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New York state squirrel season opens Sept. 1

BUFFALO –– The New York state squirrel season will open for the 2012 – 2013 hunting year on Saturday, Sept. 1, allowing hunters to take six gray, black or fox squirrels in combination per day, sunrise to sunset, in any part of the state. The red squirrel season is open all year.

Most people who now hunt big game with a firearm started hunting small game, usually with their parents, other relatives or friends.

Squirrel hunting offers mentors and young people the opportunity to use a small bore rifle like a .22 caliber or a small bore shotgun like a .410 gauge or 20-gauge, for training young hunters to look beyond their targets before they squeeze the trigger. Squirrel hunting also allows teachers to train kids to be safe in the woods and nurture them toward big game hunting abilities.

A small game license or a sportsmen’s license is required for NYS small game hunting. The minimum age for hunting with any implement in New York is 12 years old. Every hunter must take the NYS hunter training certification class and pass the 50-question exam before he or she is qualified to purchase a license.

While New York has strict rules for hunter certifications, its thorough training sets an example for all other states to follow.

One problem is that young people are not allowed to hunt in NYS until they are 12 years old. Many kids never even begin safe firearms familiarity or learn the rigors of survival, through hunting. The late 12-year old start in NYS is the primary reason attributed to decreasing hunter numbers during the last several decades, although the last two or three years show that more women are pushing themselves and their kids to get into hunting.

Successful hunting can improve budget efficiency and introduce other healthy factors to our young people that they may not otherwise find in our electronics-based, modern world.

Getting ready for the small game season provides the chance to identify how firearms will perform when they are fired, starting at the practice range. Multiple models of the .22 caliber rifle are available. Some are bolt action, some are pump-action and some are semi-automatic. Some have open iron sights and many come equipped with an optical magnification scope.

When I was a kid, my dad bought me a used Marlin® .22 caliber bolt action rifle. Today, I use a Ruger® Model 10/22 with a 4X Bushnell® optical scope that is sighted for 20 – 25 yards. When I bought this firearm, a few decades back, it cost about $140, brand new. Today, it would run about $380. The new Marlin bolt action XT-22 models costs much less, about $150, making it a more affordable first gun. The bolt action firearm is the safe way to start young people out, as each shot requires the bolt to be cycled to eject the previous spent cartridge casing, forcing slower, safer and more accurate shooting. A scope can be added for about $50 more.

The .22 caliber rifle, with scope, will easily outperform the iron sight firearm. Careful, slow-fire target shooting from a fixed rest stand will allow a shooter to note where the bullets are going.

Squirrels are small targets that require precision shooting, so hunters need to know exactly where their bullets are going.

Target practice can yield tremendous confidence. When aim is taken in the field, successful results can be expected, if the hunter has had sufficient target practice. With that done, young people and their mentors can move to the woods, where the real challenges will begin.

While most big game archery hunters and bird feeder owners across the state will attest that squirrels are everywhere, those animals can be hard to find, when you are actually looking for them.

Squirrels have fooled big game archery hunters into motionless submission, for minutes on end. The hunters think that a big deer is crunching dry leaves around their tree stands and then find out they had heard squirrels stuffing their nests and hiding spots with acorns, chestnuts and beechnuts for the cold weather ahead.

Squirrel hunters should find areas in the woods where hickory nuts, acorns, beechnuts, crab apples, mulberry trees or chestnuts are abundant and they may find a hotbed for squirrel activity. Beechnuts are squirrels’ favorite food; we have lots of those nuts in WNY.

You can wait at a beechnut grove or stalk the squirrels. Most hunters prefer to sit and wait. To call the squirrels, rub the edges of two quarters together rapidly, making a sound similar to an “invader squirrel’s” cutting into a fresh acorn or beechnut. Squirrels are territorial and try to protect their domain, so be careful; they can come running right to you, on the attack.

While squirrel hunting, remember that the safe shot is the only shot to take. If you are shooting a .22 caliber rifle, make sure a tree is directly behind the spot your bullet will land if you are shooting upward. The bullet needs to hit the tree and stop if you miss or if it passes through the squirrel. A .22 caliber bullet can travel more than 2 miles into the air, so be absolutely sure of your backstop. To obtain the most meat, aim for the animal’s head or shoulder.

The new Daisy®, Benjamin® or Crossman® air rifles are very effective squirrel hunting implements. Their .177 and .22 caliber pellet projectiles do not fly very far. While the bullets are still deadly to squirrels, they are much safer to use. Consider one of the low-cost air rifle models as a possible squirrel gun for that first hunt with a kid.

The squirrel season will end Feb. 28. If you need recipes or help field dressing a squirrel for table preparation, email me at

Lake Erie fish report

Local walleye action has chilled, but there are still hot pockets of fish between Buffalo and Cattaraugus Creek in 60 – 70 feet near the international line.

