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Rod, Gun and Game: Hunter harassment is against the law, in all 50 states

A DAY IN THE WOODS ó Camaraderie among hunting friends adds to the fun of hunting success for many hunters. Brian Larkman looks on as Sam Skowronski congratulates Ray Orlowski on his Allegany county buck.

SPRINGVILLE ó With the drop in temperature last weekend, reports of snow in the central hills of New York and, with the calendar just a little over one week away from the opening day of big game firearm season in New York on Nov. 16, the heritage of hunting deer and bear has begun, for about 600,000 hunters in our Empire State.

As a New York state big game or small game hunter, you may have already been the focus of many forms of hunter harassment. If your hunting event is interrupted by anti-hunting protests, remember that hunter harassment is illegal, in all 50 states.

About 25 years ago, the United States Sportsmenís Alliance wrote the draft for hunter-harassment language that was used by the majority of states, when they passed laws protecting hunters and hunting. This language has withstood all court challenges, during those decades.

New York state has specific environmental laws on the books for those guilty of interference in the lawful taking of wildlife. Anti-hunters cannot legally follow you, engage in a course of conduct to sound an alarm or annoy a licensed hunter. Also remember that hunters cannot take the law into their own hands. The perpetrators need to be informed of their violations and arrested by a police officer, but not by everyday citizens who happen to be hunting.

If you encounter an anti-hunter group while in the field that attempts to disrupt your hunting experience, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, they are illegal and you are not. Report the incident to authorities, as soon as possible. Take notes and pictures. Provide an accurate description of the protesters, as well as a license plate number and vehicle information and, if you can, be prepared to file harassment charges against the perpetrators.

Remember, too, hunter harassment doesnít always occur in the field; you can find it during everyday activities, such as social gatherings, soccer games, hockey games and at work. Often, you will find yourself on the defensive and it is best to keep your cool and be prepared to help educate them. This can be difficult. Be very careful not to be defensive, and simply explain the details. This means, as a hunter, you need to know those details.

If you experience hunter harassment in the field, understand that you need to be prepared with more than a firearm or compound bow; you need to be knowledgeable on what to do, what hunting means to you and why. Explain predator-prey relationships and how well-balanced ecosystems work; that usually helps to correct any misdirection. Protesters are usually not educated on how and why hunters are actually helping conserve wildlife and may just need to hear the facts.

That means you need to know your sport and you need to be totally legal, too. Carry a list of Region 9 environmental conservation officers with your back tag or in your wallet. It is amazing how this list can be used to your advantage, during hunting season. To learn the names and contact numbers of local Region 9 ECOís, print this list: www.dec.ny.gov/about/689.html.

Provide details on how hunters help fund conservation. Sometimes individuals do not realize that hunters pay for wildlife conservation. Hikers, bikers, campers, bird watchers and many other nature-loving folks do not pay a dime. Explain that and mention that many sportsmen eat their legal kill. You may not succeed in persuading anyone about the positive aspects of hunting, but you will have at least left them with a better understanding of our outdoor heritage.

There are more than 600,000 big game hunters in the Empire State. That makes the New York hunters group the eighth largest armed force in the world. This means there are more men and women with arms in New York state than in Iran, France and Germany combined. Add another 600,000 from Wisconsin, 750,000 from Pennsylvania and 700,000 from Michigan, and these four states now form the largest army in the world. Add in all the other states, and there are millions more hunters with firearms. Foreign countries fear those kinds of home-grown firepower, adding to the intrinsic safety of America, thanks to the Second Amendment and the American heritage of hunting.

Hunting is not just one way to fill your freezer anymore. While hunters are not skilled as soldiers, what army would want to face more than 50 million armed United States citizens? Hunting is a matter of national security, in this sense.

Lake Erie Tributary steelhead

Mike Todd of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reported that all of the Lake Erie tributaries are running high and muddy, after the weekend rain. The smallest streams or the upper reaches of streams are the best bet for unstained water. Medium-sized streams such as Chautauqua, Canadaway, Eighteenmile and Buffalo creeks could take at least a couple days to settle down. Cattaraugus Creek is running high and muddy, at nearly 3,000 cubic feet per second, and wonít settle down until next weekend. The good news is that many anglers have reported better early season steelhead action, compared to the last few years. Todd reported that there are good numbers of steelhead in the streams and spread throughout their reaches. Lake Erie steelhead will hit natural baits, like egg sacs and worms, flies such as egg imitations, streamers and bugger patterns and lures like minnow-type stickbaits and in-line spinners. Anglers can also target fresh-run lake steelhead by fishing from the Cattaraugus Creek breakwall or off creek mouths by casting spoons, spinners and stickbaits.

New York ammo checks delayed

The New York State Police recently announced that there will be no background checks on ammunition sales until a system exists to handle them. This provision of the New York State SAFE Act, initially considered a key provision, was originally scheduled for implementation on Jan. 15, 2014. It has been delayed indefinitely because there is no formal system capable of handling this provision.

Pro-gun supporters criticize the SAFE Act for infringement on the Second Amendment, saying it will do little to reduce crime and prevent future mass shootings. Supporters of the gun control law disagree. The law was pushed by Gov. Cuomo and passed in January, after the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn., during a one-night emergency session of the Senate and Assembly in Albany.

The net results of the NY SAFE Act passage, for about 11,000 employees of gun-related industries located in New York state, has been job anxiety. Remington has about 1,400 employees in Ilion, N.Y., and there are rumors of moving to Tennessee. Similar rumors are in the air for gun makers in Colorado and Connecticut, but records show no measurable decrease in crime in any of these states.

Outdoor calendar

Nov. 9-10: Niagara Frontier Gun Show, Springville Volunteer Fire Hall, 405 Main St., Springville, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. both days. Visit nfgshows.com for more information.

Nov. 11: Trap shooting open to public, Allied Sportsmen Club, 12846 Clinton St., Alden, 6 p.m.-9:45 p.m. For more information, call 937-3615.

Nov. 14: Invasive Species of Lake Erie informative seminar presentation with Helen Domske of NY Sea Grant, 7 p.m., 4968 Lake Shore Road, Hamburg. For more information, call 627-2773.

Nov. 15: Last Day of New York State Southern Zone early Big Game archery season.

Nov. 16: Opening Day of New York State Southern Zone Big Game firearm season.

Send information for the outdoor calendar in the Forrest Fisher Column, 10 days in advance, to nugdor@yahoo.com.


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