Category Archives: The Sportsman’s World

Leon Archer, Outdoors Columnist – Leon has been writing “The Sportsman’s World” column since 1985. He is a five-time first place winner of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association’s Excellence In Craft Award in addition to numerous other writing awards. He is currently an active member and vice president of the New York State Writers Association. His column covers a wide range of outdoor topics far beyond just hunting and fishing.

Gun control

Leon Archer
Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

This is not the article I had planned to write for this week and it’s not one that I enjoy writing.

Several people have asked me what I thought about gun control now, after the horrible atrocity at the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut.

It’s been hard to answer them, not because I don’t have thoughts on what happened and on gun control, but because I can’t give them the answer I think they may want to hear without being misunderstood. So I decided to address this in print.

Not everyone, and certainly not a lot of NRA guys, would go along with me, but I pretty much agree with the gun control crowd on this one: 100 shot or even 30 shot clips are not needed for hunting and I am not at all sure they would be needed in a case of someone breaking into one’s home.

After that, the rest of my thoughts I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t win any kudos from the anti-gun bunch.

It is likely that we will see some kind of assault rifle ban coming out of all of this. Does that bother me?

Well, yes and no. It depends on a number of things. If the ban is for a few select weapons that are true assault weapons, I guess I could live with it, but the problem is that a great many of the new generation of hunting guns look like assault weapons.

Media people and gun control proponents are afraid of and want to condemn, and if possible, ban a whole class of guns because of their looks. But, and have no doubt about it, a semi-automatic that looks like every other rifle has looked for a hundred years can be every bit as deadly as an “AR.”

By the way, AR does not stand for assault rifle, it comes from the name of the manufacturer that turns out high performance, low recoil hunting weapons that look like military weapons. That company is Armalite, and they did develop the AR15, which was licensed to colt to be built for our armed forces.

The AR15 is in use around the world and it is almost as good as the AK47; some would argue better.

The look has been copied by other manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe and they invariably are called assault rifles by the people who barely know one end of a gun from another.

The other negative, and it’s one I think is more important, is an assault rifle ban is not even a band-aid, it is only a feel good piece of legislation that doesn’t cost anything, but unfortunately, it will give many a false sense of security, while doing absolutely nothing to stem the gun violence.

The things that can be of real value in helping to prevent scenes of carnage such as was just suffered in Connecticut, will cost money.

The legislation will be some time before it’s enacted, and without a doubt, that legislation will end up being examined by the Supreme Court.

The one thing realistic, helpful legislation will not be is gun control, with the exception that I believe we will see legislation that requires background checks for gun buyers at gun shows, and that’s not a bad thing.

If we are going to prevent at least some of these tragedies from ever happening, we need workable legislation that will enable us to identify and help or somehow control those individuals who would be most likely to become perpetrators of such deeds.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Young hunters

Young hunters
Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

For years, the number of American hunters was very noticeably declining as fewer people joined the ranks than were dropping out or dying.

Hunters, far from relishing the fact that there were fewer hunters competing with them in the woods, were almost frantically searching for avenues to introduce non-hunters to the sport they loved so much.

Hunters, as well as fishermen and trappers, had been under assault for decades by national organizations such as PETA and HSUS, and it was beginning to look like the tide might be turning against the sportsmen.

At first, those individuals and organizations that were trying to stem the tide were myoptic, looking only for strategies that would draw young men into the pursuits they cherished and promoted.

It was known and could be demonstrated that the younger a boy could be introduced to hunting and other outdoor sports, the more likely they were to continue on with them into later life.

Fathers and sons formed stronger bonds through fishing and hunting than they did through team sports or video games.

At first, the efforts to bolster the hunting fraternity were well intentioned, but lacked the all-encompassing vision that would be necessary to attain their goal. The rate of decline slowed, but the overall trend continued.

Men were encouraged to take a youngster hunting and to reach out to older non-hunters.

In New York State, sportsmen’s groups advocated and lobbied for lowering the age that youngsters could begin hunting, and following way too many frustrating years of unreasonable legislative resistance or just plain inertia, the age was lowered two years to 12 for small game and 14 for big game.

It really wasn’t low enough; New York still has one of the most restrictive youth hunter age requirements of all 50 states, but something was better than nothing.

