Anyone who missed the April 1 opener of New York's trout fishing season didn't miss much. No matter where you went, chances were the water was high, fast, cold and muddy -- four conditions that cause terrible trout fishing. The only thing the opener had going for it was the weather, inasmuch as the sun was shining and there was relatively little wind.
Trout fishers were well aware of conditions before they left home, and those that looked at the thermometer had the good sense to wait until mid-afternoon before wetting a line. The temperature lingered around the freezing mark when I pulled out of my driveway and in some areas it was colder than that.
I have always been big on tradition and lately my brain and body have been on good speaking terms, so I did my traditional thing and drove around the countryside hoping to talk and photograph someone with a line in the water. The plan was to find someone with fish and move downstream of him or her and dunk some worms.
It never happened, so by 10 a.m. I pointed the silver bullet towards Albany to see how many patriots were taking part in the Repeal the SAFE Act Rally. As it turned out there were -- despite reports to the contrary -- more than 5,000 of them, about 4,500 more than I thought there would be considering the event was planned for the trout opener.
Back in February I questioned Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) president and event organizer Steve Aldstad's choice of dates, saying, "We'll just have to wait until April 1 to see which of us is the bigger fool." Turned out the April Fools Day joke was on me, and I'm happy about it.
But there are several things I'm not too happy about, beginning with the change of location. Seems the governor didn't want the protestors too close to his office. Two days before the rally Aldstad was notified he would be moved to the Empire State Plaza.
Not a bad location if you don't want to be seen and heard, but a bit out-of-the-way if you do. And, because the event was moved, the City of Albany - probably as a courtesy to Gov. Cuomo -- closed a dozen city blocks to parking.
In addition, the State Police plastered signs in and around the rally, reading, "Attention anything that appears to be a weapon including toy guns and other replicas are strictly prohibited today at the Empire State Plaza except for on-duty police officers only."
Another thing the event could have done without was the rock concert. The rally began with a performance by patriotic rock group Madison Rising, which opened with a Mick Jagger-style version of "The Star Spangled Banner." It's not that the four-piece band wasn't good, because they put on a fantastic show, but I wasn't the only one who thought a 90-minute concert wasn't necessary, even if it was free.
People weren't there to be entertained. They were there to show their disgust with a law many refer to as the UNSAFE Act.
In any event, by the time 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino introduced billionaire real-estate tycoon Donald Trump, the temperature had climbed to 50 degrees. The crowd, which was constantly revved up by emcee Melody Burns and the half-dozen guest speakers, was hotter than that, as each fired verbal missiles at Cuomo, GOP Senate Co-Majority Leader Dean Skelos and other turncoat Republicans who voted in favor of the SAFE Act -- each getting booed when their names were mentioned -- as hundreds of attendees expressed their displeasure with signs and banners.
I thought it odd Paladino introduced Trump as the next governor of New York, when "The Donald" had already dropped out of the race. It was also a slap in the face to Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, who was standing a mere 30 feet away. Adding insult to injury, Paladino said, "Rob Astorino is a good man but we need someone who is going to get elected." It is this same type of dumb rhetoric that has divided sportsmen for decades.
At any rate, it took Paladino, Trump and Astorino awhile to start talking about the business at hand. The crowd responded approvingly as each of them spoke. Trump announced he has a New York City pistol permit. "I'm a big Second Amendment person," Trump said. "You have the constitutional right to bear arms, and the SAFE Act goes against the second, fourth, fifth and 14th amendments." Then, mentioning Remington Arms by name, he noted how firearms businesses are leaving the state for a more gun friendly environment.
As with most of the speakers, Astorino stressed the importance of registering to vote and getting friends and family to do the same. And along with voting for him, to vote for former DEC Commissioner John Cahill for attorney general.
"Cuomo receives $27,000 donations," he said. "I'll take $2,700, $270, $27, or whatever you want to send. [Cuomo] took away your rights; you take away his job," Astorino said, to a boisterous cheer.
