For outdoors folk, activities fields, woods, lakes and streams provided more enjoyment and bounty than a slew of burning issues and weather events that hit the headlines in 2012.
Anglers, hunters, trappers, shooters and those involved in consuming pursuits this past year endured news and commentary on everything from mass shootings, crossbow-hunting status, mandatory hunter orange, and hunter access to spinoff storms from Hurricane Sandy.
Angst involving area anglers took a hiatus this past year, if you factor out early shellfish closings in New York’s saltwater areas.
Area homeowners, boaters and even gardeners empathized with the property damage and losses of those along the Atlantic coast who suffered the long and intensive winds and rising waters of Hurricane Sandy. Shore damage was virtually nil around Western New York, unless you count a report of mud puppies washed ashore along the Lake Ontario shoreline.
Sandy’s winds brought heavy rainfall that nearly compensated for the lack of rain farmers and gardeners endured for six to eight weeks late last summer. Out back, everything from root crops (beets, carrots, etc.) to grasses (clover, saw grass, brassica to standing corn and winter squashes all thrived.
In years past, a planting of pumpkins and butternut squash kept deer fed to well past the gun-hunting season. This year, plantings of stripetti squash disappeared before the end of bow season. And plantings of more than three dozen mounds showed not only the fruits but also leaves and stems down to the core.
Weather provided both bounty and ills for planters and bird rearing. A mid-spring swelter-and-frost and summer draught were followed with mild fall weather, minimal hurricane damage and some rain to help raise water levels, which could be a concern for boaters and anglers in 2013.
No outdoors issue initiates and sustains more controversy among hunters than the legalization and season-setting of crossbows in New York State.
For decades, a dominating faction in the New York Bowhunters (NYB) organization has strived to ban and now to limit its use throughout the early archery season, which now goes from Oct. 1 to the Friday before the start of firearms season.
That bloc of bow hunters in NYB ranks existed well before the organization was formed in 1991. This bow-oriented group formed to further legislation that benefits archery hunters. The group became adept at lobbying state legislators and recruited environmental conservation committee members and chairs to enact favored legislation and to table or dismiss bill proposals not meeting NYB approval.
In years past, NYB successfully killed crossbow legalization and then tailored legislation to ban the crossbow during archery season. Then, the Department of Environmental Conservation established a Youth Hunt during the Columbus Day Weekend and NYB coordinators encouraged Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney to enact a continuation of crossbow legalization only during firearms-hunting seasons.
Included in the Sweeney version was wording to abolish youth firearms hunts during the early bow season and to grant the DEC permission to conduct an archery-only season. Public outcry prompted Gov. Cuomo to veto Assembly Bill 10583A. Effective Friday, big game hunters cannot use a crossbow in any of the late-seasons in the state.
NYB has alienated many groups and created in-fighting between fellow hunters who archery hunt. This latest legislative move has now created a rift between bow and gun hunters. NYB president Richard Kirschner, in a Christmas greeting to NYB members, characterized the dispute about the Youth Hunt as one between bow hunters and gun hunters. The NYB position is to hold the Youth Hunt during the first week of the gun season.
Crossbow advocates encourage efforts to appeal to Assemblyman Sweeney and other state legislators serving on conservation committees to retain the early youth hunt and grant crossbow use during the archery season in 2013 and years thereafter.
Hunting and fishing
Early warmth, substantial forage (bait) presence and good growing stock had hunters enjoying much bounty in 2012.
Only wild turkey populations are tailing off among hunted game; the Cattaraugus Creek rainbow/steelhead presence could have been better.
Otherwise, hunters harvested and anglers hooked up well this past year.
Lake Ontario’s king salmon population is royalty. Boaters and shore casters from Fort Niagara to waters off Rochester saw king (Chinook) numbers high and highest for 2-year-olds many call “teeners.” As soon as lines could be cast into Ontario waters, these mid-sized monsters began arching rods and running out reels.
Lake Erie’s walleye populations did the same thing just after the season opener in early May. Perch schools in deeper waters added similar size and numbers successes.
Turkey hunters saw a slight drop in the spring count, with a fair number of mature toms (over 20 pounds with long spurs and beards).
Deer hunters did fairly well with the overall harvest and even better with trophy-sized bucks. Brian Stedman at S&S Taxidermy and Archery Pro shop said, “We’ve gotten over 200 head mounts, only the third time for that number, and an above-average count on trophy mounts.”
Other area taxidermists report similar results.