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Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge now accepting applications for Spring turkey hunting

post by Billie Owens in hunting, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

Press release:

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in Genesee and Orleans counties is accepting applications for Spring turkey hunting. The refuge uses a random drawing to fill the 75 turkey hunting permits available.

Hunters may apply for a permit for one of two season sessions. Session 1 runs from May 1 through May 15 and 50 permits will be issued for this session. Session 2 runs from May 16 through May 31 and 25 permits will be issued for this session.

To be entered in the drawing, interested hunters must obtain a Big/Upland Game Hunt Application form (Form 3-2356).Applications can be requested in person, by phone, mail or by e-mail at iroquois@fws.gov

A PDF version of the application form may also be printed from our Web site:

http://www.fws.gov/refuge/iroquois

Click on the link under “Visitor Activities." Applications, along with a $5 non-refundable processing fee, must be received by 4 p.m., March 31, 2015.

Please refer to our Turkey Hunting Fact Sheet, available at the refuge office or on our Web site, for additional information.

Please contact refuge staff at 585-948-5445, ext. 7036, for further information.

Iroquois NWR is located midway between Buffalo and Rochester and is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Individuals with disabilities and any other person who may need special assistance to participate in this program should contact the Refuge at 585/948-5445 or at the Federal Relay No.  1-800-877-8339.

Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 11:02 pm

County shares further details on plan for bow hunting in park

post by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Park, hunting, outdoors

Questions were answered and misconceptions cleared during a meeting in Bethany Wednesday night on a proposal to allow deer hunting during bow season in Genessee County Park, said Parks Supervisor Paul Osborn.

The proposal, which must be approved by the County Legislature, is designed to help thin the deer population in the park, which has grown to nuisance levels as deer are destroying park vegetation and preventing new trees from getting established.

About 60 people attended the meeting.

A few people expressed concerns that were based on misconceptions, Osborn said, such as hunters being able to use guns (they can't) and the potential conflicts with non-hunting users of the park.

The hunters will be confined to 12 zones along the southern border of the park, according to the presentation given to the audience. While the hiking trails will be open, hunters are being told to stay clear of trails and be courteous of others using the park.

No trees will be removed or trimmed nor are hunters allowed to engage in clearing to create shooting lanes. The prohibition is good for conservation, but will limit the distance an arrow can travel, requiring hunters to get closer to their targets and take better shots.

"Our goal is to grow trees, not to cut them down just so we an hunt deer," Osborn said. "Our goal is to grow trees so people can enjoy them."

Hunters will be selected through a lottery Sept. 15, following a Sept. 11 deadline for applications, which open Aug. 17.

Two zones will be set aside for youth and disabled veterans, and young hunters and disabled veterans will be given priority over hunters from outside Genesee County.

In all, 48 hunters will be selected to receive permits for the four-week season, which runs from Oct. 19 through Nov. 15.

There is a mandatory informational class Oct. 3, which is where the permits will be distributed to the 48 winners upon payment of a $25 fee.

Each winning hunter will be granted permission to hunt in a single zone for a single week.

The first deer taken must be anterless. The second deer can be either a legal deer with antlers or anterless, and hunters are encouraged to take only anterless deer. 

If the hunter takes two deer before the end of his or her week-long permit expires, the zone will be vacant for the remainder of that week.

Permits are non-transferable. While a hunter may be accompanied by one guest, the guest is not allowed to hunt at any time.

Hunting will be limited from sunrise to noon each day. 

Hunters will be required to park in the designated parking lot and walk to their respective zones.

The plan is subject to modification until approved by the Legislature.

One modification, suggested by a person at yesterday's meeting, is that hunters entering the park be required to sign in and sign out when they leave.

Osborn said that idea was well received. It will help ensure hunters safely exit the park.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Bethany Town Hall meeting tonight on proposed archery hunting of deer at GC Park & Forest

post by Billie Owens in hunting, sports, wildlife

Press release:

A public meeting will be held from 6 to 7:30 tonight at the Bethany Town Hall, located at 10510 Bethany Center Road, to inform county residents about the proposed Archery Hunting program as a method for deer management at the Genesee County Park & Forest. All are encouraged to attend, listen, and make comments regarding the proposal.

The primary goal is to reduce the herd and lessen the impacts of browsing on newly regenerated forest. An "Earn a Buck" program is proposed through archery and/or crossbow hunting methods.

