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Niagara Outdoors
Tuesday September 30 2008
by Bill Hilts Jr.

Cassel Wins Grand Prize in 2008 Fish Odyssey

[Wayne Peters Photo]
The 32nd AES/Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby went off without a hitch from Sept. 20-28. It all culminated with another very successful New York Power Authority Wildlife Festival, an event that helps to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day weekend. The Wildlife Festival was the final weigh in station on Sunday and it was also the site of the Awards Ceremony. It was onl y appropriate that this year’s fishing event was also an opportunity to remember the late Pete DeAngelo of Lockport, a person who meant much to the sportfishing community. Lots of little stories all entwining themselves to make memories for the present and the future while remembering the past.
Each year, the first place winners are placing into a hat at the awards ceremony to determine the Grand Prize winner. The philosophy for that was simple – each of the winning fish is a trophy in its own right and some pretty impressive catches came to the scales all the way around this year for smallmouth bass, salmon, walleye, carp, lake trout and rainbow/brown trout. The drawing – conducted by one of Carmen Presti’s monkeys on center stage (which is also how Carmen decides what he’s going to wear on any given day) – produced the Rainbow/Brown Trout at the Grand Prize winner. Ray Cassel of East Aurora was the lucky winner of the $2,500 check by catching a 14.15 pound steelhead while fishing deep off Wilson with a Pirate 55 spoon. As a result of the drawing, everyone else in the division moved up one place, making Bob Petro of Latrobe, PA the $500 winner with a 12.39 pound Olcott steelhead.

Other first place winners included:

- In the Salmon Division, Wilfred Wittcop, Jr. of Barker was top dog with a 31.33 pound king salmon caught from “the hole” in Olcott Harbor – fishing at night with a Cleo spoon.
- Brendan Walsh of Niagara Falls was the top Smallmouth bass catcher with a 6.02 pound fish caught in Lake Erie with a tube jig.
- In the walleye division, it was Charles Hoy of Niagara Falls with a monster 13.39 pound fish he hauled in from the Niagara Bar on a worm harness.
- The Horse Nuts Fishing Team crew continued to dominate the carp division with Dan Kelsey leading the way this year with a 29.97 pound fish caught at Point Breeze near the public parking area. Homemade boilees, more of a glorified dough ball made with egg was the secret to catching the big one.
-Bob Turton of Sanborn was the top laker taker with another lunker fish that weighed in at 22.39 pounds. It was Bob’s biggest laker of his life and it came at a good time. He was fishing with his father, Roger (who also place third) on the Niagara Bar with cowbells and a peanut.

And while it was certainly exciting for the adults, it was probably more exciting for the kids. For starters, there was a special drawing similar to the adult division with all the first place leaders – thanks to Mark Cerrone Construction. All the first place kids were placed into a hat and one of Carmen’s primates grabbed a winning bobber to win a $200 Gander Mountain gift card. The winner this time around was Teresa Hall of Batavia who caught the first place carp – a 25.36 pound fish from Point Breeze. As a result, everyone in the division moved up one place and Jacob Kelsey, Daniel’s son, ended up with the first place fish at 21.71 pounds – again from Point Breeze. Other winners were:

- Albert Bodolus III of Athens, PA was the top salmon fisherman with a 26.54 pound Olcott fish enticed by a Rat-L-Trap.
- Top bass youngster was Nino Figueroa of Niagara Falls who hauled in a 5.15 pound smallmouth from Lake Erie on a minnow.
- Zachary Whitmer of Niagara Falls caught a 1.23 pound silver bass off the NYPA fishing platform to pace the panfish division.
- Jordan Barr of Lewiston used a jig to catch the top walleye, a 6.43 pound fish caught off Fort Niagara.

All in all, it was another great contest and nearly everyone who walked away from the awards ceremony was carrying a prize thanks to some of the great sponsors such as AES Somerset, AkzoNobel, Shakespeare/Pflueger, Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation, Newfane Business Association and The Boat Doctors in Olcott who helps run the website. Thanks to all the weigh stations who stuck it out for the nine day event and weighed the fish to make this all happen.

