Rod, Gun and Game: Beat the heat and get ready for a change of season with hunting safety classes
It reminds me of retail stores that are always six months out of sync with the calendar time. Whoever heard of winter clothes on sale in August? Apparently, the same person who would thought that we should talk about bucks, hunting equipment and hunting rifles in the middle of fishing season.
There were 26 personal injury hunting-related shooting incidents reported in 2011, but four fatalities were included in that count. All of the deaths occurred during the regular firearm deer season and one was self-inflicted. There are more than 1,500 swimming-related deaths and more than 700 bicycling-related deaths per year. Regardless of what activity we engage in, we need to exercise care for complete safety.
New York state hunter safety courses stress safe practices and ethics and share information on New York’s game species and management. All NYS hunter safety courses are offered for free, but students must successfully complete the course and pass the written final exam, before becoming eligible to purchase a NYS hunting license. Anyone can retake the course. Visit the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7860.html#Find.
While the number of hunters in New York is declining, the hunting incident rate, measured in incidents per 100,000 hunters, is declining at a much faster rate. Since the 1960s, the number of hunters has declined about 20 percent, while the accident rate has declined more than 70 percent. The past five-year average is 5.3 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 in the 1960s. Hunters are safer because they are more educated. The younger the hunter, the safer the hunt. Today’s young people remember the safety rules and do not violate them. They are using their good judgement when they shoot.
Some people have asked for a mandatory hunter safety renewal course, but that would tax the volunteer hunter safety instructors. Maybe such a course could be offered online.
While hunting is safer than ever, accidents can happen. We need to remember that every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, if the shooter follows the rules of hunter safety: Treat every firearm as if it were loaded, keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction, Identify your target and what lies beyond, keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire and wear hunter orange.
We owe our thanks to the efforts of the 3,000 volunteer NYS sportsman education instructors. All first-time hunters are required to successfully complete a minimum of 10 hours in a comprehensive hunter safety course taught by Department of Environmental Conservation-trained instructors.
The deer management plan, available for viewing at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7211.html#DeerPlan, defined New York’s direction for the next five years of deer hunting and management. The plan included strategies that would affect deer hunting seasons and increase hunter opportunity. It did not propose any changes to the southern zone regular firearm season, which will begin on Nov. 17.
Many of the plan’s hunting-related strategies are intended to equalize hunting options for archers and to place more emphasis on getting young people out to hunt. The southern zone bow season is currently scheduled to open Oct. 1, followed by new options for a youth firearms deer hunt on the first weekend in October, though some groups have expressed opposition to this change. Deer management permits will be used during the northern zone bow and muzzleloader seasons and mandatory antler restrictions will be established in seven additional wildlife management units in the Catskills.
The formal process, which is outlined at www.dos.ny.gov/info/rulediagram.html, involves publishing the proposed regulations in the state register, a 45-day public comment period, DEC review and assessment of comments and DEC determination about whether or not the proposed rules can be adopted, without modification. The DEC has announced many changes for this year’s hunting seasons.
Remember that most people who hunt with firearms have safe and enjoyable experiences. More than half a million people hunted for big game with firearms in New York this year, and there are thousands of safe hunting stories for every noted incident. Many people passed up shots for the sake of safety, conservation and respect for wildlife. You have that option, too!
Now is a good time to start thinking about hunting safety, getting out your firearms and checking them for cleanliness. Review your warm clothing and gear while there are no long lines at the hunting stores.
Wallenda wires cause bird flight changes
While daredevil Nik Wallenda had the world on a tightrope as he walked across Niagara Falls, DEC biologists Connie Adams and Jacquie Walters were also busy with the highly-publicized June 15 Niagara Gorge event.
Adams has monitored peregrine falcon activities in WNY for several years and, since the Wallenda walk was taking place in the vicinity of a peregrine falcon nest, DEC wildlife staff, in cooperation with staff from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, conducted pre-, during and post-event monitoring of the site.
The pair of on-site peregrine falcons have been known to aggressively defend their nest, repeatedly dive-bombing DEC climbers who have had to retrieve the chicks for banding. As a result, there was some concern over whether or not these falcons would see Wallenda as a threat to their 5-week-old chicks and attack him while he walked.
The DEC reported that, while the 10:15 p.m. walk was in progress, the peregrines did not appear to be disturbed. The earlier setup of a media crew, close to the old power generation building where their nest is located, did cause them to become upset and the pair was seen making several passes close to where the crew was set up. The fact that Wallenda walked so late at night and that he was also covered by mist for most of his walk may account for the reason the falcons took no notice of him. It would be impossible to predict the effects of a walk that took place during the day.
The seven wires (one for the walk and six for media) were in place for nearly four days, and caused observable disturbance to other birds, including nesting double-crested cormorants, ring-billed gulls, great egrets and black-crowned night herons that use the Niagara River as a flight corridor in their daily feeding and nesting activities.
Wildlife and parks staff said that these birds displayed avoidance behavior, choosing a route of greater energy expenditure to avoid the wires and flying perpendicular to their normal flight paths. Several cormorants, gulls and herons were observed stalling in mid-air just before the wires and some struck the wires or stalled and fell out of the sky to alternate elevations.
A few park patrons complained of being hit by regurgitated fish falling from the sky beneath the wires; gulls and cormorants both display this behavior when stressed or startled.
If these wires were to ever become a permanent fixture across the Niagara River flight corridor, they would pose a significant threat to these nesting colonial water birds, to the falcons who hunt and dive where the wires were placed and to the hundreds of migratory species that pass through the area each spring and fall.
Changing the height of the Peace Bridge could also have a similar effect.
Conservation club fishing tournament
Chautauqua County has a gem of a fishing tournament headquartered in Dunkirk and the Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club on Mullet Street on Dunkirk Harbor. Tournament Director Zen Olaw reported that there are 103 pre-registered four-person teams in the mix for the event that will run Aug. 3 – 5.
Teams may fish with only three members. Thus, with the new NYS rules on fishing line count, bigger boats will be allowed to fish with a maximum of nine lines during fishing activities.
This tournament has grown significantly during its relatively-short existence, and there is a long waiting list of teams that want to join, but the tournament committee has limited the number of teams. The event draws in anglers from all over the Western New York region. Pre-tournament anglers have already reported big fish catches from various parts of the nearby lake area.
Local fishing expert Ray Adamczak caught seven walleye in a short, early morning pre-tournament fishing stint last weekend, using stickbaits and diving planes in a trolling pattern, while fishing about 12 miles east of Dunkirk.
For more information on the tournament, contact Olaw at 640-2776. Visit the conservation club grounds to watch the daily weigh-in. Only the top three fish are weighed by each team each day. Food and beverages at discount prices are available.
Aug. 8 – 19: Visit the Conservation Building at the Erie County fair. For more information, visit www.ecfair.org.
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