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Holding a hefty largemouth bass, Gov. Andrew Cuomo poses for one of many photo ops during the Aug. 23 “Governors Challenge” on Owasco Lake, Cayuga County. (Photo submitted)


Hamilton County Outdoors -- 09/03/14 Hunting preserves open for business By Dick Nelson

Wednesday, September 03, 2014 - Updated: 11:14 PM

I'm willing to bet my favorite fishing cap that sometime this past weekend you heard one or more comments on how fast summer slipped by. You may have even commented on it yourself. That’s just the way it is when Labor Day rolls around - even though the autumnal equinox is still three weeks away.

It arrives during the late hours of Sept. 22, and by then, serious trout fishermen will be taking advantage of cooler water temperatures; anglers will be lined up along the Salmon River hoping to get a jump on the early run of Chinook salmon; squirrels will have had three weeks to figure out those orange vested guys and gals traipsing through the woods have more than hiking on their mind; the new Sept. 6-21 early bear hunting season the DEC established in nine Southern Tier wildlife management units will have ended; the September Canada goose hunting season will be coming to a close; area youngsters anxious to take part in the Sept. 27-28 Youth Waterfowl Weekend will be counting the days and telephone lines at license shooting preserves will be ringing off the hook as upland bird hunters - with or without their own bird dog - begin reserving choice dates for fall and winter hunts.

How do I know this you ask? Because I owned and operated the J.R. Shooting Preserve for more than a decade and you could literally bet the farm it would happen.

I mention this because more than sixty shooting - or hunting preserves as they are also known - opened across the state on September 1, and while it is still too warm to turn your pooch loose on ringneck pheasant, chukar partridge or quail for any length of time, these pay-for-play facilities provide hunting opportunities amid outstanding cover you can no longer find in the wild.

Despite the DEC’s statewide release of some 30,000 pheasants, both hens and the more colorful roosters, can be harder to find then the proverbial needle in a haystack. And while that can frustrate the hunter, one can only imagine how the dog feels.

In any event, there are about a dozen of these facilities within close proximity of everyone who owns a scattergun including, Marshville Wings, 518-673-4470; Stonewall Game Preserve, 518-488-8489; Hull-O Farms, 518-239-6950; Thunder Meadow Shooting Preserve, 518-966-8320; Stuyvesant Outdoor Adventures, 877-261-5889; Austerlitz Club, 518-392-3468; Lidos Game Farm, 518-329-1551; Tompkins Hunting Club, 607-637-4574; R&R Farms, 607-832-4311; Mountain Spring Lodge, 607-538-1838; Mountainview Preserve & Kennels, 607-638-9509 and Fox Hill, 607-638-9410.

Granted you have to pay in advance for each bird you want to send the dog out to find, but unlike clay targets, you get to eat whatever shoot. Cost varies at each facility, but generally speaking a group of 3-4 hunters can expect to pay $250 or more for a 10 bird pheasant hunt.


I received a call from Gov. Cuomo’s communication director Gareth Rhodes last week regarding my Aug. 23 invite to the “Governors Challenge” -- a fishing competition that along with members of the media included 15 Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament fishing pros and of course, state and local politicians.

Held on Owasco Lake (Cayuga County), the so-called Challenge was designed to highlight and promote fishing and vacationing opportunities in upstate New York -- or in this case, the Finger Lakes.

I’ve fished several of the 11 Finger Lakes in Central New York, Owasco, Cayuga, Keuka and Seneca. Of the four, Cayuga and Seneca were the most productive. Now that’s not to say the other two lakes -- or the remaining seven I haven’t fished -- are not as good. As anyone who has ever dunked a worm or tossed an artificial lure into the water will tell you, the catching part of this sport changes from day to day or within minutes for that matter. That’s why they call it fishing.

In any event, I told Rhodes, I wasn’t going to make it because something else came up. In truth, I didn’t want to drive to Auburn for what essentially would become a photo op to boost Gov. Cuomo’s standing within the sporting community, even if it did include a “Taste NY” luncheon.