Results and pictures HERE only on this website

New Areas Open to Bear Hunting

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that there will be new areas open to black bear hunting this fall. The new regulations will expand bear hunting in 13 additional wildlife management units in central and western New York, including parts of the following counties: Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Wyoming, Genesee, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Yates, Steuben, Schuyler, Tompkins, Tioga, Cortland, Broome, Chenango, Madison, Onondaga, Oneida and Otsego counties.
These regulations will go into effect immediately, allowing hunters to pursue these animals during the bowhunting, regular and muzzleloading bear seasons in the Southern Zone. An updated map of the state’s bear hunting seasons is available on the state’s website at A map and boundary descriptions of DEC’s WMUs is also on the DEC website.

Youth Pheasant Hunter Permit Lottery –

A Youth-only pheasant hunting weekend will take place in Western New York Oct. 11-12 and there will be a lottery drawing to hunt in Joseph Davis and Golden Hill state parks on October 2nd. A total of 15 small game hunting permits will be up for grabs at Golden Hill and seven for Joe Davis. To become part of the Lottery, send a post card with your date and park of preference, along with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, hunting license back tag number to: Mary Kay Dugan, Niagara Frontier State Parks, Regional Operations Office, PO Box 1132, Niagara Falls, NY 14303-0132. Any questions, give her a call at 278-1785.

Alsheimer is Back –

Whitetail deer expert Charles Alsheimer of Bath is back to give one of his inspiring talks on Oct. 2 at the Whitehaven Road Baptist Church on Grand Island. Doors open at 6 p.m. and his talk begins at 7:15 p.m. Call 773-1004 or 909-6451 for more information on this special evening.

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Niagara Outdoors 
for Tuesday
  April 2008 
by Bill Hilts Jr.                    
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Federation Honors Area Conservationists

        The top conservationist of year was current Federation president John Butcher of Lockport and the top club of the year was the 3-F Club of Lewiston as the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs held their annual awards banquet at the Tonawandas Sportsmen’s Club last Saturday night before a crowd of about 150 people

        Each year, the NCFCC honors the top conservationists that stand out to preserve, protect and enhance our natural resources, including the popular pastimes of hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation activities.

        The Oliver Jones Memorial Award for the county’s top conservationist/sportsman went to Butcher for his hard work and dedication the last four years as president of the group. “When I took over as president, I asked myself what would my legacy be?” said Butcher. “If I could accomplish one thing, it would be to strengthen and create more youth shooting programs in the county.” He’s done that and more with the development of a portable shooting trailer, a scholastic clay youth program and more. He’s also a hunter safety instructor, a member of several sportsmen’s clubs and is also involved with the Friends of the NRA fund-raising banquet. Butcher runs a successful business, Summit Print and Mail, with his wife, Cookie.

      The top club award, the Leroy Winn Memorial Award - a revolving trophy – went to the Fin-Feather-Fur Conservation Society (3-F Club) of Lewiston for all their hard work in 2007. They hosted a very successful Kelly for Kids program last summer and also supported many other fund raising efforts from wildlife rehabilitators to physically challenged people. They also helped with the shooting day of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers, making it one of the most successful ever. They have hosted the Pheasants Forever youth hunt for ten years, showing a commitment to the future of hunting, shooting and other outdoor activities.

    The Carl Lass Memorial Award for youth of the year was doubly rewarding for area youth this year. First, Brandon Culverwell of Wilson was recognized for his outstanding leadership, volunteerism and possessing a strong conservation ethic in following in his father’s footsteps, Stan Culverwell. The 14 year old 9th grader from Wilson Central has attended DEC conservation camp, worked on an Adopt A Highway program locally and helps his dad with hunter safety training, trapper training and nuisance wildlife control. He was also the primary reason for a clean-up of the Wilson piers when a problem occurred last year.

McKeown Wins Robinson AwardPaul McKeown, Region 9 Fisheries Manager for DEC, was named the 2007 recipient of the Milford “Pinky” Robinson Award for dedication to the Great Lakes fisheries. While McKeown has long been a friend of the sporting and conservation community, McKeown’s efforts really stood out last year when a salmon egg shortfall was realized and a secondary plan to collect eggs was needed to supplement the state’s take at the Salmon River. He worked nights and weekends to help bring the project to a conclusion. An employee with DEC since 1984, he’s been the Region 9 Fisheries Manager since 2004.
       A second award was given to Ashley Butcher of Lockport, possessing the same ethic and dedication. Daughter of John and Cookie, she, too, helps out with all the functions that her parents are involved with (which are many!). The 13 year old, an 8th grader with North Park Middle School in Lockport, scored a perfect 800 on the SAT math test, is in the high honor society with a 98.6 average and took her first turkey last year in the youth mentor hunt. She was one of the outstanding campers at the DEC youth conservation camp in Rushford and routinely volunteers for other committees and functions.

    Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte presented the youth awards and then gave a brief update on legislation that would help to lower the big game hunting age in the state to 14. While it’s not a done deal yet, she was upbeat and positive about working toward this goal with DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis.

    The Ken Berner Memorial Award, for special dedication to a sportsmen’s heritage program, went to John Gensler of Newfane. He stands for conservation. In 2000, he bought a 100-plus acre farm and performed some intense habitat work. He was named Wildlife Habitat of the Year by Pheasant Forever in 2001. He didn’t stop there, either. He applied to be part of the Wetlands Reserve Program and was finally accepted in 2005. Since that time, he has put 50 acres into the program and constructed seven marshes for the benefit of waterfowl and other wildlife.

    Victor Fitchlee Lifetime Achievements Awards went to Rena Israel of Wilson and Gary Lowe of Niagara Falls. Mrs. Isreal, a charter member of the Wilson Conservation Club Auxiliary, was honored last year by her group for being a member all 50 years of the group’s existence. She’s a dedicated hard-worker that knows how to get things done. Lowe is the senior member of the hunter safety training community. His home base is the LaSalle Sportsmen’s Club, but helps out the entire county with his expertise. He is also a previous winner of the prestigious Gen. Douglas MacArthur Award given out by the Masonic Lodge organization.

    The John Daly Memorial Award for Legislator of the Year went to U.S. Representative Thomas Reynolds. He was recognized for his years of service to the outdoor community, especially his perfect record in working to protect the Second Amendment rights of all Americans. He was one of the driving forces to saving the Niagara Air Force Base and continues to sponsor key legislation to conserve and protect our Great Lakes.

    The Steve Fountain/Arch Lowery Memorial Award for outstanding hunter safety education as it relates to archery when to Larry Koch of Newfane. He’s one of the big go-to guys that people look up to and a constant volunteer for the cause.
    The James Reed/Don Meyer Memorial Award for hunter safety training as it relates to firearms went to Dale Dunkelberger of Lockport. Dale has been at it a long time and continues to provide outstanding leadership in the hunter safety arena. He’s always learning new information, new techniques to teach and reaching out to get new people involved.

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Niagara Outdoors 
for Tuesday
  March 11  2008 
by Bill Hilts Jr.                    
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Bronson, Godfrey Make 2008 Class in Hall of Fame

         The late Don Bronson of Niagara County and Charles “Chuck” Godfrey of Erie County were two of 11 selected inductees into the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame for 2008, with the official act taking place when they hold their banquet on April 26 at the Rusty Nail Restaurant in Canastota. This will be the 25th anniversary celebration of the Hall of Fame and it’s only fitting that these guys are being selected during a milestone year. 

        The NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame is dedicated to honoring the men and women who have made significant contributions to preserving and protecting our outdoor heritage. They are also the leaders who pass on the outdoor tradition for future generations to come. They all help to make this place a better place to live.     

       Bronson exemplified everything that the Hall of Fame stands for. He was a standout hunter safety and waterfowl identification instructor, a representative on the Western Zone Waterfowl Task Force and was honored by the county’s Federation of Conservation Clubs many times. He was also the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award by the New York State Conservation Council. In addition, he was a Leopold Education Project Facilitator, passing along his outdoor knowledge to students and teachers alike. He passed away in December 2006. 

      Godfrey, who lives in Cheektowaga, worked tirelessly for over three decades with the Western New York Chapter of Trout Unlimited. He is a past president of TU and was a long time chairman of their Stream Project Committee. For his volunteer efforts, he received the coveted TU Silver Trout Award for outstanding service and was also recognized by the state’s Conservation Council as Amateur Conservationist of the Year in 2005. He was past president of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs for five years and currently serves on the county’s Fisheries Advisory Board. He’s the board representative to the Niagara Greenway Commission. 

       Other inductees into the Hall of Fame this year include: Raymond “Mick” Elliot of Saratoga County; Dr. John Braico of Queensburg; Rudy Hektor of Binghamton; Harry “Bud” Woodfield of Broome County; outdoor writer Ron Kolodziej of Montgomery County; Bill Wellman of Plattsburgh; and former DEC Commissioner Mike Zagata of Otsego County. 

