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Those instructors who work to certify New York State sportsmen as bow and gun hunters and trappers as well as in other activities are a special lot. They work purely as volunteers, ensuring young and rookie outdoors men and women learn safe and more efficient ways to enjoy their pursuits.

Generations of instructors have provided instruction for Western New York residents. Last year, the Fix family was honored for four generations of sportsmen education service in Department of Environmental Conservation Regions 8 and 9.

The Miskey family, Frank Sr. and Jr., now works on a three-generation presence. Frank Sr. and Jr. have served as longtime instructors, and a grandson, not quite 2-years-old, has attended the past two recognition banquets.

Youth presence is promising for the future of instruction in our region. Along with the years-of-service awards, Ken Baginski, DEC Region 9 Sportsmen Education Coordinator, recognized Nikolas Puleo, 14, of Orchard Park as the youngest certified instructor.

The program permits youths to obtain certification at age 14; “I got into the program as soon as I could and started in March,” Nikolas said during the banquet.

Baginski presented 10-Year Achievement Awards to Roy Bonham, Jerry Gorski and Cheryl Schenne and 20-Year Achievement Awards to Duane Kelly and Frank Miskey Jr.

A special Wayne Jones Excellence Award went to master instructor Brian Krawczyk. Baginski took some time announcing the partial list of volunteer contributions of time and talents for which Krawczyk is so well known in educator circles.

Each year, banquet coordinators invite a DEC specialist to present a PowerPoint presentation on current fish and wildlife projects conducted. Baginski humorously announced, “You’re stuck with me for the presentation this year.” Serving also as the Region 9 trapping/furbearer specialist, he offered a most interesting show-and-tell fisher forum.

For trappers and anyone with interests in furbearers, the fisher seems a remote topic for area trapper folk. No open season exists for fisher in areas of Western New York; trappers must head to regions in the Adirondacks or Catskills to set traps during seasons opened there for this popular and pricy furbearer.

“But fisher are showing up in places around here, which led to a Fisher Monitoring Study,” Baginski said of his study focused on this oversized member of the weasel family. Observers often mistake fisher for big weasels; they can weigh from five to 15 pounds when mature.

While their presence is minimal in low-lying areas of Western New York, the study is showing some impressive numbers of fisher along the Southern Tier and forested areas of central New York. The study is conducted from Jan. 1 to April 1 in and along wooded edges during the period of resident occupancy. Staffers set up 100 cameras in Regions 9, 8, 7 and 4 focused on meat samples strapped to a tree with gun-cleaning brushes studded around the bait to collect fur samples for DNA testing.

“Along with state land areas, we set up cameras on more than 150 private land sites to collect data on fishers,” Baginski said of the many frames he showed that captured not only fisher but amusing views of deer and less-than-amusing raccoons that can artfully remove bait meats set out for study animals.

One of the last shots shown was the only photo in which two fishers were climbing to bite the bait, a clear indication that the mating season was starting and fisher photos would be few.

Trapping certification classes highlight this and all popular furbearer species found around our area. All of these experienced certification instructors provide environmental conservation information along with gear functions and safety instruction. Without them, the sportsmen education program could not exist.

email: odrswill@gmail.com