As loud as the protestors were, downstate Democrats didn't hear a thing. In fact, while anti-SAFE Act protesters were cheering speakers and carrying signs reading "Cuomo is a liar and phony," "Cuomo Gota Go," "New York is not safe, fight Cuomo" and the "2nd amendment isn't about hunting," several new gun control proposals were introduced, including one that would require gun owners to use gun safes or trigger locks when storing a gun; a 10-day waiting period before a buyer can take possession of a gun and a rule that would prohibit anyone from buying more than one handgun a month.
LATEST ON CROSSBOWS
I briefed you last week on the legalization of crossbows, which passed in a closed-door agreement as an inclusion in the state budget. The language allows the use of crossbows for all small game and any big game season that includes firearms, beginning with the spring turkey hunt. In addition, it permits crossbow use during the final 14 days of the Southern Zone early archery season and the final 10 days of the Northern Zone early archery season. Further, the restrictions for archery hunting in proximity to dwellings were changed from 500 feet to 150 feet for standard bows and 250 feet for crossbows.
I may seem ungrateful, but much the same as New York Bowhunters Inc., which has a history of never being satisfied with the length of the bowhunting season, I believe the closed door agreement didn't go far enough. There is absolutely no reason why the crossbow can't be used during the entire bowhunting season.
I know that was the deal the governor made with Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee, who had vowed to never let any pro-crossbow bill reach the floor for a vote. But he never counted on this backdoor approach, although he was able to keep Nassau and Suffolk counties out of the crossbow inclusion.
I never could see what all the fuss was about. What difference does it make if a bowhunter uses a long bow, recurve bow, compound bow or a vertical bow? They each shoot arrows and accuracy is in the hands of the holder. It was inevitable the crossbow would be recognized as a legitimate hunting tool; the irony is it took the SAFE Act to make it happen.
How you ask? Well, ever since Gov. Cuomo rammed the controversial SAFE Act through the Senate and Assembly as a 'matter of necessity,' he's been courting sportsmen at every turn, hoping to win them back. All he had to do was look out his office window April 1 to see it hasn't worked.
I'm just curious as to how many NYB members who said they would quit hunting should the crossbow ever become legal actually put their bow in the Want Ad Digest or on eBay. I'm even more curious as to how many NYB members already own a crossbow and have been waiting for state legislators to come to their senses.
At any rate, I tip my hat to Rick McDermott, who grabbed the bolt by the shaft and fought on behalf of us all to make this happen, going as far as establishing the New York State Crossbow Coalition (www.nycrossbowcoalition.com), which took the not-so-merry-men head on and eventually outscored them.
HARD ON DUCKS
The DEC recently announced an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 waterfowl were found dead near the shore waters of eastern Lake Erie and the Niagara River. According to the report, the birds, mostly diving ducks such as red-breasted mergansers and greater scaup, died of starvation, a direct result of extensive ice cover and cold temperatures that blocked access to the food diving ducks need to sustain themselves.
The harsh winter conditions also caused distress for other birds, including American coots, lesser scaup, common mergansers, long-tailed ducks, white-winged scoters, bufflehead, goldeneye, canvasback, redheads, pied-billed grebes, horned and red-necked grebes.
To contact Dick Nelson with event or club news or to send a photograph email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Events should include the what, where, when and cost (if any). Photographs should include name of subject(s), town of residency and a brief description of the photo.
April 12-13 - Syracuse Gun Show, Center of Progress Building, NYS Fairgrounds Expo Center. Over 1,000 tables. Hours: Saturday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Admission: $6 each, with children under age 12 admitted free with an adult.
April 19 - Shot Heard Around New York. Similar to the first, this symbolic protest against the SAFE Act urges every gun owner with access to a safe environment to fire one or more rounds at exactly high noon.
April 26 - New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame annual banquet and induction, Rusty Rail Restaurant, 3231 Seneca Turnpike, Canastota. Registration and social hour 5 p.m., dinner 6 p.m. For reservations call 315-363-3896 or 315-829-3588 by April 19.
May 1 - Turkey hunting season opener.