        Bronson is one of three selections that will be inducted posthumously into the Hall this year. The other two are C. Scott Sampson of Seneca County and Tim Noga of Cayuga County. All were friends of this writer and of the same class of individual that Bronson represented for his 40-plus years of service to Niagara’s sportsmen and women. For more information on the Hall of Fame, contact Leo Maloney at 315-363-3896. If you’d like to attend the dinner, you must contact Maloney by April 18. Their website is .

A-1 Bait Opens Friday in Lewiston –

     A-1 Bait Supply will be opening up for the spring season this Friday from 6:30 a.m. to noon, Thursday through Sunday until April 1. When April hits, hours will change to 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the days will increase to Tuesday through Sunday according to Ron Hutcheson. His new flatfish order is in with the new colors, replacing the discontinued Kwikfish colors. His self-service bait shop located at 5425 Grauer Road in the Town of Niagara continues to be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. If you have any questions, the Lewiston shop phone number is 754-1895.

Deadline for Refuge Funding Approaching –

       The National Wildlife Refuge System is in dire straits right now in the way of funding for refuge operations and maintenance. Costs have not kept up with the rate of inflation or costs associated with environmental, conservation and law enforcement challenges at these refuges around the country. A deadline to support legislation that is asking for $514 million in funding is fast approaching. This Wednesday, an important letter is being sent to the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee requesting the funds to support he National Wildlife Refuges in the coming fiscal year. The Izaak Walton League of America has been leading the charge to write letters to their Washington representation and they’ve made things extremely easy on their website through their Conservation Advocacy Center. Simply log on to their website at and plug in your contact information. Your zip code tells you who your representation is and they help you formulate a letter to send out via e-mail. With timing so critical right now, don’t delay and send out a note today. If you didn’t know, National Wildlife Refuges provide critical habitat for all sorts of fish and wildlife. In turn, it provides an abundance of outstanding recreational opportunities in the great outdoors, from hunting and fishing to hiking and birding. We need to funding to keep this good thing going.

Input Sought On 2008-09 Waterfowl Seasons –

       The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking input toward recommendations from the Empire State for the 2008-09 waterfowl seasons. Task Force representation has been appointed for most of the zones that make up the waterfowl hunting areas including members from conservation groups, waterfowl organizations and individual hunters. If you’d like to provide some input into the process, contact your area representative and pass the word along for what you’d like to see. For example, if you’d like to see an early opener for ducks, let them know. 

      If you’d prefer an earlier late season or a longer late season, contact one of the Task Force members and let your voice be heard. Since the passing of Don Bronson, we lost Niagara County representation on the Task Force, something the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs fought very hard for. Best Task Force members to contact for input would be Ken Alfes of Darien Center at 585-547-3579 ; Ken Zolnowski of Cheektowaga at 716-836-2239 ; or Bill Howell of Arcade at 585-496-5162 . The deadline for submitting comments or recommendations is April 3 for ducks. If you’d like to make comment on other migratory game birds such as Canada geese, snow geese, brant or woodcock, contact members of the DEC Waterfowl Season Setting Team. In Region 9, that would be Connie Adams-Meesig at 851-7010 or Mike Ermer at 372-0645. In Region 8, it’s Mike Eckler at 585-226-5458.

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Niagara Outdoors for Tuesday  October 16  2007 
by Bill Hilts Jr.                    Be sure to vote in our NEWEST  Mini-Poll HERE   NEW QUESTION!

Déjà vu All Over Again For Bunky Derby

To quote a famous line from Yogi Berra, it was Déjà vu all over again for the Third Annual Ron Meesig Memorial Fishing Contest - also referred to as The Bunky Derby - held on the lower Niagara River last Sunday. It's funny how things happen sometimes. 

Held two weeks later this year, this fun fishing competition isn't really about who catches the biggest fish (although some local captains would argue that point); and it really isn't about how much money they can raise for a most worthy cause (more than $500 was raised this year for the American Brain Tumor Association); it's about getting together, having a good time and remembering a special friend who really loved to fish these local waters. 

Connie Adams-Meesig of Lewiston started this event up back in the fall of 2005 to get her friends together and "share some love" in remembering her husband. It was at a time of year when local charter captains were "bonding" on the lower river in pursuit of the king salmon, a profession that "Bunky" shared while on this planet. And this little fishing derby has blossomed into a kind of lower river fellowship that anyone who had knew Ron and participated in it looks forward to each fall. One thing is for sure, no one goes away hungry! This year's menu included a truckload of chicken legs, moose tenderloin, venison sausage, deep fried turkeys, chili, moose burgers (and beef), hot dogs and all the fixin's. 

