September 29, 2008
Autumn Blast -- Oswego County Is Prime Hunting Habitat
MIGRATORY BIRD SEASON -Daniel (left) and Dave Rath with a fine display of Canadian geese taken in the Town of Mexico. Oswego County is prime territory for waterfowl and many other species of wildlife.
By Spider Rybaak
Autumn enriches Oswego County immensely. Everywhere you look, fields are dressed in gold, trees are decked out in quivering blazes of color, and woods and waters teem with tasty wildlife. It's a great time to be outdoors indulging in this sensuous feast. And one of the best ways to do it is by fulfilling mankind's oldest mandate: hunting.
Largely rural, Oswego County offers a wide variety of game habitats. You name it; it's here -- from sprawling bottomland forests clinging to hundreds of miles of waterfront and massive tapestries of woods and farms woven over the heartland to swamps and marshes.
Best of all, Oswego County contains a wealth of public hunting land, roughly 40,000 acres, in fact. Most of it is within earshot of the road, and that's an important consideration if you're pressed for time.
With Lake Ontario forming the county's northern border, Oneida Lake and its outlet tracing the southern boundary, the Oswego and Salmon Rivers and numerous smaller streams running through it like a massive web, and countless ponds, lakes and reservoirs scattered around like spots on a steelhead, the county is a fowl haven.
Two popular spots to drop some ducks are Deer Creek Marsh, in the Town of Richland, and Three Mile Bay/Big Bay, on the north shore of Oneida Lake, Wildlife Management Areas (WMA).
If you're really pressed for time, camouflage a canoe and head for Lake Neahtahwanta, on Fulton's west side. You can launch at Bullhead Point right on NY 3 and hunt within earshot of city traffic.Big Game
Whitetails are the most popular game around. Deer hunting is so ingrained in local culture, the season's opening day is treated like a national holiday -- without pay, of course.
In “Anatomy of a Fisherman,” one of the finest books ever written on fly-fishing, author Robert Travor suggests: good fisherman seldom make good hunters. Well, Todd Frank, the state's most successful tournament walleye angler ever, doesn't buy it and he shows how deeply the hunting tradition runs up here. A top-notch deer slayer with numerous trophy mounts to his credit, he comes home to hunt each fall, regardless of how busy his walleye touring schedule is.
In fact, most of Oswego County's charter captains and fishing guides are like that, spending every free autumn minute hunting this fabulous and elusive beast. Frank, a native of Pulaski, considers Deer Creek Wildlife Management Area in the Town of Richland the county's top spot for deer, claiming “the place seems to hold a disproportionate number of big bucks compared to the other public lands around here.”
However, each of the county's 15 public parcels (state forests, restoration areas and WMAs ) offers prime deer haunts.
One has bear, too. A map in the current “New York Hunting and Trapping Guide” shows that bear have moved into the rugged wilderness of the Littlejohn WMA. However, Oswego County doesn't fall into any of the state's three bear zones, so hunting them in Littlejohn isn't allowed.
Still, this 8,020-acre parcel has such deep woods, its fans claim it harbors the largest bucks in the county. In addition it has good populations of smaller game ranging from ruffed grouse to squirrel and coyotes.
Oswego County's rolling and rural terrain offers good turkey habitat, too.
“We manage a bunch of state land in Oswego County,” says Darrel Jenks, a wildlife biologist with New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation. “I design some programs to enhance ruffed grouse habitat. And turkey are nothing more than overgrown grouse.”
DEC's fabulously successful turkey restoration efforts have spread vast quantities of this delicious fowl throughout Oswego County, making it one of the best bets in the state to bag the bird.
Squirrels and cottontail rabbits can be found in every forest and field, respectively.
Oswego County's harsh winters are challenging for pheasant but the state stocks them in the Three Mile Bay and Deer Creek WMA. In addition, escapees from Deer Creek Motel's Pheasant Shooting Preserve, right across the street from its namesake WMA, join the spot's population, making Deer Creek the most productive WMA in the county for these colorful birds.
Oswego County also offers varying hare (aka snowshoe) hunting. According to Gary Pratt, a state wildlife biologist with DEC Region 7, “snowshoe populations have been down recently but have improved this year.”
Pratt says Littlejohn WMA and nearby Winona State Forest have the most hare.
October paints Oswego County's forests into a sight to behold. By heading out on a hunt, you'll saturate your senses with nature's most luscious period, and possibly bring home some organic meat for the pot.
For a copy of the “Oswego County Fishing and Hunting Guide” containing a map showing the locations of all public hunting grounds, contact the Oswego County Tourism Office, 46 E. Bridge Street, Oswego, NY 13126; 800-248-4FUN (4386); or download a copy by going to www.visitoswegocounty.com and clicking on brochures.
Spider Rybaak is an award-winning outdoor writer who has been published in more than 20 periodicals. He is the author of “Fishing Eastern New York” and “Fishing Western New York” guide books that cover 429 streams and lakes in New York State. Contact him by
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