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.

The Sportsman’s World

 By Leon Archer

Two Harbors, Minn., is an important iron ore port on the north shore of Lake Superior about 30 miles east of Duluth. The majority of the iron from the mines situated about 65 miles northeast of town is processed up on the iron range before being brought to Two Harbors by train and shipped out as taconite ready to go into the blast furnaces in places like Detroit Mich., Toledo, Ohio, and Conneaut and Gary, Ind.

It often leaves port 70,000 tons at a rip inside huge 1,000 foot lakers like the Edwin H. Gott  and  Edgar B. Speer  heading for the down lakeports to offload. It was this same trade that found the Edmund Fitzgerald leaving Superior, Wis., on Nov. 9, 1975, loaded with 26,535 tons of taconite, about to sail sadly into history as the largest ship ever to sink on the Great Lakes.

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The Sportsman’s World: Seasons

By Leon Archer

This is the time of year that I start to wonder where the summer has gone even though all of August lies before us. Have you ever stopped to think for a moment about how much our lives are influenced by the seasons? And it’s not just our lives, but the lives of just about all the plant and animal life on this planet of ours. From the tropics to the poles we all move to the rhythm of a drum we cannot hear. It’s the music of life and death and life again.

The ancient learned observers of the heavens noted that the night sky was filled with the ever moving stars and the constellations marching from horizon to horizon. With simple implements, they calculated the daily rising sun as it appeared and climbed at a slightly different angle each morning, noting the relationship to what was happening in their world.

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by Leon Archer

If you are under the age of 70, you have probably known people who were adults during the Great Depression, and if you are very much older than 70 you actually experienced at least the end of it. The Depression created an excessive number of hoarders, and you may have chuckled about the things they would save and squirrel away besides just money.

There have always been hoarders; it’s just a natural thing, and a little of it is good. We all like to put a little something away for a rainy day, but hoarders put away things for a rainy decade or more.

I have recently come to realize that I am a hoarder. No, I don’t save balls of string and rubber bands, bent nails, rusty washers, years of newspapers and magazines, worn out clothes, and all the other things the hard core hoarders hold onto, but I’m a hoarder just the same. I just have a hard time parting with my own kind of items.

A lot of animals are hoarders. Squirrels, mice, and many other rodents gather and store nuts and seeds for the winter, but they usually end up putting away a lot more than they can actually use. That’s the way a lot of trees in the forests got their start. Then there are pack rats; they haul away and store all sorts of items that they don’t need and have no real use for

I guess that’s why some of us are called pack rats. Sweet Thing and I have been cleaning house and getting rid of things we have stored without using sometimes for decades. Man, I am a pack rat. The funny thing about all of this is that there are a lot of items that I sort out into piles for various methods of removal from our premises, about which I can’t help thinking, “I might need that.”

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Hot times

by Leon Archer

Man, is it me or have we had a lot more hot sticky weather than is usual in upstate New York this year?

Sure, I can remember plenty of days in my 70-plus years when the temperatures pushed 100 and nights were so humid that the sheets on my bed were wet from sweat almost before I hit the hay, but

I don’t remember such long stretches of uncomfortable heat. I haven’t checked the historic weather records, so maybe it’s just my sometimes faulty memory, but in any case, I don’t believe anyone would deny it’s been really steamy so far in 2013.

The heat hasn’t left me with any desire to go fishing lately, but if I was so inclined I would probably opt for going out on the open water in a boat.

I certainly wouldn’t take a hot sweaty hike down a little trout stream, but sitting beside a lake, pond or big stream in a folding chair with a cooler of cold drinks at my side while I waited for a bite would be acceptable as long as the fish didn’t keep me too busy.

We had a family reunion last week and all my children and grandchildren were here with the exception of my oldest grandson, Willie, a marine deployed overseas.

We did a picnic at Fairhaven and a trip to Boldt Castle in the St. Lawrence, but mostly we did inside things where we could take advantage of air conditioning. The youngsters all went to Sea Breeze one day, but Sweet Thing and I stayed home and relaxed.

Usually when we have our biannual family reunion we do some fishing, but I wasn’t able to put it together with the rest of the things we were doing.

Now that the reunion has run its course, a weekend in Canada at my son’s property on 30 Island Lake is in the cards and I’m looking forward to that.


