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Outdoors: Thanksgiving hunts stir vivid memoriesThanksgiving

<<<<<<< Jason Johannes of Ransomville took this buck from a Niagara County cornfield during opening weekend of the regular season with his Remington muzzleloader.

Outdoors: Thanksgiving hunts stir vivid memories– a time for giving thanks, sharing a bounty of food and making outdoor experiences. I thought about all of that and more this past weekend while big-game hunting on the hills of southern Steuben County for the regular-season opener. It’s a magical time of year for sure. It’s a tradition that started for us more than five decades ago – the same hill; the same tree in some cases.

There were five of us huddled under different trees in the Town of Greenwood when the sun finally came up on Saturday morning. It was unusually mild out, making for more favorable conditions for the “veteran” hunters in the group like Bill Hilts, Sr. of Sanborn. Just a month shy of his 85th birthday, the elder Hilts shared a little excitement and spark when preparing for this year’s hunt. Health issues kept him out of the woods last year. This was another chance to chase whitetail deer again … and share memories of other hunts. Camaraderie is an important part of every hunt.

One memory involved a big 11-point buck that “Big Bill” took on Thanksgiving Day decades ago. However, his reflection was still as vivid as if it was yesterday. Listening to the stories were Rick Hilts of North Tonawanda, Thure Larson of East Amherst, and, new to the group, Carl Mottern of Kenmore. Brother Dave Hilts of Burt was on call for road patrol in Newfane driving a snow plow so he couldn’t make it. Don Starkey of Lockport, another long-time member of the group, passed away last year after a bout with cancer. Art Hartley of Niagara Falls, one of the original members hunting this hill, also passed on to the happy hunting grounds this past year.

While those missing members were not there in body, they were there in spirit. In fact, I hunted from a favorite tree of Starkey’s on Saturday afternoon while the wind was whipping up from Argos. Earlier in the morning I hunted from my Dad’s favorite hemlock – the same tree that he took that 11-point buck from (and many more over the years). It produced a doe this year. The spirits of past hunts live on as we remember these outdoor adventures and give our thanks as only a true hunter can.

Growing up in a hunting family, we never had Thanksgiving on Thursday. We spent our time hunting, giving thanks in a different way. Our special family dinner would always take place on Sunday, following the hunt. While times have changed for us, every family, every group, settles in with their own ways of giving thanks. Here are some other ways sportsmen in Western New York pay homage on this special day:

Ozarks – Part III - See parts 1 and 2 below

“Show Me” a Quest for Personal Best Bass

“What goes around comes around.”

Many people believe in that statement and follow a path in life that subscribes to that way of thinking. To a certain extent, it worked for Scott Pauley and me during our recent visit to the “Show Me” State in and around Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Pauley, who is contracted out by the state’s Division of Tourism for promoting its fishing resources (hint, hint I Love NY people), visited Niagara USA a few years ago on his way back from attending the Outdoor Writers Association of America conference in Lake Placid. He enjoyed a couple of days of fishing, including some pretty darn good bass action on the Niagara Bar, during his September stop-over. He offered to take us out with the hopes of showing off his home state. More on that a little later.

We ended Part II by checking in to Holiday Shores Resort www.holidayshoresresort.com , located between Osage Beach and Lake Ozark. We unpacked the Tahoe and headed over to the Tropic Island, a 75-foot luxury yacht that offers 90-minute narrated cruises around the lake at a nominal fee. Capt. Omer Clark runs a tight ship and the trip was very informative www.tropicislandcruises.com . Back to our temporary home at Holiday Shores. What was cool about this place was that we had our choice of three different floors for sleeping options.

We were up bright and early to meet up with Marjorie Beenders and Kyle Stewart for breakfast (at Stewart’s of course for another cinnamon roll and a pork chop breakfast) for a recap of what we had experienced so far and plans for what was yet to come. Of course, they were happy the trip was going well … but it’s what they expected. They had much pride in the area, as well as the state. They couldn’t wait to “show me” more.

Off to Lake of the Ozarks State Park www.mostateparks.com , the state’s flag ship park at nearly 18,000 acres. Not only is it the biggest, it is also the most popular as far as visitation is concerned. I’m still amazed that there is no fee to enter any of the state parks in Missouri. A total of 12 hiking trails are available. That’s not all though. The park offers up a self-guided aquatic trail, mountain biking options and equestrian trails for those that like to ride horses. The park also has boat rentals, public ramps and docks. Fishing is always just a cast away.

Inside the park was another attraction we needed to see: Ozark Caverns. This one was entirely different than the Bridal Cave. There was no internal lighting (we had to carry lanterns on the tour) and we couldn’t take anything extra into the caverns (like wallets or cameras) due to the threat of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) spores being carried out and transported to another area. WNS is decimating bat populations throughout the continent. Since it was first discovered in Howes Cave in New York in 2006, more than a million bats have already died. It’s important to become informed on the issues.

The tour itself was very interesting, featuring an impressive “angel shower” – one of only 14 in the world and the only one in the United States open to the public. The “angel shower” pours a never-ending stream of water out of appears to be solid rock … and into a bath tub made of calcite. The source of the water, despite some intensive research, has not been discovered. For more information on the caverns, call 573-346-2500.

After we left the caverns, we took a quick tour around the park and visited the Swinging Bridges of Brumley – a historical attraction off the beaten path. We actually caught some of the locals doing some “bridge jumping” (not recommended) as we drove across the 400 foot long antiquated structure. It has stood the test of time, an early adaptation to the construction of Lake of the Ozarks back in 1931.

Not knowing how far we were from any kind of a gas station (and with our gas gauge flashing an early warning) we used Onstar to locate the nearest petrol store to avert any kind of embarrassment. Technology can be wonderful. Onstar sent the Tahoe directions immediately to the navigation system and we were filling up within five minutes. We were closer to civilization than we thought. Tip: Check the gas tank

We hit a couple of wineries during our stay, finding many of the selections to our liking. Shawnee Bluff Winery www.shawneebluffwinery.com  in Lake Ozark offered a great view overlooking the lake with an indoor tasting room and bistro that was pleasing to the palate. There were several other wineries in the area, too – a great way to break up the trip.

While golfing didn’t fit into our itinerary this time around, the area offered up some amazing courses. If you enjoy hitting the little white ball around, you’ll want to check out this region for sure. The only golfing we did was at Sugar Creek for a quick round of miniature golf. Even those courses are elaborate, giving us the option of two different 18-hole courses. ( www.sugarcreekminigolf.com . As we’ve been saying all along, fun for the whole family!

