacobi Medical in the Bronx.
At Jacoby Medical, Paolini made a voluntary statement to ECO Ryan Kelly that he gets the snakes from importers, breeds them, and then trades the baby snakes for new snakes. Paolini stated that he had approximately 50 Pit Vipers and two Coral Snakes at his residence.
On Jun. 3, 2019, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigations (BECI) Investigator Jeff Conway obtained a search warrant for Paolini’s residence. The warrant was executed the following day with support from staff from the Bronx Zoo, who assisted with handling, transporting, and housing the snakes.
In total, investigators seized 157 live venomous snakes and 31 dead venomous snakes, representing 29 distinct species. Several years of breeding records were also seized.
No matter where you travel, stay aware, watch where you walk.
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. YouTube 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 wingbeats 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
154 Military Veteran’s, more than 50 volunteers as charter guides/hosts
Clear weather, smooth sailing, hundreds of pounds of walleye fillets for veteran freezers
Stickbaits, spinner worm rig tactics were key to catching fish, details follow in story below
By Forrest Fisher
It was a tad before 6:00 a.m. when the morning sky-glow of bright yellow on the horizon of the cliffs to the east started to light up the day. It was a special day.
A warm forecast with windless air was perfect weather for Operation Boots – a sponsored fun-fishing activity for military veterans from WNY Heroes, Inc., a not-for-profit organization established in 2007 to provide veterans and their families with access to essential services, financial assistance and other needs that they might not be able to find any other way. And today, to provide some fishing fun on the water.
Military vet’s and volunteer fishing guide hosts began to gather at Chadwick Bay Marina in Dunkirk Harbor at this early hour. Their mission for the day? To fish for walleye on the Lake Erie waters of Chautauqua County, NY. I could feel there was electricity in the air. Good energy! To help control over-crowding at the event, the veterans were asked to pre-register and numbers were capped at 145. Yet, these numbers grew on site and who could say no to our dedicated military and wartime veterans?
Bantering, good-natured jokes, and warm-hearted conversations kept a mega-box of Tim Horton’s donuts busy. Dark roast java – better than the Uncle Sam version of early morning rocket fuel, complete with all the fixings, added to that feeling of “the guys” getting together for morning service work. This time, for the fun of it, the goal was to catch the biggest walleye. Fun battles. The morning was off to a great start.
In their third year of helping to host this event, Charter Captain Jim Steel and Diane Rae from Innovative Outdoors (www.innovativeoutdoors.com, 716-481-5348) managed to satisfy the unthinkable task of finding more than 45 volunteer fishing boats to host the veterans, all of them providing fishing expertise. No small mission! In a very well-organized manner, veterans were assigned to their respective captains and a small armada to fishing boats headed to eastern basin Lake Erie to enjoy some fishing on the water. Even organizer, Captain Jim Steel, took time to host veterans aboard his 31-foot Tiara. The guy never stops!
It was a pleasure and an honor to serve as 1st mate aboard the brand new 24-foot fishing boat of Captain Jim Klein – Eye-Fish Charters. As we boarded the sleek-looking blue/white boat, the 225HP Yamaha 4-stroke outboard stood large and impressive on the stern. Captain Jim said, “This will get us to where the fish are in no time, then once we get there, we’ll switch to get better boat control for trolling with this smaller 9.9HP Yamaha motor. Both of them have autopilot for hands-free operation. He added that the Lowrance sonar would help us find the fish.” He also added that he had scouted the day before and knew where we should start.
It was a privilege to meet US Army Engineering Battalion veteran, Chris Corcoran; US Army Infantryman – Al Sawyer (79 years young), and Rick Shick – US Army Vietnam Veteran with the 1st Infantry Division where he and his buddies tried to stay alive doing battle about 80 miles east of Saigon.
The fishing was good and we shared line-stretching time for the next 4 hours. Chris Corcoran could be a regular 1st mate on any charter boat, he caught on to details that quick and had lots of energy in this, his first boat fish trip ever. Corcoran helped set lines, rig lines, he was quite amazing. By the end of our 4 hour fishing day, we caught 30 walleye, keeping 24 for the freezer. While we caught fish on various stickbaits too, the hot lure was the Eye-Fish spinner/worm rig in Mixed-Veggie color (https://www.eye-fish.com). We fished a Figure-8 trolling pattern just west of Dunkirk in 40 to 70 feet of water.