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Family reunion

by Leon Archer

I was at the loop two weeks ago on a calm day and as I sat at a picnic table I could count 17 boats well out on the lake, probably fishing for trout and salmon.

I could imagine what was taking place on those craft as they trolled their lures and watched their arched down rigger rods for a strike.

The salmon are silver bright right now and full of fight. Some nice browns are out there with them and they have not turned into their fall colors yet. I munched my haddock sandwich and envied those fishermen just a bit.

My Lake Ontario afternoon was part of the Archer family reunion. All my children and grandchildren were here with the exception of my oldest grandson, Willie, a marine deployed at the present time. Rudy’s and the Loop are so ingrained in the areas culture and my kid’s memories that we had to go at least once.

Some of the fishermen coming into port had been into great fishing and it appeared that this year’s Oswego County Pro-Am Salmon and Trout Team Tournament should be a good one.

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Major floods

by Leon Archer

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the wildlife in a stream or river when they are flooded over their banks by rains like those that have been creating havoc around Oneida and points south east?

Looking at the pictures of the coffee brown water flooding streets, inundating homes and vehicles, while carrying vast amounts of debris and mud, we quickly become aware of the damage to land and property.

What we don’t see is what is happening to the communities and residents that call the streams and rivers their home.

The mud that we see left behind on land creates a mess that has to be scraped and scooped up and then transported to a landfill or field. The remnants get hosed away into storm sewers which direct the offending goo back to area streams in many cases.

The streams get it coming and going when major floods hit them. Normal rains are a welcome event for fields and streams, but just because an ecological community resides either in or around the water doesn’t make it immune to damaging effects of flooding any more than we are.

At first, a heavy rain invigorates the fish, insects and shellfish that live in a stream, but the rising water always increases the strength of the stream flow, which is great for some of the denizens, but not so good for others.

A torrent moves dead  wood  downstream, wood that has been trapped for some time and supports all sorts of life from microscopic to large insect nymphs. It also displaces rocks and rearranges the shape and size of pools.

This stirring of objects large and small casts all sorts of food into the reach of trout and other fish. They can often gorge themselves on insects that had pretty well been safe from them before.

A normal heavy rain is actually good for the life of a stream even though it may cost some of the prey critters dearly. I always thanked the good Lord for every heavy summer rain that hit the Sandy Creek area when I was a boy, because it meant great fishing in Little Sandy for at least a couple days. Trout’s natural caution was overcome by the abundant food in the water and the cloudiness hid the fish from the view of predators.

However, the kind of rains that the state has been experiencing in some locations presents a difficult time for streams and all their residents — even large fish.

The high water can, and often does, carry stream life far away from the stream itself and ends up depositing them where they cannot get back to the moving water that has been their home.

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Fishing halibut

Leon Archer
Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

I have been wondering if the numerous heavy rains we have had this year will show up in a smaller crop of young turkeys.

I’ve been watching for birds as I have traveled here and there during the last month, but all I have seen so far has been two nice toms and one lonesome hen.

It’s getting to be time that some of this year’s broods should be in fields and alongside roads. I would be interested in hearing from readers about what they are seeing or not seeing as far as turkeys go. Is it going to be a lean year?

I have been seeing plenty of deer and quite a few fawns. The red summer coat certainly makes deer stand out in contrast to the green fields, more so I think than any other time of year, even winter.

It’s pretty hard to miss the summer deer, because there are not very many other things of that particular hue in the outdoors.

I was talking with Frank Maurer a few days back. He was about ready to make a trip to Alaska to go halibut fishing with a friend. I envy him. While fishing halibut is hardly an exciting kind of fishing, when one is successful the rewards are wonderful. Fresh caught halibut is a treat no matter how it is prepared for the table.

Don’t get the idea that I don’t enjoy halibut fishing, I do. One doesn’t troll for them or fish them with flies; although, it’s possible to catch them either of those ways, but one would really have to work at it and put a lot of time in.

Fishing a big chunk of cut fish on bottom is the most common way to target these big flat fish. Heavy metal jigs are successful as well, but working one of those babies all day is a chore I am no longer interested in doing.

A halibut when it is hooked puts up a dogged fight, but he doesn’t make long runs nor does he charge to the surface and get a person’s heart pumping with spectacular jumps.

