It’s official. Governor Cuomo has signed the “Home Rule” law that permits big game hunters in Ontario County to use centerfire rifles. And since there are no restrictions included, that change means hunters will be allowed to those rifles this fall.
Kudos of the highest caliber are called for. We can thank Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio for personally shepherding this legislation through their respective house of the state legislator. It would not have happened without their tenacious support.
Leader Kolb stated, “This new law is welcome news for our sporting community. The use of rifles during big game season is becoming more popular among sportsmen and women. Allowing the use of rifles here will make Ontario County even more appealing to local hunters and to conservationists who visit our region to enjoy our unique natural resources.”
In a 2012 resolution, and reaffirmed this spring, the Ontario County Board of Supervisors formally requested that this county be added to the list of New York State counties that allow rifle hunting. With the new law, Ontario County becomes the 19th county to have this option in place.
The hunting season for deer and bear in the Southern Zone begins on Nov. 16.
It is my opinion, based on personal observations and known facts, that the woodlands will become safer for hunters and local residents. Rifles permit pin-point accuracy at longer ranges while most shotguns are only capable of “general” accuracy beyond around 50 yards. With proper bullet selection and range practice, hunters using rifles can expect quicker, more humane kills.
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I talked with a friend in the DEC and received some troubling news. The near-record rainfalls we received this past spring may have been just what our local farmers needed, but those rains may have wiped out most wild turkey poult production. Hens are being seen all over, but they do not have many if any youngsters with them.
There have been no official pronouncements from the DEC yet because research is still ongoing and more hen sightings are needed. But I was informed that, based on known data, it appears that turkey production for 2013 may be among the lowest on record. Time will tell on this one.
If this loss is for real, and I believe that it is, hunters should not expect to see a lot of jakes next spring. But that is only the tip of the problem. There will be fewer breeding hens next year as well, which translates into fewer turkeys for two or more years.
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Anglers, here is a hot tip if you enjoy fishing for northern pike. Give Silver Lake a try because it is full of those tough fighting fish.
My friend Stephen Dunning of Williamson is a professional SCUBA diver. He was doing some cleaning work on a water intake in that lake, and he could not believe the number and size of the northerns that were constantly surrounding him in the murky water.
Page 2 of 2 - He also observed quite a few nice-sized bass and other gamefish species, but there were so many pike that it was actually hard to concentrate on anything else.
Based on the murky water report, I would suggest either live bait (shiners) or bright gold or silvery-colored spoons. Other lures might work, but you will probably need to try them out on the fish to find the right combinations.
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Have you ever wondered about how long a black bear might live in the wild? I have ever since the original “Smokey Bear” was humanely euthanized at the National Zoo in Washington while I was working there. He managed to live for 35 years at the zoo.
I would have guessed that bears in the wild would be lucky to make it past 10 or 12 years. However, Minnesota wildlife officials are still tracking a female black bear known only as No. 56. She was radio-collared at age 7, and they have been faithfully tracking her since then. She is now 39 years old.
She lives in the Bigfork-Marcell region of the state. But while she is still making her way in the wild, she appears now to be quite frail. She has trouble seeing and hearing, and can no longer make her way through thick woodlands. That limits her to using trails and roads which brings her into frequent contact with humans.
She had been a very fruitful breeder. The biologists know that she has had at least 26 cubs during her lifetime, and stopped breeding at age 26.
For the record, the average age of a Minnesota black bear harvested by a hunter is less than 4 years old. (NY has similar statistics.) And of the hundreds of bears radio-collared by that state’s researchers over the past three decades, the longest any of them survived (with the single exception of No. 56) was 23 years.
The biologists are hoping that this bear dies of natural causes, but purely for sentimental reasons. She has been part of their research program for so long that a natural death seems to be a fitting end for her completely wild life. And for purely sentimental reasons, I agree.
Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at lisenbee@frontiernet .net