Now the Déjà vu part of the day. Since it's inception, the name of Cinelli has been synonymous with the winners plaque. The first year it was Capt. Joe Cinelli of Grand Island while fishing with Rich Seig of New Jersey. The second year it was Karen Cinelli of Newfane taking the top spot. This year, as luck would have it, it was Capt. Joe Cinelli again in the winner's circle. His fishing partner? Rich Seig of New Jersey, who just happened to be on the boat again taking a charter. They boated a 20.8 pound salmon first thing in the morning in Devil's Hole to take the top prize. 

Second place went to Capt. Jim Gordon of Appleton with a 20.4 pound king and third place was Capt. Scott Endres of Grand Island with a 19.9 pound salmon. Fourth place was Capt. Eric Elenfeldt of North Tonawanda with an 18.7 pound Chinook, followed by 13 year old Nathan Lapides of Williamsville with a 17.7 pound king. He was fishing with Capt. Mark McGranahan of Tonawanda. After a bit of coaxing, Connie put this derby together last minute. She wondered whether or not there would be enough help to get everything accomplished. 

Volunteers came out of the woodwork to help, whether it was to cook, clean or just provide a dish or two to pass. Everyone chipped in to make the event a real success all the way around. Even if you didn't know Ron, you could have listened to some of the stories flying around Lewiston Landing as the chefs cooked moose over charcoal in a brand new propane grill. They couldn't get the new burners to light so they improvised and turned the grill into a charcoal grill! 

The show must go on!! Thanks to all who chipped in made this year's Bunky derby a real success.

See this webpage: 

Western Zone Waterfowl Season Opens Oct. 23 -

If you're looking to chase ducks, coot and mergansers in the Western Zone of the state, the first half of the season will be from October 23-December 6. One of the biggest highlights for area waterfowlers (especially during the late season Dec. 29 to Jan. 12, 2008) is that the daily limit for canvasbacks has been increased to two birds per day in response to record high population levels. Of course, these two birds would be part of the daily bag limit of six ducks. That daily bag includes all mergansers and may include no harlequin ducks. In addition, no more than four mallards may be taken (two of which may be hens); one black duck; one pintail; two wood ducks; two redheads; two scaup; four scoters; and two hooded mergansers. If Canada geese is your pleasure, Niagara County and to the south and east (referred to as the South Zone) will be open from October 27 to December 16 with a daily limit of five birds per day. Slip over to the West Central Zone, which includes much of the Finger Lakes, the season is Nov. 3 to December 2 with a daily limit of three per day. The West Central Zone also has a late season of Dec. 29 to Jan. 12, while the South Zone has one last season from Dec. 26 to Jan. 13 and another that will take place from March 1 to 10 - both with daily bag limits of five per person per day.

Bear Management Meetings Set -

The Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that a series of public education workshops are currently being held to discuss the future management plans for black bears. Bear populations have been thriving in recent years, with secure populations existing in the Adirondacks, Catskills and Allegany regions of the state - the three areas that allow hunting. Already for this fall, bear hunting in the Catskills Region has been expanded to help control increased population levels. Public input is needed to help shape the future of black bear management. It's important that the hunting community turn out to help support hunting as an important tool to help control bear population levels around the state. While several meetings are slated for later this month, meetings have yet to be announced for Regions 3, 5 and 6. Here in Region 9, meetings are slated for: October 23 at Cuba-Rushford High School in Cuba; October 24 at Concord Town Hall in Springville; and October 25 at the Frank Bratt Agricultural Center in Jamestown. All meetings start at 7 p.m. For more information and a complete listing of meetings around the state, check out 


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Niagara Outdoors for Tuesday  August 21 2007 
Passing of John Long, Sr. Is End of an Era
By Bill Hilts, Jr.
When the news came through that John J. Long, Sr. had passed on to the happy hunting grounds last Wednesday, it was like a chapter out of the Twilight Zone. Could this really be happening? Time stood still as I reflected on his storied past. Previous hunting and fishing trips we shared, outdoor writer conferences we attended together, hockey games we cheered and jeered through and meetings we toiled through together. They were all adventures in their own right and they are coming to a close now that our close friend is gone.