He will do his best to stay on the bottom, trying to scrub the offending hook off or to tangle the line on an obstruction. Usually the bottom where halibut are found has few things to tangle on. If it did, the halibut would win a lot more often than he does, because a big halibut has a mountain of power when it is first hooked.

Fighting a halibut is mainly lift and crank as the heavy boat rod flexes with each thrust of the halibut’s wide tail and points to the bottom.

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Leon Archer
Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

I have written very little in regard to NY SAFE, Andrew Cuomo’s gun control legislation. I say Andrew Cuomo’s, because the rank and file of New Yorkers had no say nor input into its creation or passage. It was ill-advised and ill-conceived, and in spite of Cuomo’s claim that the majority of New York Residents are in favor of it, the law has been ill-received. At least 52 of the 62 counties of New York State have passed resolutions stating their opposition to the act, most asking for the law to be repealed. Sheriffs claim they will not enforce NY SAFE, and some County DA’s say they will not prosecute NY SAFE cases. That hardly indicates the rousing support the governor claimed his law has.

I went to Albany a couple weeks ago with other sportsmen on a bus chartered by the Onondaga Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. A thousand or more people gathered outside the Capitol Building to protest the law after speaking to legislators, voicing their complaint personally. Cuomo refuses to recognize that his NY SAFE Act is very unpopular across the state. His only comment is that the law might need a little tweaking. No Governor Cuomo, this law needs to be repealed. You are not our king, you are our servant.

I don’t believe that there are very many people who were not horrified, touched and saddened by the shootings at Newtown, CT. I can’t imagine what it was like for the families affected, and I would love to find a reasonable way to prevent such a thing from ever happening again, but nothing that has been put into law or proposed for legislation would have prevented what took place or will stop a similar event from happening again.  Bad people do bad things, and bad people will always find a way to get a gun or build a bomb. Laws mean nothing to them. The threat of mortal punishment is irrelevant to them.

The first and second amendments were not put into the U.S. Constitution by our founding fathers without good reason. Bad reasoning today should not be allowed to infringe on them, but grieving people, toadying politicians, and foolish do-gooders are all too ready to give away our precious, hard won rights. The Constitution is greater and more important than all the tragedies that some people would use as an excuse to emasculate it. The day that is no longer true will be the day that all that is America will die.

Hysteria, such as followed on the heels of Newtown, has never produced anything good in our history, but it has brought about incredibly evil things, and it has stripped people of their civil rights. Remember the Japanese people on the west coast who were taken out of their homes and put into concentration camps after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor? They had done nothing wrong, they were intensely patriotic Americans, their men and their boys volunteered in record numbers for the armed forces, and they suffered horrible casualties. AND yet, to complete the shameless travesty, they were never properly compensated for the loss of property that had been seized by “loyal” Americans when they were incarcerated, all because of hysteria and all for nothing gained. It is not the only time the Constitution has been contravened, but I will let it rest at that. You get the picture.

The present demands by the hysterical for Infringing on rights guaranteed by the first and second amendments, singularly or in combination, is not being well-received by a significant segment of the nation’s population, and the perpetrators are incapable of conceiving why this is so. The great outpouring of sympathy and support the grieving people in Newtown received is now rapidly dissipating, and an undercurrent of anger and disgust is growing among citizens who can be fiercely protective of their own civil rights.

Hysteria is like a disease. It spreads and becomes an epidemic, infecting the unprotected. Strong medicine is often the only way to combat a serious, life threatening disease, and waiting too long may lead to death. The present hysteria over guns and “gun control” is producing outrageous laws, many of which will eventually end up in front of the Supreme Court unless they are repealed by cooler heads, which is likely to happen as legislators and governors who voted for them get voted out of office. That would be pretty effective medicine. Unfortunately, as so often happens, this epidemic is having its greatest effect on children and their minds, and worst of all, it’s taking place in schools where they should be safe and secure. Unfortunately the disease is being encouraged and spread by teachers and administrators.

I just want to establish that I have always had a great deal of respect for public school teachers, and the role they have played in our nation. I have always believed that overall they were a force for good in our society. But due to recent national events, my confidence in educators and our educational system has been badly eroded.

Teachers aren’t gods, and schools are not courts; they should not have the power to strip away a person’s civil rights, be he child or adult. They should not be in the business of harassing innocent children, trying to make them out to be terrorists or potential mass murderers for the most ridiculous of reasons. It is time the rest of us say enough is enough already.

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