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Hamilton County Outdoors -- 06/11/2014 Hunters set their sights on woodchucks By Dick Nelson

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - Updated: 10:07 PM

Now that the spring turkey-hunting season is a thing of the past and hunters have gone through the necessary chore of cleaning their scatterguns what is there for enthusiastic sportsmen to do?

Trout and walleye fishing is one option, but when water temperatures warm even hungry trout get lethargic. And, even if you do find a decent pool with fish, there's a good chance someone will be swimming or bathing in it.

Walleye fishermen can always go deep and bass fishermen can play catch and release with largemouth and smallmouth until the June 21 opener for that species, but with the exception of hunting woodchucks there isn't much a hunter can do until fall.

Also known as a groundhog or pasture pig, the woodchuck is generally regarded as a pest. Burrows, used for mating, raising young, hibernating and escaping danger, are commonly in fields and pastures and are easily identifiable by a large mound of dirt at the entrance, which the resident rodent frequently sits atop to look for danger. Woodchucks can be hunted between hibernation periods with no bag limit. A valid small game hunting license is needed.

Since woodchucks primarily feed in the early morning and evening, the best time to hunt them is between sunup and 9 a.m. and again from 6-8 p.m. When not feeding, they sometimes bask in the sun. They often stand up on their hind legs to search their surroundings and, provided they're not alarmed, this offers the best opportunity for a shot. They are, however, easily spooked and will quickly run for the nearest hole if anything out of the ordinary is sensed.

That's why complete camouflage is a must. Think of it as hunting turkey with a rifle, but shots are generally taken at long distances, sometimes 200 yards or more. While some woodchuck hunters take to the field with big game calibers such as .30-06 and .308, preferred calibers include .22 LR, .22 Hornet, .222, .22-250, .223, .243 or 17HMR, with or without a scope.

Shotguns can be used, but you're going to need a lot of patience to get close enough for a quick, clean kill, within 30 yards, preferably using a 12 gauge loaded with No. 4 or No. 5 shot.


Dave Allen of Dave's Bait Shop in Northville (518) 863-8318) tells us boaters are catching both walleye and brown trout trolling planner boards on Sacandaga Lake. Unfortunately he didn't say what lure fishermen are using, but after checking with former Hamilton County Express outdoor scribe Ron Kolodziej, who for many years ran a charter service on the big water, I learned his favorite lure is a Junior ThunderStick, with a metallic rainbow trout pattern during the day and a purple scale just as the sun goes down.

Dave also wanted to remind area anglers about his month-long fishing contest that pays down to four spots for pike, walleye and trout as well as white and yellow perch and, come June 21, black bass. The entry fee is $10.

Meanwhile Ryan Lewis of Bob Bait and Tackle in Corinth (518-654-9391) says just about everyone who tosses a line into the Kayaderosseras Creek has been catching some hefty brown trout, while several big pike have been pulled out of the Hudson River between Corinth and Hadley.

It's touch and go along the Salmon River in Pulaski. According to Dave Wood of Woody's Tackle (315-298-2378) anglers seem to be looking far and wide for pods of fish, but steelhead are the most active as they are making their way out of the rivers and streams back into the lake with a few salmon being taken in deeper water.

Fly fishermen are focusing on the Upper Fly Zone in hopes of catching an Atlantic, Skamania or brown trout. In the lower end of the river anglers are picking up smallmouth bass in the deep holes such as Papermill, Longbridge and Black Hole.


On June 3, the state Assembly approved bills 3244-A (microstamping) and 3941-A (safe storage). The bills now go to the Assembly Codes Committee where quick passage is expected. Then they go to the floor for a vote. Since Democrats outnumber Republicans 107 to 43 both should easily make it through despite a vigorous debate by assemblymen Marc Butler, Steve McLaughlin and others who understand the impact these bills will have on gun owners, gun manufacturers and ultimately the state economy.

Early this year both Smith and Wesson and Sturm Ruger announced that rather than try to comply with a California law requiring some handguns to have technology that imprints a tiny stamp on the bullet, so it can be traced back to the gun, they will stop selling certain firearms in the Golden State, stating "the technology is unworkable in its present form and can actually impair a gun's performance."