The result was that more younger hunters came into the sport and stayed with it than had been the case before.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397
Leon Archer

Snow day

Snow day
Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

It had started out as a normal week, working at the high school where I was a media specialist, which was a new-fangled term for librarian.

I was busy with the daily routines, but already looking forward to a late December duck hunt with fellow teachers, Gary Narewski and Charlie Ottmann. It had been abnormally warm for so late in December and we were thinking that the lake ducks would probably not give us a lot of action on the coming Saturday, but we were going to go anyway.

That night, the weather report predicted a radical change in the weather for later in the week. It actually sounded severe enough that the three of us would discuss dropping our plans to hunt near the Narewski camp. Eventually, we agreed to just wait and see.

Tuesday morning dawned with a palpable sense of change in the air even though it was still warm. By mid-afternoon, the temperature began a skid as the sky turned first grey, then leaden, and finally threateningly dark. Walking across the parking lot after work, buffeted by a biting wind, I was wishing I had brought a jacket with me. By dinner time, it had begun spitting snow.

I awoke Wednesday morning to the moaning of our house as the wind roared doing its best to remove the shingles from the roof, and  later, my trip in to work found me driving through several inches of wet snow and navigating around numerous downed tree branches.

We lost power at the high school for short periods several times during the day. I was glad to be inside. From my warm library, I could look to the west at Lake Neatahwanta as it thrashed like a giant beast in pain; bucking, black, wind driven waves turned the surface to froth.

In the lee of the storm, on the far western side of the lake, the bluebills and whistlers poured into the calmer water until it seemed like the next arrivals would have needed a shoe horn to join them.

The lake ducks that had taken refuge on Neatahwanta were only a small percentage of the birds that had found Ontario’s open water to be outside even their comfort range. The Oswego River and harbor were clogged with thousands more; even old squaws and eiders could be seen in the company of the bluebills, goldeneyes, and buffleheads.

On my way home from school, I stopped by the river and gawked at the number and diversity of the waterfowl, but I didn’t spend long outside of my car. The temperature was suddenly dropping like a rock and the wood fire and warm meal that would greet me at home pulled me away.

Watching the news that evening, I had an idea that we might be in for a snow day. The weatherman predicted temperatures were going to near zero that night, and outside, the wind continued to increase.  On top of that, it had begun to snow again earlier, and by 8 p.m. it was a full blown blizzard.

Thursday morning, the radio came on at 5:30 p.m. and the first thing I heard were school closings. Fulton and several other schools were closed; I could go back to sleep for a while. Before I drifted off, I heard the news that there were a couple of lake ships that were having problems on Ontario as they sought a safe harbor.

I was up and about by the time I heard the first plow go down our street and as I pulled the blind open to take a peep, I could see that the wind had blown itself out during the night, but not before leaving huge snowdrifts, one of which filled my driveway to overflowing. My day was devoted to shoveling snow and trying to stay warm. By bedtime, the city plows had finished their rounds and my driveway was free of snow. Friday would find me back in school.

As I drove across the river on my way to work Friday morning, I could see that the majority of the water was iced over and the vast number of ducks I had witnessed Wednesday afternoon had mostly disappeared along with the open water.

Lake Neatahwanta was frozen solid. I almost expected to see waves frozen in place, but of course, the surface was smooth with an equally flat blanket of snow.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397
Leon Archer

Deer season

Deer season
Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

Deer season still has some time to go, especially when one remembers the late special seasons, so the hunter who has been unlucky or the one who is still watching for that perfect buck, can sit in the woods with hope in his heart and a chilly wind in his face — if he wants to.

I have hunted late seasons and there can be pleasant days well into December, but what I remember is plenty of snow and cold, and very few deer.

I never shot a deer with any kind of weapon once the regular Southern Tier season was over, but I have to admit that I didn’t hunt very hard either.

I spoke with a friend of mine from Chittenango who has a pretty good size piece of property that was once two adjoining farms. When he bought them years ago, he was a big time deer hunter, and over time he has shot some really impressive bucks on his own land, but he no longer hunts deer or anything else that calls his land home.

He has nothing against hunting; in fact there are several good friends who hunt on his farm every year, and they generally take a few good bucks each season. I hunted there last year and shot a nice buck, but I know I am traveling down the same path that Bill has taken.

I shot a permit deer this year on opening day while hunting with my son, Tim, but my heart wasn’t in it.