Al Sawyer caught our biggest fish at 7.23 pounds, while Rick and Chris took turns at the rods. We had doubles on three times! A testament to pre-scouting by Captain Jim on where to fish for this event.
Hats off to the event organizer at WNY Heroes, Inc. Program Director, Lynn Magistrale, and WNY Heroes co-founder, Chris Kreiger – an Iraqi War veteran, and so many groups that donated, to help make this event unforgettable. In total, 154 military veterans participated.
More than 45 volunteer fishing crews donated their time, gear and services to help host this extravaganza fishing event to say thanks to our military veterans for the freedoms that we enjoy in America every day.
Before we hit port, Al Sawyer was beaming with a giant glowing grin and said, “This has been the most fun-fishing day of my life.” For Captain Jim and myself, that said it all! To fish with Captain Jim Klein, you don’t need to empty your pocketbook. Two people can fish a half-day charter on Lake Erie for walleye for $250. Imagine that! If you want to try it, give him a call at 716-597-9421. Don’t wait, the fishing is hot right now.
Hats off to all of the volunteers and host fishing guide/hosts, many from the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (ELECBA), and to the host kitchen facility, the Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club with food preparations by Brunner’s Bayside Catering. Every veteran left the banquet that followed the fishing event with a brand new Zebco open-face fishing rod and reel in red/white/blue colors, an additional thank you for their military service in the past.
One last thing, let’s not forget prayer and a toast to all of those veterans that did not make it back home. I, for one, say thank you to the good Lord for these brave friends of our America.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced that $3 million is available in the first round of the State’s newly consolidated Invasive Species Grant Program. To support projects that target both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species across the state, DEC combined previous funding opportunities, including the Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention and the Aquatic and Terrestrial Invasive Species Early Detection/Rapid Response grants, into a single grant program. DEC is accepting applications for these grants through Feb. 15, 2019.
“New York is an international center for trade and tourism, making the state vulnerable to invasive species,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Once established, species such as hydrilla, emerald ash borer, and Japanese knotweed spread rapidly, causing harm to the environment, the economy, and human health. The invasive species grants announced today increase our ability to reduce the impacts of these invasive pests through control, removal, research, and prevention.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Invasive species pose a threat to our agricultural economy, potentially causing harm to our crops and our forestry industry. The new grant program provides the targeted resources needed to help the State combat the introduction and establishment of invasives statewide.”
Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the 2018-19 state budget included $13.3 million in the State’s Environmental Protection Fund targeted specifically for invasive species related initiatives, $3 million of which was made available for these grants. Municipalities, academic institutions, and not-for-profits may submit applications for funding for eligible projects in up to two of the following categories:
Aquatic invasive species spread prevention;
Terrestrial and aquatic invasive species rapid response and control;
Terrestrial and aquatic invasive species research; and
Lake Management Plans.
Grant awards range from a minimum of $11,000 to a maximum of $100,000, with a required 25 percent match. Project locations must be located wholly within New York State and priority will be given to projects that include opportunities for public participation, are on or close to public lands or waterbodies, and emphasize long-term success. For full details about the grant opportunity including eligible projects and scoring criteria, visit the Request for Applications on DEC’s website.
Applications are due by 3:00 p.m. on Feb. 15, 2019. All grant applicants must register in the NYS Grants Gateway System (link leaves DEC’s webpage) before applying. Not-for-profit applicants are required to prequalify in the Grants Gateway system, so DEC recommends that applicants start the process in advance of the grant application due date.
The New York State Invasive Species Council, comprising nine agencies, recently adopted a new Invasive Species Comprehensive Management Plan, with assistance from a 25-member Invasive Species Advisory Committee. The Invasive Species Grant Program will provide opportunities to implement various actions identified under the eight focal initiatives around which the Plan is framed.
Giant gray squirrels are not uncommon in the southern tier forest lands of New York State. Forrest Fisher Photo
Hunters and Trappers Favorite Time of Year…Open Season
Hunting seasons for big game like whitetail deer and black bear are underway with the archery season. Likewise, many small game species, like ruffed grouse, pheasant, rabbit, squirrel, and wild turkey, are also open and in progress.
Hunting and trapping seasons for bobcat, raccoon and fox, and trapping seasons for fisher and mink began in some regions of the state on October 25th. Be sure to check the New York State Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide for the season dates and regulations for your hunting or trapping area.