Dunkirk and Barcelona anglers head west to find the best fish concentrations, sometimes with a daily limit. Captain Joe Jemiolo, fishing with Joe Fischer and Paul Stoos, checked in with 14 big fish taken west of Van Buren Point in 85 – 100 feet of water, last week.

The majority of trollers out of Dunkirk and Barcelona are catching their fish in 75 – 105 feet of water, near the bottom. With changing surface conditions, the fish can move in or out. The lake may be changing for the first thermal turnover of the season. Steelhead and brown trout action has been starting to become more regular, with mixed bag walleye catches, as chilly morning weather becomes the norm.

Sturgeon Point anglers fishing west of the harbor 3 – 4 miles in 60 – 65 feet have reported early fall yellow perch catches, using emerald shiner minnows that can be purchased at Dave’s Bait Shop in Derby.

Some anglers are heading to Buffalo, to dip for minnows at the foot of West Ferry, being careful to keep west of the thruway, to stay legal with the transportation of Great Lakes minnows. Biologists are trying to ensure that no invasive species-borne disease is spread via minnows to inland waterway. Anglers are not permitted to use uncertified emerald shiners dipped from the Niagara river or Lake Erie on any other waterway, except Lake Erie or the Niagara River.

Yellow perch are also attacking 1/4-ounce silver buddy jigging lures fished vertically straight down from an anchored boat. These lures are similar to Heddon® sonar lures.

Early goose season starts Saturday

The NYS early goose season will begin Saturday, Sept. 1. Hunters will need a 2011 – 2012 sportsmen’s or small game license, a current duck stamp or migratory bird stamp and a new Harvest Information Program number.

HIP is a federal requirement that requires any person who hunts migratory game birds, including woodcock, ducks, geese, brant, rails, snipe, coots, gallinules or sea ducks, to have proof of HIP registration whenever afield. Failure to carry proof is a violation equal to hunting without a license.

HIP provides the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a national registry of migratory bird hunters from which they can select participants for harvest surveys. A small percentage of HIP participants are selected for harvest surveys, which will be mailed to them by the USFWS. Completion of the survey is voluntary.

All states were required to participate in HIP, beginning in 1998. The requirement took effect in New York on Sept. 1, 1998.

Hunters calling 1-888-427-5447 or registering online will be required to provide name, address, date of birth and a brief summary of their last year’s hunting activity. This includes the approximate number of birds harvested last season.

Callers will receive a confirmation number that they must record and carry on their person, whenever hunting any migratory game birds.

More firearms laws for NYS?

Remington® Arms has been making firearms in the Mohawk Valley town of Ilion, N.Y. for almost 200 years. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Remington is one of the few companies left in what once was a regional beehive of manufacturing activity, according to a recent New York Times article.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he would urge the adoption of additional firearms regulations when lawmakers return to Albany for the 2013 legislative session. Residents and legislators who represent Remington have expressed concern that more state laws regulating firearms, including the potential for micro-stamping, could drive jobs, and possibly Remington itself, out of New York.

Outdoor calendar:

Sept. 1: Opening day for NYS gray, black and fox squirrel season and early Canada goose season.

Sept. 3: 3-D Labor Day archery shoot, Hawkeye Bowmen, 13300 Clinton St., Alden, 6 a.m. breakfast. Shoot from 7 a.m. – noon. Multiple target course shoot. For more information, call Phil Fleck at 998-4857.

Sept. 5 and 15: NYS trapping certification class, Northern Chautauqua Conservation, Mullet Street, Dunkirk, 6 – 8 p.m. Sept. 5; 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Sept. 15. Register at the first class.

Sept. 8: NYS archery certification, Allied Sportsmen home study, 12847 Clinton St., Alden, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information, call 474-0460.

Sept. 8: NYS archery certification, Hawkeye Bowmen, 13330 Clinton St., Alden, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information, call 633-5324.

Sept. 8: NYS archery certification, West Falls Conservation, 55 Bridge St., 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 655-9131.

Sept. 8 and 14: Pistol permit class for women, North Forest Rod and Gun Club, Old Niagara Road, Lockport, 3 – 6 p.m. on Sept. 8; 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 14. To register, call 628-9023 or 439-1464.

Sept. 9: NYS archery certification, East Aurora Fish & Game home study, 1018 Luther Road, 8 a.m. For more information, call 507-6837.

Sept. 9: 3-D 30-target “funanza shoot” for all ages, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., Evans Rod & Gun Club, 864 Cain Road, Angola. For more information, call 866-5072 or 698-3008.

Sept. 9: 3D shoot, Erie County Conservation Society, 13319 Miller Ave., Chaffee, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. For more information, call 560-9613.

Send information for the outdoor calendar to 10 days in advance.

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