Another side trip was to Tour L’Osage Caviar facilities, a subsidiary to Osage Catfisheries, Inc. Founded by Jim Kahrs in 1953, the caviar side of things blossomed because of the declining wild sturgeon populations in the Caspian Sea. In 1981, the family began paddlefish production – a fish found abundantly in the lake – and started its “paddlefish ranching program” in 1984.

“Aquaculture is a huge part of our business right now,” said Steve Kahrs, part of the next generation of family running the show. “We have 32 different species of fish that we offer to aquariums and research facilities around the world. You can see some of our fish in Bass Pro and the aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona to name but a few.”

The icing on the cake, so to speak, was the final fishing trip courtesy of Pauley. Big Ed Franko, Lake of the Ozarks fishing guide ( www.bigedsguideservice.com  ) and co-owner of Bass & Baskets Bed and Breakfast in Lake Ozark ( www.bassandbaskets.com ) with his wife, Deb, also offered to help take our little group out in the morning before the sun chased us indoors. It was going to be a hot one!

We met at Big Ed’s lakefront accommodation and boat dock. Pauley was already there. We hopped on board and within five minutes we were fishing. Laurie Calvert from Oregon City, Oregon was the first to create excitement, hauling in a four and a half pound largemouth – her first fish ever! She was bouncing a rubber worm along the bottom. Her husband, Joe, will now have to include her on future fishing outings!!

Everyone caught fish for the few hours we were on the water. Crankbaits, swim baits and rubber worms were the three most popular enticements. It was near the end of our trip when my rod doubled over while drifting a rubber worm in 25 feet of water. Several times the fish stripped out line. Finally, after about a five minute battle, we pulled in a hefty six pound largemouth – a personal best. What a great way to end our trip, after exploring a new area and making new friends along the way. That’s what it’s all about. We can cross the Ozarks off of our bucket list, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be back for some more fun in the sun … and on the water. Check out the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website at www.FunLake.com ; 1-800-FUN-LAKE.

Beginners Luck Reigns True for Summer Derby … Again

For Chad Fenstermaker of Warren, Ohio, this was a maiden voyage on Lake Ontario out of Olcott, fishing with Capt. Mitch Shipman of Signature Charters. Little did he realize he was about to make derby history by setting the pace in the 7th Annual Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Summer Derby held July 1-31, 2016 – winning the $10,000 Grand Prize by reeling in a 31 pound, 7 ounce Chinook salmon the final weekend of the contest. They also won the $1,000 weekly salmon prize.

It started Friday morning, July 29. Weather was a bit rough but they decided to head out in Shipman’s 21-foot 2010 Ranger 620 named Signature Charters about 10 am. At around 12:30 pm, pulling a Raspberry Shadow Moonshine spoon 90 feet back on a dispy diver set on No. 2 over 205 feet of water somewhere north of Wilson off Niagara County, the big fish hit.

“It took out over 500 feet of line when we hooked the winner,” said Fenstermaker, reeling in his first and biggest salmon ever. He told the crowd at Captain Jack’s in Sodus Point that he will split the Grand Prize with Captain Mitch. Fenstermaker is a signal maintenance employee for Norfolk Southern Railroad and is also in the Air Force Reserves. His share of the money will probably go for a honeymoon. He was married to his wife Rachel last November and they’ve not had that special celebratory trip yet. Remember Chad, Niagara Falls is the honeymoon capital – a perfect place after your Niagara USA king!

First place in the Salmon Division was Larry Wills of Lewiston, NY with a 30 pound, 15 ounce king salmon reeled in on July 8. The fish held up in the race for Grand Prize for three weeks before the last weekend heroics. Fishing with his brother-in-law Don Stephenson and Timothy Wills aboard Wills’ 24-foot Penn Yan “Reel Therapy,” they made a last minute decision to take off from work late in the day and meet at the Wilson launch ramp. “You need a pass in the derby if you want to get on the boat,” said Wills at the awards gathering. “It was my biggest salmon ever and it took about 40 minutes to bring to the net.” They were fishing straight out from Wilson 40 feet down over 400 feet of water with a purple colored Warrior spoon off the downrigger, hooking the fish at 6:30 pm. They won $1,000 for first place plus $1,000 for the weekly salmon prize.

Top Youth salmon catcher was Nicolas Curtiss of Overland Park, Kansas with a 28 pound, 5 ounce fish reeled in off Olcott while fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni and Thrillseeker on a spin doctor and A-Tom-Mik fly. He placed 13th overall in the division. John Powell of Niagara Falls, NY weighed in the largest salmon by a Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association member to win an extra $500 in addition to his 11th place winnings. The fish checked in at 28 pounds, 8 ounces and was caught out of Wilson. It was interesting to note that the 20th place salmon weighed in at 27 pounds, 7 ounces.

In the Brown Trout Division, Guy Witkiewitz of Ontario, NY set the pace by reeling in a personal best 18 pound, 14 ounce brownie to win the $1,000 first place prize and the $250 weekly prize. Second place Brown Trout went to Thomas Gies of Ann Arbor, Michigan with a 17 pound, 6 ounce. He caught the fish on July 3 and it held up almost the entire derby. Fishing with Capt. Dan Evans of Lone Wolf Fishing Charters out of Wilson, they were trolling over 220 feet of water – an unusual place for a big brown – especially since they had been catching salmon. Gies’ personal-best brown bit an Ice Shadow Moonshine spoon 45 feet down. They were fishing out of Evans’ 32 foot Luhrs that sports the name “Lone Wolf.”

Top Youth Brown also came in through some unique circumstances. Adam Flachbart of Fairview Park, Ohio was casting off the pier in Olcott with his dad when a 14 pound, 5 ounce trout grabbed hold of his Yo-Zuri crankbait – “a color they don’t make any more.” While the fish didn’t make the Top 20, he still received a nice trophy for his efforts.

In the Lake Trout Division, the winning catch this time around came from Henderson Harbor as the east and the west continue to have a slug-fest from derby to derby. Ephraim Burt of Watertown was fishing with angling buddies Chuck Trump and Joe Sabadish took the lead on July 16 and never looked back when they weighed in a 24 pound, 3 ounce laker. Second place laker went to the Western Basin when Bob Turton of Sanborn registered a 23 pound, 7 ounce fork-tail, a fish he caught with his father (Roger) on July 3 for the early lead. Fishing from their 19-foot Crestliner named “RT and Son,” they were trolling the Niagara Bar with a green Kwikfish lure in 80 feet of water. They caught the fish at 10:30 am and it took them about 15 minutes to reel the fish to the net. “Dad” also managed to place a fish on the board, a 19 pound, 1 ounce laker that finished in 12th.