For the past four or five years, it has been my fondest hope each season that my son or grandsons would get a deer and I would have an excuse not to shoot. I cannot entirely explain it, but I really no longer have any desire to shoot a deer.

I like venison and I am elated when Tim or Willie or Tyler take a deer or two, but inside I feel different when that happens than I would if I had done the shooting.

Over 55 years of hunting deer, I have shot more than 50 of them, and up until about 5 years ago, I was always excited by a successful hunt, but that all changed.

I don’t need to describe my hunt that day five seasons ago; it is sufficient to say only that it fundamentally changed my attitude and my feelings about deer, and I have never looked at them the same way since.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397
Leon Archer

The Sportsman’s World: November 17, 2012

Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

If I had $20 for every time a hunting trip didn’t go as planned, I might not be a millionaire, but I could certainly take a couple of really nice cruises. Even with good planning, there are so many variables that can go awry when it comes to hunting. The “sure things” often turn out to be not quite as sure as one thinks. But not getting whatever one is hunting for is not one of the things I think of as going wrong; it’s just why they call it hunting, not shooting or killing.

I am not a person who has to come home with game in order for a hunting trip to be enjoyable, but I am honest enough to admit that it is always my overarching purpose, and returning home with a deer, turkey, or whatever critter I went after is usually much more successful in my estimation.

I know guys who claim that just being out in the woods is enough for them; they could care less about shooting anything.

While I understand what they are attempting to say, I’m also pretty sure they don’t carry old betsy just for ballast.

The Indians had a name for braves who claimed they enjoyed a day in the forest just as much without bringing home anything for the pot as they would have if they had won the tribe’s big buck contest. The name translates loosely in English as “poor hunter.”

To be sure, true hunting usually includes a lot of time for observing the flora and fauna of the natural world. The hunter may bask in his surroundings and he may revel for a short time in the freedom from the more mundane and troublesome things in life, but whatever peripheral attributes hunting may have for the hunter, it eventually requires the final move or it is not hunting. The noted Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset, wrote, “One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.”

I am not sure I completely agree with the illustrious philosopher, but it does help illustrate what I’m saying. If someone never kills his prey, then he is only spending a lot of time taking long walks outdoors. Most hunters may say the day spent hunting without success is just as rewarding as a successful day, but I believe that may be more fluff than substance.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Leon Archer

The Sportsman’s World: November 10, 2012

Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

The final week is here, and I’m not talking about the elections – thank goodness they are behind us as I write this!

As of today, we are one week away from the opening of gun season for deer in the Southern Tier. It’s hard to believe, but the DEC figures show a majority of all venison put in the freezer each year comes from that one day.

Black powder and bow season, North and South, plus the Northern gunning season account for the rest, but that all indicates that there are more hunters in the woods that one day than on any other.

As I have grown older, I find my preoccupation with hunting safety has only grown greater. I have moved my preferred hunting area a couple of times simply because the woods were becoming too crowded for my comfort level.

I used to hunt near Genoa, and my son, my grandsons, and I took one to three deer from there every year, but a few years ago, in spite of getting three deer there and seeing quite a few more, I saw a much bigger herd of hunters.

I miss the farm I hunted on, but I’m not sorry I made the move. I’ve shot less deer, but I’ve felt much safer where I’ve been hunting since I changed.

No matter where I hunt, one of the first things I try to determine as I go into the woods and as I settle down on a watch, is where are other hunters, if any, in the same area.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397
Leon Archer

The Sportsman’s World: November 3, 2012

Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

The first time I ever visited Niagara Falls was when Sweet Thing and I went there for our honeymoon way back in 1961. To say I was impressed and enjoyed myself immensely would be a huge understatement and the falls were nice, too, when we spent time enough to look at them.

Sweet Thing will probably whack me up alongside my head when she reads this, but it is true that we were too much in love and too lost in each other to really appreciate the beauty and magnitude of one of New York’s greater natural wonders.

So it was with great pleasure that we visited Niagara Falls again last month from Oct. 18-21 for the Annual New York State Outdoor Writers Association Conference.

Other than the NYSOWA board meeting, awards banquet, and annual membership meeting Sunday that always closes our fall meeting, we were free to enjoy the offerings of our western jewel pretty much at our leisure. Our hotel room was fantastic — a far cry from the dinky room Sweet Thing and I stayed in back in 1961, which was on the third floor above a wax museum in a building I believe has long since disappeared.