John J. Long of Niagara Falls, NY was a legend of sorts. While his focus was on bears and his love of the hunt, his legend knew no boundaries around sportsman and conservation circles. A former Conservationist of the Year, honored by the New York State Conservation Council for his lifetime achievements and unselfish dedication to the state's natural resources, Long's list of accomplishments was as his name suggests. Most recently, he was inducted into the New York State Outdoorsman Hall of Fame last April, located at the Gander Mountain store in Utica. I'm proud to say I was there for the induction ceremonies, an honor that was well deserved and long overdue.

In the interest of time and space, we'll jump through some important times of his 74 years of life. Growing up in the rural expanses of Western New York, Long worked his way through college - nearby Niagara University - by catching fish from the Niagara River and selling them to local restaurants. While he concentrated on blue and yellow pike, he'd even harvest sturgeon for Buffalo-area eateries.

Fast forward to his first exposure to bears and bear hunting. That was back in 1962 when friends Harry Balmer and Dale Rinker invited Long along on a trip to Northern Ontario, Canada. His life changed forever, in more ways that one. After spending several months on choosing a place to go, corresponding with several bear hunting lodges, they finally selected Long Point Lodge near Goganda. Not only were they extremely helpful, Long took it to extremes like he almost always does: he married the lodge owners' daughter (not on this first trip, though). That first year he was the only one to take a bear.

"I was still hunting an old overgrown logging road that fateful day," said Long has he reflected back four decades for an article I wrote for the North American Bear Foundation Journal. " I had walked about 15 miles when I came across a grassy slope and decided to rest. I dozed off, only to be awakened by something. As I sat up, there was a black bear less than 50 yards from me grazing. It only took one shot from my .30-06 Model 70 Winchester to take my first bear. The rest is history. I was bit by the bear bug!"

Among other things, he fell in love with bear hunting and the wild country of Northern Ontario. After several trips up hunting and fishing that same year, he decided to get a place of his own up north, doing so in 1963 in Englehart. Four years later, he purchased the camp he owned up until his last days on Crooked Creek in Kenogami, near Kirkland Lake. "I still remember the day, August 23, 1967," said Long. "It cost me $385 for 80 acres of land, the buildings and the furniture. We performed the transaction in one day."

Long was known for his stories. As his name suggests, most of them were like that. But don't ever question the validity of his real life experiences because they really have happened. Since 2003, he collaborated with me as a featured writer in the NABF publication, keying in on some of the humorous aspects of bear hunting. With 45 years under his belt, he had quite a few stories to tell. The sad part is that those stories, as they can only be told by Long, are now only part of the legacy he's left behind.

As we mentioned, his employment is insurance and he's well known across the country in that capacity. He was one of the few people in the U.S. that would work to insure hunting and shooting clubs, as well as game farms and preserves.

His reputation even extended into the political arena of the Empire State and beyond. A personal friend of former New York Governor George Pataki, Long was asked to take over the Republican Party in Niagara County in 1996 - a position he held until 2000. But that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his political affiliations in working the system to support the conservation movement. He was a very close friend with Senator John Daly, serving as chairman of his Conservation Advisory Committee. His influence was a key to Long's legacy of leaving this world a much better place to be. A big responsibility of Long was being Chairman (and vice chairman) of the state's Conservation Fund Advisory Board . It's the job of CFAB to oversee the state Department of Environmental Conservation's expenditures as they relate to fish and wildlife. License money revenues in the state are earmarked for something called the Conservation Fund and there are restrictions on how that money can be spent. Through Long's leadership, he was able to keep a watchful eye on DEC and provide both helpful insight and constructive criticism While he was often busier than a one-armed paper hanger, he would always make time for bears and bear hunting. "It's the hunt that I truly love," said Long. "I learn something new every time I'm in the bush with these animals. I've come to understand their habits, which directly relates to hunting success. These animals are very territorial and I use that to my advantage when hunting them. While I don't shoot that many bears any more, I still love the hunt...and the meat."