The Rainbow-Steelhead Division saw a tight battle for first. Wade Winch of North Tonawanda was crowned the overall champ by virtue of his 17 pound, 10 ounce personal best trout. He caught the winning fish with Pete Baio while fishing out of a 21 foot Cruisers named “S & K.” They were trolling off Wilson in 180 feet of water using a purple Dreamweaver spoon behind a slide diver set back 185 feet on a No. 2.5 setting. It hit their offering at 8 am. This was the first time the two anglers fished together.

Just two ounces back for second place was Alfonse Gouker of N. Versailles, Pennsylvania. He caught the personal best steelie out of Olcott while fishing with Dave Pasquale (Captain Dave) and John Cyprowski aboard Captain Dave’s 24 foot Imperial boat named “Way-In.” They were fishing straight out from Olcott in 230 feet of water using a spin doctor and green A-Tom-Mik fly behind a dipsy diver set on No. 3 and pulled behind 220 feet of line. They caught the fish at 9 am. Gouker was driving the boat when he jumped up to grab the rod.

Top Youth division catch was a 16 pound, three ounce fish winched in by Francis Holly IV of Wilson. It ended up in 4th place overall. Fishing straight out of Wilson with his father, Francis Holly III, they were in 90 feet of water, using downriggers 40 feet down with green Stinger spoons when they hit a double – a salmon and a steelhead. They boated both with a lot of luck. Francis III also placed 15th in the Steelhead Division with a 12 pound, 5 ounce fish. They were fishing out of their 21-foot Sea Nymph named “Blue.”

Next up on the derby calendar is the “Return of the King” Fall LOC Trout and Salmon contest slated for August 19 through Sept. 5. Over $66,000 in cash will be up for grabs including a $25,000 check for the largest salmon; daily prizes for largest salmon ($500), brown trout ($200) and steelhead ($200). For more information or to find a list of weigh stations and registration outlets, go to the derby website at www.loc.org


Lake of the Ozarks – Part II .......See Part l just below this story



Old Kinderhook with Tahoe;
and golf course view from our room


Ruins at Ha Ha Tonka

Our Lodging and Chevy Tahoe

Bridal Cave

Attractions Abound Above - and Below – Missouri’s Surface

Photo - Casey Scanlon with a nice Ozarks largemouth.

Leaving Alhonna Resort on the shores of Lake of the Ozarks was bittersweet. We felt we had only scratched the surface and we begged for more as we pulled away in our Chevy Tahoe. The Tahoe was made for this terrain. Every driveway seemed perpendicular along the lake, dealing with the tops of the hills that now surrounded the lake after the valleys below were flooded back in 1931. We were driving the 2016 LTZ version, a perfect fit for two couples with lots of luggage. Of course, with a third seat in the back, it’s also a great vehicle for the family. The 5.3 Liter V-8 VVT with direct injection and cylinder deactivation gave us the power we needed. We could have trailered up to 8,600 pounds had we wanted to … and the next trip we just might have a pontoon boat fully loaded.

Our first stop for the morning was a breakfast that legends are made of. Kyle Stewart (no relation) who had put together an itinerary for us, recommended a place in Lake Ozark called Stewart’s. We were told to order their famous cinnamon rolls, as big as a “catcher’s mitt.” Sandy and I ordered one to split; Joe and Laurie Calvert split one as well. No exaggeration, they were bigger than a catcher’s mitt! More like a soccer ball! And they were delicious. I also ordered their famous pork tenderloin smothered in gravy (if my doctor is reading this, I did have plenty of exercise to work it off as you will read about). It covered the plate. Not your standard dinner plates … one of the big oval ones! Hash browns and toast rounded out the monster platter. Yes, I’m a food guy and I appreciate quality.

As we stuffed ourselves back into the Tahoe, we realized we wouldn’t need lunch. The next part of the lake we would visit was the area in and around Camdenton. The first attraction we came to was Bridal Cave ( www.bridalcave.com ), one of the largest caves in the state. Missouri has a wealth of caves and caverns, hitting the 7,000 mark just recently. When it’s all said and done, the Show Me state will be number one when it comes to overall numbers within Missouri boundaries. This cave was cool – literally and figuratively. Calcite deposits with stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws and so much more mesmerized folks on the tour. There was a connection with Western NY where they announced the “Frozen Niagara” calcite formation. More than 2,500 couples have been married in Bridal Cave or renewed their vows – another connection with the Honeymoon Capital. This is a must see for the entire family.

Geologically speaking, Missouri is littered with a “karst” topography, a landscape that is filled with sinkholes, caves, natural bridges, large springs and underground streams. Many of the caves in the state can be found on private land. However, there are many on public land, too. For example, nearby Ha Ha Tonka State Park – recently named by USA Today readers as the fourth best state park in the country – has 19 caves recorded within its boundaries … so far ( www.mostateparks.com ). It was a beautiful park and we even hiked up a castle trail that took us up to old ruins on a bluff overlooking the Niangua arm of Lake of the Ozarks, a spot we would be fishing the next morning.

When we stopped into the Visitors Center at Ha Ha Tonka, we immediately found out that there is no admission fee into any of the state parks in Missouri, thanks to a dedicated funding source (with the exception of camping sites). The public land was just that, for the public to use. What a novel idea. With 88 parks in the state, they will be celebrating a milestone next year (2017) – 100 years of the state’s natural and cultural attractions. Pick up a copy of the state’s Parks Centennial Passport. Earn a stamp by visiting each of those parks and the first 1,000 people receive a prize. Five grand prizes will be up for grabs, too. Last year, some 19 million people visited Missouri parks ( www.mostateparks.com ).

Next stop was our accommodations for the evening – Old Kinderhook ( www.oldkinderhook.com ). If you are looking for quality in the way of lodging, golf, fishing and dining options, this facility was top notch. The golf course is ranked second in the state and our fishing guide was none other than Casey Scanlon, a Bassmaster Elite Series Pro who lives on the lake. If you want to treat yourself to something special, this place was amazing – really! After checking in, we enjoyed one of the best meals we’ve had in a long, long time in the Trophy Room – fine dining at its best. Accolades came pouring out after that meal from all four of us.

Bright and early the next morning, Scanlon picked Joe and me up at sunrise to fish the lake. This is his home waters and he won the Bassmaster Open on nearby Table Rock Lake a few years ago. Originally from Kansas City, he’s been fishing the Elite Series for five years now. In fact, he had just returned from the Elite Series event on Cayuga Lake in New York in June.