This trip we were very comfortably ensconced in the Four Points Niagara Hotel (in New York, not the one by the same name across the river in Ontario, Canada). The accommodations were luxurious, the kind of room where Sweet Thing is so comfortable that she sort of hates to leave it. But leave it we both did each morning, she to explore the sights and boutiques with some of the other spouses of outdoor communicators, and I with those communicators to sample what the area had to offer for sportsmen.

If one was lazy or only had a few minutes to kill, it was possible to step out of the rear of the hotel, out onto the large dock on the Niagara River, and cast for willing bass, but mostly we hearty writers rose early and went in various directions to partake in fishing and hunting adventures.

Other than the fun that comes with each pursuit, we hunt and fish that we might soak in and assimilate the essence of each area we visit, in order to be better able to convey the picture of the outdoor offerings in various sections of our state awaiting our readers.

Some of our members hunted deer with a bow a couple mornings. There are plenty of deer in the farmlands and woods not far from Niagara Falls, and the hunters saw some, but nothing that came by was able to fill the bill for them. I guess they were looking for a great buck, not just venison for the freezer.

Some hunters went to the Feathers and Tails hunting preserve to watch bird dogs work the tall grass and goldenrod as their noses searched the air and ground for the heady odor of pheasant.

Yours truly did that one morning and I shot two beautiful roosters which I enjoyed a second time as they completed their journey on our dinner table.

Feathers and tails is located in Newfane, N.Y., about 40 minutes from Niagara Falls. Because of the quality of the cover and the walking required to find birds in front of the dogs, the experience reminded me of hunting the Three Rivers Area in Baldwinsville. Every hunter from our group who went for pheasants got at least one.

Most of the other writers fished at least one morning for bass or muskies; although, some were happy to drive north the short distance to Lewiston to fish for salmon, steelhead, brown trout and lake trout that were moving into the river from Lake Ontario.

The fishing was a big hit with the writers. Bass and trout were plentiful, but the crowning achievement came on Saturday morning when three writers fished the Upper Niagara and hooked four muskies, three of which they got to the boat for pictures before releasing them to fight another day. The largest fish was about 25 pounds. That’s a great day of fishing in anyone’s book.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Leon Archer

The Sportsman’s World: October 27, 2012

Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

Tuesday morning found me in Redfield and it really looked like hunting season. The leaves are 70 percent gone from the trees and with the exception of some trees like the beech and oak, trees will be pretty much bare very soon.

Hunters have no problem with being able to see deer as some have been proving. My nephew, Jason Yerdon, downed a very nice buck during black powder season with his father’s old muzzleloader. His deer weighed 196 pounds on a hanging scales and sported a wide 24.5-inch spread, eight-point rack.

I’ve hunted for 55 years and never killed a buck that large. Last year, I took the best buck I’ve ever shot and it was about 40 pounds lighter than Jason’s. I have never hunted with black powder even though I have shot them at targets and I have always been impressed by their accuracy.

During early bow and the muzzleloader seasons, I am more into small game. I used to hunt with a bow, but I don’t climb trees very well now, so I’ve given it up. I’ll leave all of that to younger fellows like my nephews.

Bigger deer are becoming more common each year as more deer survive the gunning season. A huge number of deer are killed on our highways and when we have a long hard winter (how long has it been since that happened?)  many younger deer perish, but in spite of all factors the overall number continues to grow. More bucks are reaching the age of two and a half years and many well beyond that, giving them a chance to gain some impressive body mass and substantial antlers.

Last year, hunters took 228,350 deer and 46 percent of the bucks were at least two and a half years of age or more. Back in 2000, that figure was only 30 percent and in the early 1990s, it seldom reached 28 percent.

The trend is easy to see; more deer are living longer and getting bigger. The herd cannot continue to expand forever, but right now deer hunting is the best it has ever been — and that’s great news for the deer hunters.

I guess the big news in the Redfield area is the black bears that have been showing up there. This past summer quite a few people reported seeing one or more. I heard that one was hit and killed by a car a short time ago on Route 17 near the Harvester Mills Road. Two were seen together a couple weeks ago near the cemetery in North Redfield. It is hard to judge just how many of the critters there are, because they move around a lot and it’s difficult to identify individual bears, but there is no doubt that there are several of them roaming the Redfield woods.

To read the rest of the column, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397