Genesee County Park & Forest (431 acres) is owned by Genesee County and managed by the Genesee County Department of Parks, Recreation & Forestry. In 1915, New York State recognized the Genesee County Forest as the oldest County forest in NYS.

Forest management has been ongoing throughout the past 90+ years through plantings, tree stand (plantation) thinning (tending) and harvesting of timber. One of the primary management goals is the production and harvest of high-quality, high-value sawtimber.

But an increase in the deer herd has begun to impact the forest with over-browsing of the tree seedlings growing as a result of practices laid out in the most recent Forest Management Plan, adopted in 2003.

Deer management was a consideration during the plan's creation. Back then, the impact of over-browsing by deer was not dramatically seen because the management practices were not as prudent prior to the plan's adoption.

But like many forested areas across the state, the Genesee County Park & Forest has seen an increase in deer population and it has become a safe haven. Deer find the park to be a location that can be visited throughout the day during hunting seasons with no pressures to leave.

In fact, the park has become a heavy feeding ground throughout the year and as a result forest regeneration has been slowed and in some places has there's been none at all. This is why "Earn a Buck" program is being proposed.

For information or to make comments, please contact Paul Osborn, Genesee County Parks Supervisor at 344-8508, ext. 3904, or via e-mail at coparks@co.genesee.ny.us.

Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 9:00 am

Musings on autumns past, present and an unsettled future

It was an October day when I walked out the front door of my grandmother's home and saw two family friends. They were sitting on the tailgate of a station wagon parked beneath an old maple. They were holding a day's limit of ringneck pheasants and the setting was enhanced by the maple's red-orange foliage.

That took place on Batavia's southside nearly sixty years ago and that was likely the moment I knew I wanted to hunt when I was older.

I'm guessing it was also around the time I began to take note of the various breeds of hunting hounds in our neck of the woods. There were sporting dogs all over the place in those years. I saw Nin Trinchera's beagles every day on my way to St. Anthony's School. And all the regulars at Kibbe Park knew "Colonel," an English setter belonging to the Ficarella family. It was a time when upland game was plentiful and hunting was as American as baseball and apple pie, and setters, spaniels and pointers seemed to be as common as the once-abundant chestnut trees.

Let me fast forward to another day in October. It's a Saturday morning in 1989. A small group of duck hunters and a pair of black labs are hunkered down among the cattails in Oxbow marsh. Decoys have been set out and the hunters make small talk waiting for the break of dawn. Someone mentioned the ongoing murmurings and rumblings being made in reference to gun owners. "Someday they're gonna take our guns," he said, referring to the powers that be. I don't know if he really believed it then. I don't know if any of us did. After all, could it have been anything more than just another bombastic threat?

Today the threat is real and very close at hand.

For decades I was a waterfowler and an avid bowhunter and in the '60s and early '70s I did a bit of ringneck hunting. In recent years I 've spent far more time in the outdoors with a camera. Still, I have pleasant memories of days spent in the marsh and in tree stands or scouring grain fields and swale hoping for pheasants to explode from cover. And I am thankful to those who took me under their wing in my earliest days afield.

And those are just a couple of reasons why I'm voting early Tuesday morning in hopes of preserving a small slice of Americana.

Monday, September 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm

12th annual Bow Shoot at Field of Dreams in Alexander is Sept. 14

post by Billie Owens in archery, bow shoot, hunting, sports

The 12th annual Bow Shoot at the Field of Dreams in Alexander will be held on Sunday, Sept. 14. Start time is 8 a.m. and the entry fee is $10 to support field maintenance.

The organizer is the Chris Martin Field of Dreams (a not-for-profit group that oversees the fields).

The fields are behind the Alexander Central School, located at 3314 Buffalo St., Alexander. The access road is to the right of the elementary school just past the bus garage.

No restrictions on participants.

The event will conclude around 1 o'clock. The concession stand will be open.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 11:01 am

Waterfowl hunting permits available for opening weekend of duck season

post by Billie Owens in hunting, sports, waterfowl

Special permits are now available for the opening weekend of duck season to hunt waterfowl at two popular state-managed locations, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today.

The permit requirement is needed for waterfowl hunting for the first weekend, which is expected to be Oct. 18 and 19, at the Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas in Genesee and Niagara counties. The intent of the special permits is to promote hunter safety and increase the quality of hunting on days when the areas receive the greatest use.