“This is a great body of water to fish,” said Scanlon as he reeled in his first fish, a largemouth, five minutes into the trip. For this time of year, large rubber worms on a jig head was a favorite enticement. “The lake is over 90 miles long, great for largemouth and spotted bass. My favorite time is November and December when spinnerbaits and top waters work the best. April and May is also excellent when suspended jerk baits will dominate as a favorite technique. To give you an idea about how this lake fishes, it consistently takes 20 pounds or more per day to win a tournament here. There are lots of three and four pounders here and you can catch fish up to and over 10 pounds. In fact, two 10 pounders have been weighed in already this year. Fishing has really been great this season because of the added water flow coming through the system because of the heavy rains earlier.”

Almost on cue, Calvert’s rod doubled over and he fought a monster under Scanlon’s Nitro Bass Boat. When it finally came to net, it was over four pounds – Joe’s personal best. After a couple of quick pictures, we released the fish to fight another day.

Primary forage in the lake for these bass is gizzard shad and the preferred food source. There are also threadfin shad. An underrated fish in these waters is walleye … and no one fishes for them. If someone came in here and targeted walleye, the potential is very good. Night fishing could be a way to approach old marble eye, but there may be some competition. Because the lake has turned into a recreational playground for watercraft during the middle part of the day, some bass tournaments are now being held at night to deal with the mid-day turbulence and battle the heat. Heat index during the hottest part of the day would hit over 100 degrees and one day it hit 108. It didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves though.

Back to the hotel for breakfast and check-out. Again, we didn’t want to leave. Next stop on our Ozarks experience was Holiday Shores Resort  www.holidayshoresresort.com ), another quality experience but entirely different from the other two accommodations we sampled. Owner Lori Piedt runs an excellent operation, featuring 26 cottages overlooking the lake at Osage Beach. It was like living in an exotic fully-equipped tree house for a few days! Again, the facility was well equipped as a one stop shop for families to enjoy the waters of the lake or relax in the uniquely-shaped cottages. Every cottage has an outside deck with a grill and one night we cooked up burgers as the sun set. What a relaxing time.

Holiday Shores offers visitors the opportunity to rent one of its 20 covered and fully electric boats slips at a nominal price. There is a boat launch available for guests if you bring your own boat or jet ski. They also rent paddleboards, paddleboats and chill rafts. There is a swimming pool or you can take advantage of a swim dock in the lake. Our last part of the trip will wind down next week … with a personal best largemouth bass! Check out the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website at www.FunLake.com ; 1-800-FUN-LAKE.


SUNDAY JULY 21 2016.....Part l

Lake of the Ozarks Region Offers Water Sports, Family Fun and Mor

*There's a beauty in the river
There's a beauty in the stream
There's a beauty in the forest at night
When the lonely nightbird screams
And there's so much time for singin'
And so much time for words
There's so much time to listen
And so much time to be heard”

 *Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Growing up in the “Land of the Ozarks” had to offer a certain amount of inspiration for the band Ozark Mountain Daredevils. After a recent visit to Central Missouri, we could certainly relate to those lyrics. We could even add a verse or two of our own as we spent a week in and around the Lake of the Ozarks – the largest manmade lake in North America. The state motto – “Show Me” – was fulfilled time and time again …

It started with a gentle prodding by Marjorie Beenders, a tourism maven in the state who kept asking when we were going to come and visit … every time we saw her. After doing a little research on the lake and the region, we couldn’t take it any longer. We graciously accepted her invitation to check out “the best recreational lake in the nation.” That was after a national vote conducted by two separate groups – USA Today and 10Best. It would live up to its name.

After a week that was jam-packed with activities, where do you even start? At the beginning of course! We left Lockport in a 2016 Chevy Tahoe LTZ packed to the gills, picking up Joe and Laurie Calvert of Oregon City, Oregon at the St. Louis airport along the way, adding even more luggage. The drive from New York was roughly 17 hours and it was a comfort ride all the way. We were impressed with the various alerts on the vehicle including the blind side zone that flashed warning in our mirrors and gave us gentle vibrations whenever some threat became available on the road or in parking lots. More on the vehicle later.

We arrived at Lake Ozark and our first destination, the Alhonna Resort and Marina www.TheAlhonnaResort.com  in the middle of a thunderstorm. It had been so long since we had seen rain, we didn’t mind the drops as we hurriedly unloaded the vehicle. Timing is everything as the rain stopped long enough to finish the job. After a great breakfast outside at the in-house “Bobbers” Restaurant, we headed out to Willmore Lodge www.willmorelodge.com ) at Bagnell Dam – where it all began for Lake of the Ozarks. Along the way, we continued to find New York connections, like the fact that this lodge was an Adirondack-style lodge that was now a museum documenting the formation of the lake back in 1931 (a lodge built in 1930).

The dam (that created the lake) was actually built from 1929 to 1931, employing some 40,000 people along the way – at a time when the country desperately needed it. Workers from every state, as well as from 9 countries, were employed, making it the largest and last major dam in America built entirely with private financing. To make this project happen, 22 different towns and villages had to be destroyed and relocated. Approximately 30,000 acres of timber land had to be cleared. Over 900 miles of fences and numerous buildings had to be removed. A total of 32 cemeteries were moved to higher ground along with other scattered graves.

When the dam was finally completed, the Osage River provided most of the water. It took three months to fill up. The end result was a lake that was 94 miles long, providing 1,375 miles of shoreline. Average depth is 60 feet. It is almost entirely privately owned as far as the shoreline is concerned, allowing residents to build properties within a few feet of the water. Alhonna was a good example of that, allowing us to sit on a porch overlooking the water … and fish if we wanted to. In the neighboring cabin, we watched them fish off a similar porch and reel in bass and bluegill on a consistent basis.

After a little driving around to get our bearings, we headed back to Alhonna to take a paddleboat out for a couple of hours. Joe and I opted to not take fishing rods for this trip because of the funny looks we received from the ladies when we mentioned trolling. We also made arrangements to take out a fishing pontoon boat the next morning to really get a feel for the lake from the water and do a little fishing along the way.

The next day started with another breakfast at Bobbers following by gathering up all the gear for the pontoon boat ride. Since it was early morning, the lake hadn’t really come alive with activity yet. It was peaceful as we motored 10 miles up the lake. As I rigged up a rod for Joe, I sent a crankbait toward a downed tree along the shoreline – explaining the use of the spinning rod along the way. It took about 15 seconds to catch my first fish, a nice largemouth that hit a new Berkley bait that mimicked a small shad, the top forage in the lake. It proved to be the winner for the daily scratch-off contests that filled our time in Missouri.