Wild turkey hunting in the Southern Zone began October 20th and runs through Nov. 2nd. Hunters are required to have a turkey permit, and the statewide season bag limit is one bird of either sex.
Remember, harvest reporting is critical to wildlife management, and by regulation, hunters must report their harvest of a turkey within seven days of taking the animal. DEC encourages hunters to, “Take it, tag it, and then report it.”
Trappers should note special permit requirements are required for fisher and marten trapping seasons. Fisher season began on October 25th in many WMUs and fisher and marten season began today in the Adirondacks. All fisher and marten trappers must obtain a special, free permit from their regional wildlife office, submit a trapping activity log, and submit the skull or jaw from harvested fishers and martens.
DEC’s wildlife managers rely on the information supplied by trappers to help manage populations of these popular furbearers. To obtain a free fisher or fisher/marten permit, trappers should contact their regional wildlife office or apply by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only one fisher or fisher/marten permit is needed to trap these species anywhere in New York where the season is open. For more information, see page 54 in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide.
As always, please follow the basic rules of hunter safety to protect yourself and other hunters this season.
DEC is partnering with the Center for Conservation Social Sciences (CCSS) at Cornell University on a survey of roughly 11,000 randomly-selected New York landowners to better understand public perceptions of and preferences for black bear population levels. The survey is being sent out this fall to owners of both large and small residential properties, and covers both rural and urban areas.
The questionnaire asks about positive and negative experiences people have had with bears, their perception of population trends, and their views on the potential benefits of and detriments to living among bears. The information from this survey will be used in conjunction with biological data about bear abundance and information on conflicts between people and bears to set population objectives for various parts of the state.
People who receive the survey are encouraged to respond. Collecting information from the public on their view of appropriate wildlife population levels and the potential impact of wildlife on people is an important part of decision-making in wildlife management.
Questions about the survey can be directed to CCSS at 607-255-2828 or email@example.com. For more information, visit the DEC website on Black Bear and read the “New York State Black Bear Management Plan”. Questions about the black bear management program can be directed to 518-402-8883 or: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finding Infestations of Asian Longhorned Beetles Early Saves Money and Trees
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today encouraged New York pool owners to participate in DEC’s annual Asian Longhorned Beetle Swimming Pool Survey during the month of August. This is the time of year when Asian Longhorned beetles (ALB) emerge as adults and are most active outside of their host tree. The goal of the survey is to look for and find these exotic, invasive beetles before these pests cause serious damage to our forests and street trees.
“The majority of invasive forest pest infestations are found and reported by members of the public, making citizen science a vital component for protecting our urban and rural forests,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Pool monitoring offers a simple, economical approach to surveying for Asian Longhorned Beetles and gives the public a chance to take an active role in protecting the trees in their yards and communities.”
DEC is requesting that people with swimming pools periodically check their pool filters for any insects that resemble ALB and either email photos to email@example.com or mail insects to DEC’s Forest Health Diagnostics Lab for identification, Attn: Jessica Cancelliere, 108 Game Farm Road, Delmar, NY 12054.
People without pools can also help by learning how to recognize the beetle, as well as the signs it leaves behind:
ALB are about 1.5 inches long, black with white spots and have long, black and white antennae.
These pests leave perfectly round exit holes, about the size of a dime, in branches and tree trunks.
Sawdust-like material called frass will collect on branches and around the base of the tree.
ALB is a wood boring beetle native to Asia that was accidentally introduced to the United States through wood packing materials. These pests attack a variety of hardwoods, including maples, birches, and willows, among others, and have caused the death of hundreds of thousands of trees across the country.
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) has worked diligently to manage the ALB infestations in our state and succeeded in eradicating the invasive beetle from Staten Island, Manhattan, Islip and Eastern Queens.
ECO Damrath untangling fishing line from the great blue heron
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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/.
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!
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?
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.
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.
Point your gun in a safe direction.
Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
Be sure of your target and beyond.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Released to Coyle Hill State Forest, Allegany County
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.
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).
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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; email@example.com). Good Luck Fishing!
The fishing hotline can also be heard at (716) 679-ERIE or (716) 855-FISH.
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.
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.
-Dunkirk to Cattaraugus Creek is HOT ZONE -Stratified Lake Helps Focus Forage and Predators
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Riexinger. Riexinger 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.
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.
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.”