A special permit is required to hunt waterfowl at Oak Orchard and Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas on the duck season’s first Saturday and first Sunday. These days are the only times the special permits are needed. Waterfowl may be hunted without a special permit during the rest of the season. The permit system has been used successfully at both wildlife management areas in recent years. No special permits are required to hunt other game species at Oak Orchard or Tonawanda Wildlife Management Areas.

Although the DEC announced tentative 2014-2015 duck hunting season dates -- Oct. 18 and 19 --  these dates will not be finalized until the federal regulations are adopted in late summer. Hunters are advised to confirm the final dates before hunting any waterfowl.

Opening weekend waterfowl hunting permits for the two Wildlife Management Areas will be distributed by a random lottery. For each of the two days, DEC will issue 100 permits for Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area and 50 permits for Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area. Hunters must choose from four options: Oak Orchard first Saturday; Oak Orchard first Sunday; Tonawanda first Saturday; and Tonawanda first Sunday.

To apply for the lottery, hunters must send in a postcard with their name, address and their first three choices, in order of preference, clearly indicated. Applicants must also have completed a Waterfowl Identification Course, and their course certificate number must be indicated on the postcard.

Applications will be accepted through Sept. 15, 2014, and must be mailed to the New York State Bureau of Wildlife, 1101 Casey Road, Box B, Basom, NY 14013. Each permittee will be allowed to bring one companion over the age of 18 and an additional companion 18 years old or younger.

Duplicate permits will not be issued to hunters who have already been issued a permit to hunt on the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Any cards submitted by hunters who have been selected to hunt on Iroquois on the first Saturday will be excluded from the lottery for that day at both Oak Orchard and Tonawanda.

Issued permits are nontransferable and are not valid for companion(s) unless the permittee is present and hunting within 50 yards. The permittee is responsible for completing and returning the questionnaire portion of the permit to the New York State Bureau of Wildlife by November 15, 2014. If the completed questionnaire is not received by November 15, the permittee will be ineligible for next year's (2015) lottery.

Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This initiative includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State.

In support of this initiative, this year’s budget includes $6 million in NY Works funding to support creating 50 new land and water access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird-watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have not reached their full potential. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas.

In addition, the 2014-15 budget includes $4 million to repair the state's fish hatcheries; and renews and allows expanded use of crossbows for hunting in New York State.

This year's budget also reduces short-term fishing licenses fees; increases the number of authorized statewide free fishing days to eight from two; authorizes DEC to offer 10 days of promotional prices for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and authorizes free Adventure Plates for new lifetime license holders, discounted Adventure Plates for existing lifetime license holders and regular fee Adventure Plates for annual license holders.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 1:05 pm

State DEC announces new ban on hunting or trapping wild boars

post by Billie Owens in eurasion boars, hunting

Press release:

New DEC Regulation Works Toward Statewide Eradication

A new regulation that prohibits hunting or trapping of free-ranging Eurasian boars in New York State was formally adopted state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The regulation is designed to ensure maximum effectiveness of DEC's statewide eradication efforts.

"Hunters have offered to assist our efforts by hunting for boars wherever they occur, but experience has shown this to be counterproductive," Martens said. "As long as swine may be pursued by hunters, there is a potential conflict with our eradication efforts. Eurasian boars often join together to form a 'sounder,' the name for a group of pigs that can number 20 or more individuals. Shooting individual boars as opportunities arise is ineffective as an eradication method, (as it) often causes the remaining animals to disperse and be more difficult to remove."

Hunters pursuing wild boars in locations where baited traps have been established by DEC or USDA can also undermine these costly and labor-intensive capture efforts. Shooting may remove one or two animals, but the rest of the sounder scatters and rarely comes back together as a group, thereby hampering eradication efforts. In addition to prohibiting take of free-ranging swine by hunters, the new regulation prohibits anyone from disturbing traps set for wild boars or otherwise interfering with Eurasian boar eradication activities. Hunting wild boar is still allowed at enclosed hunting preserves until September 1, 2015.

"Enacting a statewide regulation was important to support DEC's ongoing work to remove this invasive species from the state and to ensure that it does not become established in the wild anywhere in New York," Commissioner Martens said. "Eurasian boars are a great threat to natural resources, agricultural interests, and private property and public safety wherever they occur and DEC will continue to work to protect these resources and remove wild boars from the state."