We motored to different areas around the lake, hoping to find some active fish along the way. Magnificent homes stood out as sentinels to the lake. We all agreed it was a beautiful area with lots of potential. It should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to visit. In fact, Sandy went so far as to say that if we won the lottery, we would be getting a home here.

Alhonna Resort has everything you need to spend some quality time with family and friends. The facility offers up a full service marina with over 25 rental boats – everything from bass boats and pontoon fishing boats to ski boats, pleasure pontoons and deck boats. Non-motorized water craft is also part of the mix including kayaks, paddleboards and the paddleboats we sampled. In addition, there’s a nice pool both indoors and out to cool off in – something we needed for the week we were there. And if you show up when the weather is a little cooler, they even have an enclosed fishing dock with wood stoves! It seems as though Mike and Sheryl Elia have thought of everything in the 37 years that they’ve been running the operation. Our cabin made us feel right at home with a full kitchen and more. It was both clean and comfortable. The hospitality was top notch.

Our final evening at Alhonna was a light show offered by Mother Nature herself as a spectacular lightning display lit the skies all around us. Three nights went much too quickly and we wanted to stay longer … but like we mentioned earlier, we were just scratching the surface. It was time to move on. We’ll continue with part two next week. In the meantime, check out the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau’s website at www.FunLake.com  ; 1-800-FUN-LAKE. We were singing our way to the second phase of our journey …




New York’s 1000 Islands – Food for Thought for Vacationing

<<< Early A room with a view ... from the hotel at first light

It was time to revisit the 1000 Islands again. This favorite area has been filled with outdoor memories since I graduated from high school. Camping and fishing top the list of past activities, but the list of things to see and do have expanded over the years. The Thousand Islands Region of New York State has a long, storied history as a premier vacation destination – combining a picturesque setting with a lengthy tradition of outdoor enjoyment, especially as it relates to the St. Lawrence River as it carries the fresh water from the five Great Lakes out into the Atlantic Ocean. While the past may conjure up a mystique of monster muskellunge and a bonanza of bass and other fish species, it is what the present offers that helped enhance a recent visit to Clayton this spring – based out of the amazing Thousand Islands Harbor Hotel for a second time. What a difference from tent camping over four decades ago!

The new hotel was outstanding yet again  www.1000islandsharborhotel.com , offering up 105 deluxe guest rooms and suites to visitors to the area. The facility was designed in such a way that a majority of the rooms face toward the majestic river. My favorite aspect of the hotel was the Riverside Patio that even allowed for a meal despite a little cooler temperatures … and a perfect place for a sunset. Open air gas fire pits burned brightly in the fresh air as we relaxed and sampled some great food options. Throughout this Hart Hotel complex, there were pictures of “the good old days” that reminded guests about those times gone by – but not forgotten. The Clayton area is one that remembers its roots very well, a lesson we can all learn from. All visitors have an opportunity to learn about the rich history the area offers.

One of our side trips was an afternoon casting some new Yo-Zuri hard baits at Lucky Star Lake, a standout attraction at Lucky Star Ranch in Chaumont, just a short drive away from historic Clayton. This 2,000 acre wildlife preserve offers both hunting and fishing for customers. Angling action takes place on a 100-acre lake that’s loaded with bass, pike, crappie and other panfish. We were greeted by “Bird,” a friendly black lab who lives for retrieving. While her specialty is rocks and dropping them on your feet (steel-toed shoes are advised), this time around it was sticks. The first one was over 8 feet long and difficult to throw. We broke off a smaller piece and started the process of throwing to Bird. My wife Sandy and I alternated stick-tossing with casting and my better half did great reeling in largemouth bass that kept her busy. I was keeping Bird busy … or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, we had a great time outdoors that left my wife saying, “When can we go fishing again?”

Lucky Star ( www.luckystarranch.com ) was recently acquired by Otis Technologies ( www.otistec.com ). Doreen and Jody Garrett were wonderful hosts. This was a company that was started by Doreen when she was just 16 years old. For those of you not familiar with Otis, it’s main focus was on firearms cleaning – a low cost, lightweight and efficient gun cleaning system that you can take into the field with you should you encounter a mishap … like she did all those years ago when she was hunting with her father. The company, based out of Lyons Falls, NY has many more products and the newest focuses on hearing protection. One example is the new Ear Shield. The Sound Reduction Chamber Technology does not require any kind of batteries and it does everything you need to protect your ears. I think they would be great around the house, too, for my wife when she is mowing the lawn or using the chain saw.

A second form of hearing protection was called Flugz. They are form-fitted ear plugs that you perform the work yourself – easily and efficiently – to personalize the reasonably-priced plugs to your own ears. Check these things out because there is something there that will work for you … and your wife.

Back to the fishing. The St. Lawrence River has a long, storied history with angling. This is the place that Arthur Lawton caught his impressive 69 pound, 15 ounce muskellunge back in 1957 – a record that still stands today in the Empire State. On this weekend, it was the opener of walleye and northern pike. However, this area is also more laid back than many tourist destinations as far as the guiding community. When I contacted Allen Benas with 1000 Islands Fishing Charters, he didn’t have his boat in and he couldn’t find anyone else that did either. That’s not to say there isn’t good fishing available this time of year. There is. For walleye, some of the best action is around the horn near Henderson Harbor and around the mouth of the Black River. With the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby going on at the time, anyone targeting walleye will need to fish there if they want the best chance to win. In fact the winner was an 11 pound, 14 ounce ‘eye caught from there on opening day. Check out www.loc.org  to see the final leaderboard.

Local wineries are making a name for themselves, too. This time around it was the Thousand Islands Winery ( www.thousandislandswinery.com ) that we took a taste of. If you like dry whites (to go with your seafood of course), you’ll want to sample their Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or semi-dry Riesling – all approving to our palate. There are many other things to sample there, an operation in the shadow of the 1000 Islands International Bridge.

An important part of all my getaways – short or long – is the food. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to even use dining establishments as important waypoints and landmarks for giving directions or to know where I am at all times. This time around was no different, starting with The Clipper Inn in Clayton. This was a fine dining establishment that I’ve never had the pleasure to sample, a restaurant that has been in the Simpson family for 35 years. However, the Simpson family is native to the 1000 Islands area and goes back even further. Mary was our waitress and she gave excellent recommendations, starting with our Seafood Pate appetizer and on to our entrees. My salad was slathered with, of course, 1000 Island dressing. I had a king crab and Delmonico steak combo that was to die for; Sandy had a Boston cod that was exquisite. As is usually the case when the food is this good, I ate way too much. If you are in the area, this comes highly recommended. Check out www.clipperinn.com . You will need reservations.