I might have had second thoughts had that luncheon included a couple of bottles of Finger Lakes wine; then again, maybe not. I figure if Gov. Cuomo wants to promote tourism through his "NY Open for Fishing and Hunting" initiative he can start with the Hudson River estuary by directing DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens to roll back the 15 inch size limit the agency imposed on largemouth and smallmouth bass in 2006.

Since that 12 to 15 inch size limit was imposed, it has created a negative economic impact throughout that region contributing to the lost of millions of tourism dollars.


The DEC recently came out with the official crossbow regulations, a narrative that appeared in this space Aug. 6. But there seems to be some confusion as to whether a licensed hunter must retake the hunter education class to use a horizontal bow during any of the small game or big game hunting seasons. The answer to that is no - although for many, that wouldn't be a bad idea. What it says is hunters must carry a signed self-certification in the field when hunting with a crossbow as proof of compliance. For those of you who intend to hunt with a crossbow, the self-certification certificate can be downloaded from the DEC website at:


Due to the new fishing license structure that now runs one year from the date of purchase, the DEC has extended all freshwater fishing regulations through March 31, 2015. I mention this so there is no confusion when you purchase a new fishing license and the licensing agent hands you last year’s regulations guide. Also, with the discontinuance of the Sportsmen, Super Sportsmen and Conservation licenses, a fishing license is now a separate $25 purchase.

Resident one or seven day licenses are also available at $5 and $12 respectively. For non-residents it’s $10 and $28.

The new freshwater fishing regulations will take effect April 1, 2015 and a new regulations guide will be available from all licensing agents at that time.

The guide is also available on-line at, as well as the new free New York Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife mobile app. The app is available for iPhone and Android devices; users can download it for free in the iTunes App Store and the Android Market.

The proposed new regulations will be available for public review and comment beginning in mid-September at

In a somewhat related matter, I recently learned the new Accela electronic licensing system the DEC and many of its 1,100 license agents have been having so much trouble with has had a negative impact on the Conservation Fund to the tune of at least $1million in lost license sales since January. My source went on to say that since the Accela system is hooked up with other state agencies he believes the Conservation Fund should be reimbursed from the General Fund. 


In a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the DEC and Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, aka, Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative (LCFWMC), six tributaries and three delta areas of Lake Champlain will be treated with lampricides during September and October.

According to scheduling, the DEC will be treating the Boquet, Ausable, Little Ausable, Salmon, and the Great Chazy rivers in New York and Lewis Creek in Vermont, beginning with the Boquet River Sept. 9.

While trout and salmon populations of the lake are the primary beneficiaries of these efforts, lake sturgeon, walleye, and many other species also benefit from sea lamprey control. Sea lamprey control also generates economic activity by increasing angling opportunities and the time that boaters, anglers, and their families spend in the Lake Champlain area.

Annual sea lamprey assessments continue to show the success of the program where an average of 54 sea lamprey wounds per 100 lake trout and 15 per 100 Atlantic salmon were recorded in 2013. This is down from a high of 99 for lake trout in 2007 and 79 for Atlantic salmon in 2003.

Larval sea lamprey lives in rivers and on deltas for about four years before transforming to their parasitic phase and emigrating to Lake Champlain, where their effect on the fishery becomes apparent.

Information on the treatment schedule for each of the treatments, progress reports, updates on treatments, and water use advisories can be obtained by calling 1-888-596-0611.


Sept. 12-14 - Beginner Fly Fishing Workshop, Adirondack Interpretive Center, Newcomb. Registration is $199 and includes meals, lodging, instruction, equipment and hands-on guided fishing. For more information and/or reservation call 518-582-2000 or email:

Sept. 19-21 - New York State Conservation Council 81st Annual Meeting, Holiday Inn, 1777 Burrstone Road, New Hartford. Speakers include DEC Fish and Wildlife Director Pat Riexinger, Wildlife Chief Gordon Batcheller, Division of Law Enforcement Director Tim Duffy. For more information call 315-894-3302.


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