Eurasian boars were brought to North America centuries ago and wild populations numbering in the millions are now present across much of the Southern U.S. In recent years, wild boar populations have been appearing in more Northern states, too, often as a result of escapes from enclosed shooting facilities that offer "wild boar hunts."

Governor Cuomo signed legislation on October 21, 2013, which immediately prohibited the importation, breeding or introduction to the wild of any Eurasian boars. Furthermore, the law prohibits possession, sale, transport or marketing of live Eurasian boars as of September 1, 2015. The new law was an essential step in the state's efforts to prevent Eurasian boars from becoming established in the wild.

However, there are already small numbers of Eurasian boars on the landscape in New York. Since 2000, wild boars have been reported in many counties across the state, and breeding in the wild has been confirmed in at least six counties (Tioga, Cortland, Onondaga, Clinton, Sullivan and Delaware) in recent years. DEC is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program to remove any Eurasian boars that are reported in New York. To date, more than 150 animals have been captured and destroyed. However, eradication is expensive, time consuming and requires a great deal of manpower.

The regulation does provide necessary exceptions for state and federal wildlife agencies, law enforcement agencies, and others who are authorized by DEC to take Eurasian boar to alleviate nuisance, property damage, or threats to public health or welfare.

Anyone who observes a Eurasian boar (dead or alive) in the wild in New York should report it as soon as possible to the nearest DEC regional wildlife office or to: fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us and include "Eurasian boar" in the subject line.

Because it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a domestic pig, pot belly pig or Eurasian boar based solely on a description, reporting of all free-roaming swine is encouraged.

Please report the number of animals seen, whether any of them were piglets, the date, and the exact location (county, town, distance and direction from an intersection, nearest landmark, etc.). Photographs of the animals are especially helpful, so please try to get a picture and include it with your report. Full text of the regulation can be viewed on DEC's Web site.

Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Youth turkey season opens with success for pair of teen hunters

post by Howard B. Owens in alexander, corfu, elba, hunting, outdoors, Turkey Season

Kilian Lewis, 14, of Corfu, bagged his first turkey yesterday morning in Alexander as part of a Youth Turkey Hunt, the first day of the Spring youth hunt season (the adult season begins May 1). The turkey had a 10-inch beard. Killian's older brother, Collin, 18, helped call it in. (Photo and info submitted by M. Lewis).

John Zambito, 14, of Elba, got his first turkey this morning while hunting with his uncle Kelly Creegan. (Submitted by Chantal Zambito)

Monday, November 25, 2013 at 2:23 am

Rescuers put themselves at risk to save stranded hunter in Iroquois refuge

At 4:38 p.m., Bill Schutt, Alabama fire's assistant chief, is reminded the sun sets in three minutes.

"That's what I'm worried about," he says. "It's not just light. It gets colder."

His chief is out on an island in the midst of frigid water with a hunter who became stranded in the swamps of Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge on a day when temperatures dipped into the teens. One firefighter, who was with the chief, is at risk of frostbite after his boots filled with water while trying to reach the hunter.

It's too risky for the firefighters to walk out, even though they've located the hunter and he's in good health.

The hunter called for help at 2:30 in the afternoon. He started hunting at 12:30. He called for help, he said later, having spent an hour in the icy waters of the swamp tracking a deer he'd shot.

"At first the water wasn't too deep," said Colin Phillips, here from Vermont to hunt. "I was hopping from island to island out there and then it started getting deeper and deeper and I'm breaking through the ice. Finally, I reached an island and went about 50 yards and I couldn't go any further. I was exhausted."

His hands were freezing because he didn't have any gloves, but was otherwise appropriately dressed for the conditions. It was so cold that after his gun got wet it jammed with ice. He couldn't even fire a shot to alert rescuers to his location.

He was found with the help of a State Police helicopter and good tracking by Alabama Chief Gary Patnode.

As sunset neared, a hovercraft from Clarence Center returned from its crew's effort to reach the stranded hunter and the two firefighters. 

The sticks and logs popped nearly ever single floatation tube from around the boat. 

One of the crew members said that when they were about halfway to the location, the boat's stern took a nosedive into the water and that's when most of the damage was done.

The crew decided to be safe and make its way back to the shore.

"We realized, it's just a machine," he said. "It can be repaired."