Our Saturday evening dinner was also exemplary, with the icing on the cake being on the water as the name suggests: Channelside. The view is mesmerizing; the food very good. We started things out with some Channelside Chips that were reminiscent of nachos, but with a personalized touch/flavor. We also had Bang Bang Shrimp that was a great treat. Dinner was a perch dinner for me and a haddock fish fry for Sandy, both would have left us begging for more … if we could have finished both. Another must-eat location and you can check it out at www.thechannelside.com . Our waitress was Lori, also a great server. This can make or break a meal no matter how good the food is.

Breakfasts were at the Koffee Kove Restaurant where owner Laurie runs a tight ship with more good eats. While muskellunge fishing was out of season, the Musky Breakfast wasn’t. Give it a try. The Everything Omelet was their version of a garbage plate that was also very appealing if you have a hearty appetite in the morning. They’ve been around for 44 years so they must be doing something right. We love finding new restaurants that we can find our way around town by. And let’s not forget the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel either – more good food to chew on if you want to stay close to your lodging.

No stop would be complete without a visit to the 1000 Islands River Rat Cheese shop. Their aged cheddars are scrumptious and there’s always something new that ends up in our cooler for the trip home. The fresh cheese curds are to die for (at least if I listened to my doctor)! To see the wide selection of products go to www.riverratcheese.net .

This is only the tip of the iceberg (lettuce – with Thousands Islands dressing of course) when it comes to what the area has to offer. You can find out more offerings at the Chamber of Commerce website at www.1000islands-clayton.com. This area is also part of Jefferson County, featuring other locations like Sackets Harbor, Henderson Harbor, Watertown and Alexandria Bay. Ask for a travel guide at www.visit1000islands.com  or by calling 800-847-5263. I can think of thousands of reasons to spend more time there, making return trip after return trip!


Federation Recognizes Conservation Stewards; Dinner Set

The Niagara County Federation of Conservation Club, representative of some 27 different clubs and organizations involved with conservation, fishing, hunting and the shooting sports, takes the time out every year to seek out people and groups for their stellar efforts in making our outdoors a better place; protecting our natural resources; protecting our Second Amendment rights; serving sportsmen and women behind the scenes. They are not looking for recognition. These are individuals and groups who go above and beyond the call of duty. This is not the column that goes into detail, this is the initial acknowledgement that lets people know who the winners are for the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs.

In the past, we would select the winners and it would be a surprise during the banquet. However, after much discussion, we decided to let the people know in advance so that they could inform their family and friends to let them know about the recognition. It gives the clubs an opportunity to show their support for a deserving individual, too.

That said, here are the winners for 2015. If you know any of these people and you want to come out and share in the celebration, you’ll first want to mark April 16 on your calendar. Social hour starts at 5:30 pm; dinner starting at 6:30 pm. Deadline for registering is April 2 and there will be no tickets available at the door – advance sales only. The site for this year’s banquet will be the Terry’s Corners Volunteer Fire Company hall located at 7801 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Gasport. Contact person is Dave Whitt at 754-2133 for securing your tickets in advance. And the winners are …

Oliver Jones Memorial Award (Sportsperson of the Year) – Joel Winters, Hartland Conservationists Club.

Leroy Winn Memorial Award (Club of the Year) – North Forest Rod and Gun Club, Lockport.

Carl Lass Memorial Award (Youth Program of the Year) – Jim “Bruno” Burnett of North Forest Rod and Gun .

Pinky Robinson Memorial Award for dedication to Great Lakes fishery – Dr. John Whiteman, Niagara River Anglers Assn.

James Reed/Donald Meyer Memorial Award (Firearms Hunter Safety Training Instructor) – Ron Meegan, Tonawanda (a member of the LaSalle Sportsmen’s Club and Wilson Conservation Club).

Steve Fountain/Archie Lowery Memorial Award (Archery Hunter Safety Training Instructor) – Dave Faccini, Town of Niagara (a member of the LaSalle Sportsmen’s Club).

Ken Berner Memorial Conservation Award (to the person, family or organization dedicated to conservation) – Paul Dewey of Lockport for his BOCES Conservation Program.

John Daly Memorial Award (Legislator of the Year) – Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour.

Victor Fitchlee Memorial Award (Lifetime Achievement) – Retired Environmental Conservation Officer James Rogers of Grand Island.

President’s Award (selected by 2015 president Doug Walck) – Dave Kern, Sr. of Lockport.

John Long, Sr. Memorial Award (Top Business or Businessperson) – Myles Tool of Sanborn.

There will be other award winners that will be honored on the Don Bronson Memorial Conservation Wall of Fame (located at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara in Lockport). Get out there and support these unsung heroes of conservation. We’ll have a full write up of their accomplishments in the April 17 column right here. On a final note, we are just scratching the surface as far as recognizing people behind the scenes. Like the NY Lottery, you have to be in it to win it and every single club in this county should be nominating at least one individual every year for at least one category. Keep that in mind moving forward. Now it’s up to pay homage to the current winners – all well-deserving!


Making Dream Come True with Hunt of Lifetime

As the saying goes, when life throws you a lemon, the best way to approach it is to make lemonade. For Leah Manth, a freshman at North Tonawanda High School, her lemon if you will is a rare neurological disorder called Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2). She is lacking a protein and as a result she develops tumors along her nervous system. She has several tumors on her brain and along her spine currently and just in the last five years she has had to deal with eight major surgeries. She has partial hearing loss and some facial paralysis. It’s a hardship no one should have to endure, let alone a young lady entering the prime of her life. She’s a fighter, for sure.

Leah is a member of the Junior Honor Society, Varsity Cross Country, Varsity Indoor Track, Varsity Outdoor Track and the DECA Club. She loves school, arts and crafts, playing games, running and triathalons. She also loves to hunt and fish. This is a story about Leah and a hunting adventure that she was able to go on this year thanks to an organization called “Hunt of a Lifetime.”

“Hunt of a Lifetime” is an organization that was formed out of necessity. When Matt Pattison of Pennsylvania turned to the Make a Wish Foundation to fulfill a dream of enjoying a moose hunt with this father, he found out that the organization didn’t grant wishes involved with hunting. Matt’s mother, Lisa, literally took matters into her own hands and was able to put together a hunt of a lifetime – a moose hunt in Alberta, Canada – thanks to donations from a long list of giving individuals. Six months after his hunt, Matt passed away … and his mother took up the cause of forming HOAL. That was 1999.