The last bear he harvested wasn't a black bear at all but an Alaskan Grizzly bear taken the middle of April 2001. All Long's trips are adventures and this one was no different. A call from a friend clued him in on a canceled hunt, looking for someone to pick up the difference. While an Alaskan grizzly hunt was the furthest thing from his mind at the time, his love for bears and bear hunting got the best of him. Within two weeks, he was headed off St. Michael's, Alaska to hunt with Jerry Austin and his Austin's Alaska Adventures. Working with master guide Austin, they pinpointed a coastal area where Austin had sighted a big bear the previous fall. They immediately found bear sign around a dead walrus that had been frozen all winter and just recently thawed out. It was just a matter of time before Long got his shot and his first grizzly. The huge bruin stood at better than 9-1/2 feet tall and weighed over 1,000 pounds! Long was in that final phase of a hunter's life. It didn't matter if he harvested an animal or not, he still enjoyed the hunt itself. "I get more enjoyment in seeing someone else get their first bear, deer or turkey than in taking one myself. When someone gets that first animal, they're walking on air and bustling with pride. If I didn't like the meat so much, I'd never shoot another animal myself."

John Long truly was an outdoor legend. You never know what's going to happen next, either. He loved hunting alone and often did so chasing moose each fall. One year, while hunting far back in the bush, he hyper extended his knee just prior to a major snowstorm. Everyone feared we lost him when he failed to come out. Search parties were formed as they tried to locate him. One thing about John is that he always prepared for the worse case scenario and this was it. He had some food and built a shelter. He also had a space blanket to keep his warmth. Surviving a foot of snow for several days, he was able to construct a makeshift crutch and hobble his way out almost eight miles. Oh, yea, he got his moose, too.

He was also a family man, proud of sons and daughters… and grand kids. He went out of his way to take them hunting and spend time with them, as we all should. He was a model for us to follow in so many ways.

From his involvement with the Niagara River Anglers Association and his walleye pond project donation to his involvement with things like the Strawberry Island project, he made things happen. He was a leader with the state Conservation Council and the state Outdoor Writers. He was one of the doers we don't hear enough about, the people in the trenches working to make things happen.

There are still many more stories to tell. Hats off to one of Long's daughters, Amy Long-McCalister who put together an excellent video tribute of her dad - nearly an hour of memorable Long pictures through the years and set to some of John's favorite songs. The many people who showed up at the funeral home all took turns watching as they laughed - and cried - through this pictorial collage. It would have made Long happy and I could sense him smiling down on us as we watched. In the background, you could hear people tell their own Long stories and some of the memories he passed along through his time here on Earth.

John Long, Jr. was up north at the camp this past week to close things down for the winter. While using the outhouse one day, he looked over through the window and saw a bear paw! As he stood, he could see a big black bear carrying around a gas can, almost like he was looking for something. Yes, even the bears up north will be missing John, Sr.! Thanks to Long, our life is much fuller and we live in a better place. His legacy will live on forever. But like the bears up north, we'll miss him terribly now that he's not with us any more physically. However, we'll all be carrying around a piece of his spirit. Thanks for the memories, John!

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Niagara Outdoors   
Tuesday December 12  2006

Sportsmen Lose Another Pillar

Don Bronson's death leaves a big void.
Bill Hilts, Jr.

         The outdoor sporting community lost another true leader last week when Don Bronson of Newfane passed away. He was 71 years old, leaving behind a legacy of education that has affected thousands upon thousands of people - in more ways than one. 

         Unfortunately, the obituary in the paper really didn't do him justice as to how influential this man really way. It simply said he was a teacher for Niagara Wheatfield, a hunter and handgun instructor and belonged to the NRA. That was it. 

          The memorial service held at Niagara County Cooperative Extension in Lockport helped to celebrate his life and times as a father, grandfather and friend to more than 200 in attendance. Memories flowed (as did tears and laughs) as they remembered Bronson. However, it still didn't convey how important he was to the outdoor fraternity. 

         John Butcher of Lockport, president of the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs, had this to say about Bronson: "As one of Niagara County's Hunter Education Master Instructors Bronson was someone that the sportsmen's' community depended on to teach us how to be safe a field. 

         Don was at his best when in front of a group of young adults teaching hunter education and it was obvious he loved doing it. His energy and passion for teaching were the driving forces that help make Niagara County's Hunter Education program one of the finest in the United States. 

         He will be sadly missed by the Federation as our mentor and friend." As a hunter safety instructor for both firearms and archery for over 35 years, he truly made the fields and forests a safer place to be - educating thousands of new hunters. Gary Lowe of Niagara Falls was a Master Instructor who worked alongside Bronson for decades. "He came across as a tough guy," said Lowe, "an image that carried through from his days as a U.S. Marine. But once you got through that rigid exterior, he was loving, caring and compassionate. He sincerely wanted to educate his students." 