As the sun's light wanes outside the command center, Jim Bouton, a coordinator with the Office of Emergency Management, learns that the weather had cleared enough for the State Police helicopter to return to the scene.

The helicopter isn't really equipped to hoist people from the ground, so the plan is for the chopper to hover right on top of the ice and pull one person at a time into the craft.

Bouton relays the plan to Schutt and looks skeptical.

"We need a plan C," he says.

A little later, scene commanders learn the helicopter from the Erie County Sheriff's Office will attempt the rescue. The two-man crew can deploy a hoist.

"I'm usually the type to remain calm and I was confident enough in our resources and our fire companies that I knew we were eventually going to get out," Patnode said after he returned safely to Casey Road. "We were already working on plans B, C and D."

When the rescue effort first started, Schutt noted, it seemed straightforward enough. Dispatchers were able to provide coordinates of the stranded hunter and he wasn't too difficult to find.

But getting him out safely proved to be harder than expected.

"The amount of water they had to go through, lightly frozen over, was the problem the hunter ran into in the first place," Schutt said. "Our firefighters could not have safely gotten back because they would have had to walk back through the water."

Alabama firefighters have all recently been through wilderness rescue training and Patnode had Thompson carrying a backpack equipped with what rescuers would need in a wilderness situation.

Except for a kit to start a fire.

"If I could have started a fire, I would have," Patnode said.

The idea of a nighttime rescue in the wilderness certainly carried an innate sense of risk.

"Any time you have a helicopter operating in the dark close to trees and people, it's definitely an elevated level of danger," said Andy Merkle, who worked the scene during most of the incident as operations manager.

His job was to keep an track of all the people and resources going in so they could be accounted for coming out.

"We want to make sure we don't come up with any more victims," Merkle said.

The first person rescued was Ryan Thompson, the firefighter with the cold feet. He was fine and was out walking around after a few minutes of rehab in an ambulance.

Thompson expressed nothing but confidence in his chief and his fellow firefighters. He said he never felt like it was a desperate situation.

"I knew it was our job and they would get us out some how," Thompson said.

Phillips was the next one brought back to the command post on Casey Road.

Upon his return, the demeanor of his brother and a friend who had been pacing the road for more than two hours went from fretful to joyous.

"You go from being absolutely terrified to utter rejoicing in the matter of two hours," said friend Matthew Laflair.

Laflair had some familiarity with the swamp area and knew what firefighters were up against.

"I know how tough it is to get back there, so to see the effort is good," Laflair said. "It's impressive to see a helicopter pulling some people out of here."

Patnode was the third person airlifted out of the swamp. He was also impressed by the effort of the Erie County pilot.

"I think he went above and beyond," Patnode said. "Maybe he went out of his comfort zone doing a night rescue like that, but he got the job done."

There were two other members of the Alabama team who got stranded in the woods. They were brought out by members of the Clarence Center Fire Department who were dressed in cold-water rescue suits.

In all, volunteers from fire departments in Genesee, Orleans, Erie and Niagara counties assisted in the rescue of Phillips.

"I owe them my life," Phillps said. "If they didn't come out and get me, I'd be dead tonight. I appreciate every second of it. They're great people."

Patnode, Thompson, Schutt, all said, "this is what we do."

So what can we say about that?

"I think you say 'Thank you,' " Schutt said. "I don't know what more you can say than that.

"These guys are out here, no paycheck," Schutt added. "They've been out here in the cold for hours, but it's something you do for your community. When you're part of a volunteer fire department, somebody calls for help, you go help. It's not something you complain about. None of these guys are going to complain about being out here cold and away from home for hours."

The initial post on this incident by Billie Owens contains a lot of details in chronological order of how the rescue went down. If you haven't read it, read it.

Bill Schutt, communicating with dispatchers early in the incident.

Patnode, center of the picture, after being airlifted from the swamp.

Top photo, Colin Phillips escorted to an ambulance after being rescued.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Oakfield teen's first deer bow hunting is an albino

post by Howard B. Owens in hunting, Oakfield, outdoors

Emily Staniszewski, a 14-year-old Oakfield resident, killed her first deer this week bow hunting, but not just any deer. It's an albino buck.

She made the kill of the three pointer in Chautauqua County.

Kimberly Staniszewski said the deer is quite the trophy for her daughter.

"Needless to say we are planning on having a full mount of this unique animal to admire for many years to come," Kimberly said.

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