Hunt of a Lifetime ( www.huntofalifetime.org ] has been helping terminally-ill children fulfill their dreams since that time, be it a hunting or fishing adventure. Leah’s father, John Manth, is a high school teacher at Erie BOCES 1 and last year he was made aware of HOAL when one of his students received an elk hunt through the organization. It came highly recommended so Manth took it upon himself to fill out the paperwork with Leah to try and go on a hunt in Quebec for caribou and black bear. They were granted their wish earlier this year.

The end of August saw John and his daughter, along with his 16 year old son Chris (and Leah’s brother), make the trip to Leaf River, Quebec – the farthest north that the province allows for outfitting. Their outfitter was Leaf River Lodge and their guide was Remi Laprise, a weeklong adventure into the Canadian wilderness.

“The hunt was more than just a hunt,” said Manth, “it was an adventure for the three of us. We drove from North Tonawanda to Montreal where we boarded a plane for the first leg of their journey.” Rough weather forced them to wait three hours before they took a float plane for the last three hour leg to Leaf River.

The first step was to sight the guns in and, after several weeks of practice with a Savage Arms .270 that was donated to her from the company, young Leah hit the bullseye first time out to prove that she was ready for the hunt – outshooting the other hunters who were participating in similar hunts through this outfitter. Game on!


The Outdoor Beat show airs on Channel 22 in Niagara County. It also airs in Erie County. If you don’t have Time Warner Cable you can go on the website at www.lctv.net  to watch it live simulcast or you can check the On Demand section of the website in a day or two to see this show and any of the other Outdoor Beat episodes. The 4 pm shows also air on 90.5 FM if you want to catch it on the radio.


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Our Leaders remembered - Outdoors Niagara Exclusive
Curt Meddaugh VIP - Remembered MAY 23 2010
LOTSA Pen Rearing Project Complete, Leader Passes On

In a recent correspondence from Curt Meddaugh [Pictured] of Pendleton, project leader for the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association’s salmon and trout pen rearing project out of Olcott, you could read between the lines – he was excited by the results of the 2010 effort of rearing salmon and trout in the Town of Newfane Marina. Of course, when he reported on the project at the Niagara County Fisheries Development Board meetings, he was like a little kid –visibly excited when he updated everyone at the April meeting – so it was easy to read between the lines. To him, these were his babies and he was the proud papa.

That said, he was always quick to give credit where credit was due. He would constantly recognize the many workers that made things happen, with the end result being much improved growth and increased survival for these fish once they were released in the lake. The steelhead arrived at 29 fish per pound. Those same fish were released three weeks later at 16.5 fish per pound. Three pens full of Chinook salmon arrived in Olcott at 140 fish per pound. When they were released into Lake Ontario, they were at 68.5 fish per pound, more than doubling in size in just three weeks time.
His constant reminders, updates and organizational notes helped to keep the work force and media informed. His final instruction for the project was organizing the pulling of the pens and the final clean up of the netting … until next year. For Meddaugh, though, his job complete for this year, he would not return. He passed on to a much bigger project last Saturday when he died quickly, quietly sitting in his chair at home. He was only 59, much too young for the plans the fishing community had for him; and the plans his wife Mary Lou and their family had. It came as a shock for all. Even though he had a brief history of heart problems, he was feeling good and loving life.

At the memorial service, it was evident two things were his biggest loves – family and the water, with a big focus on fishing. Joe Yeager, one of the LOTSA leaders, pointed out all the things that Meddaugh meant to the club: “You name it, he was involved with everything fish-related when it came to Lake Ontario. He was the guy that always took the time to make hatchery trips, attend meetings like the Lake Ontario Sportfishing Stakeholders group, the county Fisheries Board, State of the Lake and more – and then report back to his club. He was responsible for rallying the troops when DEC needed additional eggs for the hatchery, organizing volunteers at 18 Mile Creek in Newfane. He loved to teach kids how to fish and was involved with the kids fishing program for LOTSA for the past seven years. Through his direction as club membership secretary, membership grew from 25 to more than 250. He played a major role in the club’s Salmon Spectacular, raising money for the pen projects. His most important contribution was with the pens. He was the member who stepped up and took full responsibility for this huge project and turned it into a success.”

When an issue came up, Curt would research it thoroughly so that he could speak knowledgeably. And with everything, he was passionate about things that could impact “his” fishery - positively or negatively. He was just as passionate about family and friends. When I was subjected to a couple hospital stays last fall, he would call to find out how I was doing – sincerely concerned over my well being. If work needed to be accomplished or a meeting needed to be attended, Curt was always willing and not afraid to get involved or share an opinion. There are no replacing guys like Meddaugh. They are the ones that truly make a difference while they enjoyed their time in this world…and we are better for it. He’s enjoying another world for sure right now. We’ll miss you, man!



Ognibene Didn’t Pull Any Punches

The passing of 84 year old Joe Ognibene of Grand Island marks the end of an era for sportsmen in Western New York. He passed along his stories, insights, outdoor knowledge, commendations and criticisms for over five decades – through his printed words, photographs and, for many years, on television through his “Outdoor Scene” cable show.

Ognibene told it like it was – in his eyes anyway. He didn’t pull any punches. He once told me that his newspaper reporter mentality helped him to dig a little deeper, play devil’s advocate and stir a little controversy to keep people on their toes. Whether it was giving the New York Bowhunters a left hook on the crossbow issue or giving an animal rights group a quick jab on some stupid stand, Ognibene let his feelings be known. If he didn’t like something, you knew it … and so did they.
“Joe was proud of the fact that he was the first person to plunk down $5 at Mark’s Tackle so that he could be the first member of the newly formed Niagara River Anglers Association back in 1982,” said Mark Daul, proprietor of Mark’s Tackle and one of the early cornerstone of the NRAA concept. “My brain is filled with Joe O. stories, like the time we were fertilizing the NRAA walleye ponds and he drove right into the pond with his four wheeler! Or another time he was putting a new rod tip on a guy’s rod at my tackle shop and he was heating the tip with a match. However he heated the tip a bit too much and melted the end of the customer's rod right off - in front of him! But it was okay because Joe Ognibene did it. We were great friends and we did a lot of things together. They were the best times I ever had in my life. It was great to be with a straight and honest guy.”

