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Hamilton County Outdoors By Ron Kolodziej

Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - Updated: 4:32 PM

Outdoor writers gather in Lake Placid

This is the times of year when everything seems to be happening at once.

To bring you up to speed, let's go back a few weeks and begin with the Sept. 13-16 joint Outdoor Writers Association of America / New York State Outdoor Writers Association Conference in Lake Placid. As I mentioned in an earlier column, OWAA conferences are held annually in a variety of locales to give their national membership a taste of what other areas have to offer.

The 2012 conference, which I was unable to attend because of previous commitments, was in Alaska. They've visited New York state only twice over the years -- Rochester in 1948 and Niagara Falls in 1991. The NYS Outdoor Writers Association wisely scheduled its annual conference for Lake Placid during the same time frame, so both organizations could benefit from attendance at both conclaves.

Almost 300 outdoor media professionals attended the four-day gathering, and many arrived earlier or stayed a few days extra to avail themselves of pre- or post-conference activities. The schedule for Friday, Sept. 13, was a bit looser since many of the attendees were still arriving, but I presented a talk on newspaper writing during a mid-afternoon session entitled "Becoming An Outdoors Communicator." It went over well and I'm pleased I was asked to do it.


The following day, Saturday, Sept. 14, was jam-packed with interesting seminars and presentations including an address by the keynote speaker, Tim Gallagher, who has authored a book entitled, "Imperial Dreams: Searching for the World's Rarest Bird in the Drug War Zone of Northern Mexico." The subject of his book is his search for the perhaps now-extinct imperial woodpecker, arguably the largest woodpecker in the world at two feet long.

It is, or was, found only in old growth pine forests in remote stretches of the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, at an elevation generally over 8,000 feet. The birds' presence hasn't been documented in some time so its survival is doubtful, at best. I enjoyed his presentation very much and bought a copy of the book. I heartily recommend it.

I'm not a birder by any stretch of the imagination, but this book reads more like an adventure novel and has all the ingredients of one. The travails and physical challenges Gallagher and his companions faced were enormous -- including run-ins with narcotics traffickers. I found it especially interesting because I trod a few of the same trails while I was on my Gould's turkey hunt in those same mountains about 10 years ago.

Even then I fully expected to see Humphrey Bogart pop up from behind a rock as he did in the movie "Treasure of the Sierra Madre," and accuse me of looking for his gold mine. I guarantee you'll enjoy this book, whether you're a birder or not. It has something for everyone and is very well written.


After a number of other interesting presentations, including a DEMO Day at Adirondack Loj, both groups visited the North Elba Showgrounds for a delicious repast and a simulation of a helicopter rescue by forest rangers and State Police. The Environmental Conservation Police also demonstrated the use of K9 dogs in enforcement actions.

The following day we enjoyed a presentation by DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens and I had the opportunity to speak with him at a round-table discussion. I'll save a description of that chat for a future column.

Then, on Sunday, our schedule included dinner and a visit to The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. I last visited it several years ago and can say it certainly has grown bigger and better in the intervening years.

The following day, Monday, Sept. 16, included a Shooting Day at Heaven Hill Farm and additional seminars as well as the awards presentations, the annual business meeting of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association and the formal closing banquet.

There's a lot more to tell about the joint conference but I'll have to leave some of those additional items for a future column, as time and space permit.


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