        Bronson was a man dedicated to the cause. When asked to step up, he did just that. For instance, when the Western New York Relicensing Committee was looking for a chairman to oversee an environmental subcommittee, he didn't make any excuses. He answered the call. 

         When ased to serve as a task force member for Western New York waterfowl, no questions were asked. He filled the role that needed to be filled, with passion, fervor and knowledge. 

       Some of these accomplishments also help tell the story about this man:

* He was named the Oliver Jones Memorial Award recipient in 1995 by the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs, symbolic for sportsman of the year. -- 

* He was selected as the General Douglas MacArthur Youth Award recipient in 2005 by the Mason Lodge. -- 

* Other Federation Awards included the Steve Fountain Memorial Award in 1991 and again in 2006; the James Reed Memorial Award in 1997; and he also received a Distinguished Service Award from the New York State Conservation Council. -- 

* Bronson also received The American Chestnut Foundation (New York State Chapter) Director's Award for Excellence in Education.

And while this recognition was all well deserved, it truly paled in comparison to how much work this man did for the great outdoors and the wealth of people it surrounds. Whether it was with waterfowl identification (another one of his passions), hunter education or anything else he was involved with, Bronson was a public servant that made Niagara County a better place to be. Let's hope he's in a better place, too.

 Outdoors Niagara Message Board & Forum  


Niagara Outdoors
By Bill Hilts, Jr.

Pelcin Will Be Missed --

        Charles "Chuck" Pelcin of Amherst passed away this week and his obituary didn't do him justice as to what he meant to the sporting community. As a board member of the Niagara River Anglers Association, he served with his heart and soul for 24 years - since its inception as a charter member. Here's some quotes from people who worked with him over the years: Paul Jackson, current NRAA president: "Chuck was very passionate about the environment, especially as it related to the Niagara River system. He served as an excellent steward to these resources for sportsmen and all the people who live here." Doug Stein, NRAA past president for nine years: "Chuck Pelcin was stability and common sense all rolled up into one. Of all the letters written in the nine years I was president, Chuck wrote them all. He was the voice of the NRAA." Frank Campbell, current NRAA Board Member: "He was level headed with a great sense of hummor. Whenever there was a conflict of opinion or a disagreement, leave it to Chuck to bring it back under control with a smile."

        Pelcin was one of a kind. He was an excellent spokesperson for sportmen and highly respected in the community as a former principle of Niagara-Wheatfield Central School. He was also a good friend, always taking the time to come over and say hello. He will be missed more than most will ever realize.

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 Outdoors Niagara Message Board & Forum  

Tuesday October 4 2005

Remembering a Friend on the Lower Niagara 

By Bill Hilts, Jr.

       Earlier this year, the Lower Niagara River lost one of its own when Capt. Ron "Bunky" Meesig lost his battle with a brain tumor. Not wanting to let his memory be forgotten, his wife, Connie Adams-Meesig, decided to put together the First Annual Capt. Ron Meesig Memorial Salmon Derby in his honor last Sunday, to have boats compete for the "Bunky" Award. A total of 31 boats competed in this competition. 

      Capt. Joe Cinelli of Grand Island was the first "Bunky" winner. He was the top gun with a 23.3 pound king. Jeff Tedesco of Lewiston was runnerup with a 22.3 pound Chinook. Cinelli earned $294 plus a plaque; Tedesco $126. Cinelli will have his name engraved on a larger plaque that will be on display at Tin Pan Alley in Lewiston, with the new winner to be added on each year. 

       A total of $255 was also raised for the American Brain Tumor Association, in Capt. Ron's memory. While it's nice to win a little cash or receive a plaque, this was all secondary to the real intent of the contest - pull the Lower Niagara River fishing community together for a day to remember a good friend. Both family members and friends pulled together for a great outdoor foodfest that followed the derby, including barbecued chicken, deep fried turkeys, venison chili, hot dogs, hamburgers, salads and much more in the food department. Throw in some music, some great weather and a portable version of the Buffalo Bills game in the corner of the Lewiston pavilion along the banks of the Lower Niagara River - Ron's second home for his time here on earth - and the day was perfect. It most definitely brought an Irish smile from above.


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Niagara County's Top 
Conservationists Recognized

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