Bill Hilts, Sr. of Sanborn worked alongside Ognibene for many years, also as an outdoor writer. He made these comments: “Joe Ognibene really covered the outdoor scene when he was the outdoor scribe for the Niagara Gazette . He hunted and fished with a passion and carried that passion to the pages of the Gazette and into his popular TV show. I was proud to call him a friend.

“My most memorable story was several years ago he planned a fishing outing to Lake Temagami in northern Ontario and he was having trouble with his outboard motor. He called me to see if he could borrow one of mine and I had a 25 horsepower outboard which I offered to him and he eagerly accepted. Well, as the story goes, the group traveled quite a distance in the remote portions of the Temagami wilderness and in the process hit a rock pile – knocking the lower unit off the engine. With no power, they had to dive in the chilling waters in order to recover the unit. They were successful, but how to reattach it to the rest of the engine?

“They found a nut and bolt in someone’s tackle box and reattached the unit and got the engine running. They were in the middle of that huge lake when suddenly the boat stopped moving. Yes, the bolt did not hold and the unit was lost in one of the deepest parts of the lake. Diving for it was not possible. I understand the Canadian Mounties were notified and they had to come out and rescue the Ognibene party. “A few days later, Joe pulled into my driveway and returned the motor, which was much lighter than when he left, minus the entire lower unit. In fact, the motor was in pieces in a bushel basket. He didn’t even leave me a few fish to fry up.” It was okay because he was Joe Ognibene, though. He's still laughing.

Joe Urso of Niagara Falls served as president of the NRAA for 10 of the years during the Ognibene era. His most memorable Ognibene moment was when he was involved with filming one of the “Outdoor Scene” shows focusing on walleye in the lower Niagara River.
“I was fishing with Ron Stella at the time and Larry “Catfish” Garabedian was helping Joe O. by operating the camera boat. The first day of fishing we managed to catch a few walleye to give the NRAA rearing ponds a plug, but right in the middle of the filming, Joe’s camera starts smoking. I mean, the camera really fried! I thought it was going to start on fire. The show came out great, but there were so many things that happened that all helped to make it more memorable, like the food smorgasbord that Stella always put together on his boat or Catfish jumping in the water for a swim right in the middle of filming because he was hot. I guess the point that I was making was that Ognibene was an every man’s kind of guy. Not everything was perfect, but he got the job done. We will miss him.”

Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls, a former NRAA Board member and current chairman of the Niagara County Fisheries Development Board, grew up watching the “Outdoor Scene” and reading his columns every Sunday. “His favorite phrase on the show was ‘that’s about as nice a fish as you could ask for’ and it didn’t matter what kind of fish it was. Joe made a huge impact on not only the local scene, but the rubber tire market as his cable show reached out to places like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and beyond. He helped to create awareness for the fantastic resources that we have here on our doorstep.”

Yes, Joe was a popular guy (and not so popular with some special interest groups) on the local front, but I remember at outdoor shows in Syracuse and Pittsburgh, time and time again people would stop to stare at a picture of Joe Ognibene holding up a fish that I had on my booth back drop. “Do you know Joe Ognibene?” they would ask me in awe. And when they found out we were friends, they would be in amazement. We really didn’t see the impact he had on our area as a whole.

Like him or not, Ognibene had a huge impact on the outdoor fraternity. He dedicated the better part of his life through his communications to this group. I liked him and respected him. He will be missed my many, including me. Happy trails, Joe!

Mudge Passes On – 12/19/09

We lost another one of the good guys. Bill Mudge of Gasport died earlier this month unexpectedly. From the standpoint of supporting our Second Amendment rights, our county didn’t have a bigger supporter. He was up on every kind of gun legislation through the Shooters Committee On Political Education (SCOPE) and was always giving the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs updates on what was happening locally, statewide and what was happening nationally. He was an active member of the Iroquois Arms Collectors Association, the National Rifle Association (and supported the local Friends of the NRA group), the Parker Gun Club, the 3-F Club and was the current recording secretary of the county’s Federation. He was a true volunteer in every sense of the word, someone you could count on to help when there was work that needed to be done. There’s no replacing a guy like that. We’ll miss you, Bill!

Vince Caterina Dies at 84 –

Another outdoor icon has passed on. Vince Caterina of Niagara Falls, proprietor of Rapids Gun Shop for over 50 years, passed away recently. Local shooter Mike George of Niagara Falls recalled purchasing his first gun from him and was also instrumental in purchasing his house on Cayuga Island. “Vince was influential in getting local sportsmen their first firearms for shooting or hunting,” said George as he reminisced. “He was a bombardier with the 501st Bombing Squadron and a life member of the National Rifle Association. We can’t replace guys like these. He will be missed.”

Tom Brown Passes On

Downtown Tommy Brown of Ransomville passed away recently, a regular fixture in the county's Niagara River charter fishing fleet for many years. He was owner and operator of Sea Sprite Charters, a daring guide who would take some adventurous steps to get his customers fish. He was a past president of the Fin-Feather-Fur Conservation Society in Lewiston, as well as a long time member. He will be missed.

Writer Ken Sprenger Passes –

Long time outdoor scribe Ken Sprenger of North Tonawanda passed away on Sept. 25, a columnist for the Lockport Union Sun and Tonawanda News for many years. He was 87 years of age. He was a member of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association since 1970 and was also a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. I have fond memories of “Uncle Ken” as we traveled the country together attending OWAA conferences in places like Saskatchewan – the Hilts family and the Sprenger family jockeying for position as we camped across the U.S.

On the local scene, he was a founding member of the Niagara County Fisheries Development Board and a former president of the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs. He was also a special Conservation Deputy with the county’s Sheriff’s Department. A lifetime member of the Tonawanda Sportsmen’s Club, Sprenger was all about the shore fisherman. He was their champion as he fought for access and special consideration when it came to casting from the bank or pier. May he rest in peace … with a rod in hand, casting from shore alongside Peter the Apostle … the fisherman.

McMurtry Passes –

The sportsmen’s and conservation community lost another leader this past week with the passing of Carl McMurtry of Youngstown. A lifelong outdoorsman, he was an active member of Ducks Unlimited and the Three-F Club, as well as the Niagara River Anglers Association. He was an accomplished craftsman, too, carving wood to near perfection as it mimicked fish and birds – two of his passions in life. Whenever I saw him in a room, he would always find the time to come over and say hi. We’ll miss his smiling face here, but I’m sure he will still be smiling as he looks down on us from above. He was one of the old timers and there’s no replacing these important individuals from a bygone era. Condolences to the family.


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