In a press release addressing the company's position, S&W wrote, "Smith & Wesson does not and will not include microstamping in its firearms. A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes. The microstamping mandate and the company's unwillingness to adopt this so-called technology will result in a diminishing number of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistols available for purchase by California residents."

"This is the latest attempt to undermine the Second Amendment in California by politicians with little to no knowledge of firearms, who seek to impose their liberal values upon those who choose to protect their families with the constitutional right to own a handgun," said Chuck Michel, West Coast counsel for the National Rifle Association, an adjunct professor at Chapman University and author of the book, "California Gun Laws."

Just because these bills pass the Assembly doesn't mean they automatically become law. They still have to be pass by the NYS Senate, and according to New York State Rifle and Pistol Association President Tom King, the only hope gun owners have to stop this onerous legislation lies in Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' power to stop bills from coming to the floor for a vote. To that end King is urging gun owners and others who feel these bills are just another attempt to keep firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens to call their state senators and urge them to impress upon Skelos your outrage at this draconian legislation and consequences to the gun owners should it pass.

Hamilton County's state senator is Hugh Farley: Legislative Office Bldg. 711, 188 State St., Albany NY 12247; 518-455-2181; or


Outdoor Life, a nationwide sporting magazine that debuted in 1898, recently announced the expansion of its Open Country program. Launched in 2012, Open Country takes aim at a critical issue for sportsmen: access to public lands for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. New this year, Outdoor Life will award monetary grants to six grassroots projects making a difference on the issue. For more information visit

"The only way to move the needle on access is to be proactive," said Outdoor Life Editor-in-Chief Andrew McKean. "We've been so inspired by sportsmen across the country who are working hard to solve this issue in their own backyard. But for every group that's creating access on the ground, there are two more that need funds and inspiration to bring their project to fruition. By providing some seed funds and calling additional attention to their projects we hope to work together to create even more access."_

Outdoor Life plans to highlight six grassroots groups or individuals who are actively working on public land access and/or public land habitat improvement projects. Each of the six projects will be covered this fall in the publication and online with links to fundraising pages, offering Outdoor Life readers the opportunity to assist. Thanks to the support of Outdoor Life's Open Country partner, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, each of the six designated projects will receive a $500 mini-grant._ Applications for Outdoor Life's Open Country Grant Awards program are available at the above website. Grant applications must be received by June 16.


A public comment period regarding hunting with crossbows will be open through July 17. Essentially the document addresses all aspects of where, when and what species can be hunted. The text of proposed rules and any required statements and analyses may be obtained from Bryan Swift, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany NY 12233-4754, (518) 402-8922 or

Comments on these regulations should be sent to Swift at the contact info listed above. New York Crossbow Coalition President Rick McDermott is urging everyone interested in making the crossbow a legal hunting implement to contact Swift as soon as possible. "This is just as important as all of the calls sportsmen made that got us to this point," McDermott says.

Be assured the New York Bowhunters will be telling its members to call against it, so numbers will matter.

Dropping anchor 'til next time.

To contact Dick Nelson email to


June 17 -- Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation meets, Fish House Fish and Game Club, 478 Fayville Road, Providence, 7 p.m.

June 18 -- Cornell Cooperative Extension, Hamilton County will hold a symposium on the growing problem of Canada goose populations in residential and recreational areas at Piseco Common School, Rt. 8, Piseco, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (518) 548-6191.

June 21 -- Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation 23rd Annual Summer Fishing Contest on Great Sacandaga Lake , 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Headquartered at Sport Island Pub, early registration for the three category event -- bass, walleye and trout -- is $20 or $25 the day of the contest. Children age 12 and under fish free when accompanied by a paying adult. In addition, six trout are wearing orange tags each valued at $1,000. Tagged fish are for GLFF members only and can only be redeemed the day of the contest ($10 memberships are available on site). Applications are available at Ross' Bait Shop in Hagaman, Dave's Bait & Tackle Shop in Mayfield, LaPort's Bait Shop in Edinburg, Jim's Bait Shop in Mayfield, Frank's Bait Shop in Vails Mills, Fuel & Food in Mayfield and online at For more information contact Randy Gardinier at (518) 848-7248 or Jack Smith at (518) 863-1062 or email


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