The big day for hunters came this past Saturday when the deer season opened. I no longer hunt deer because of health issues, but I used to get into it quite heavily. In fact I have a cabin, a pond and 62 acres in the Southern Tier that I had acquired mostly for deer hunting.
Bright and early on Nov. 21, I headed over to the Alabama Swamp to gauge turnout and see what was happening. There were hunters everywhere and I'm thinking some money could be made by putting up parking meters in various places! I didn't hear much shooting but was pleased by some of the things I saw.
Most hunters parked their vehicles well off the roads (although there are always a few who just don't seem to get it; they park partly on the pavement, which can be a real hazard for through traffic).
I also didn't see much in the way in litter, which is great and important for public opinion of hunters.
On the Owens-Bartel road at the Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area, there are some heavily littered areas, mostly near the shooting ranges and a few other places where idiots like to dump their trash.
The shooting ranges on this road are closed until noon each day to provide bow hunters a opportunity to hunt the state lands behind and around these areas safely, so I was shocked one recent morning when two individuals on two different ranges were shooting. There were five vehicles parked nearby, apparently belonging to bow hunters hunting behind the ranges. A very dangerous situation. Local Forest Ranger John Kennedy was notified and he quickly got the matter under control.
John puts in a lot of effort in this area and recently nailed several guys using their four-wheelers to tear up the sides of the roads. Now, if we could just get judges to impose some heavy fines on these law breakers, we may be able to get them to think. Wouldn't it be great if the judges required these mindless individuals to repair their own roadside messes, instead of taxpayers having to foot the bill for highway crews to do the work?
• • •
I was a very successful deer hunter and between that and my nature photography I have learned a lot about deer. What surprised me on my “trip around the block” on opening day is how many hunters seem to lack a good understanding of deer. I saw things that left me in awe — and made me realize how lucky I have been to enjoy good hunting my whole life without having to go to public places like the wildlife management areas or the Iroquois refuge. I waterfowl hunted in the Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area once as a young lad and never went back after that experience.
I did spend a few years deer hunting on state land in Allegany County, after I returned from 'Nam, but I always went to the "back," away from crowds. In fact, that's how I ended up with my deer camp.
While I was on the back of the state land, I met a local farmer and we became good friends. He had almost 300 acres and only allowed a couple of local guys to hunt it. Eventually he allowed my dad and me to use his cabin in the woods, and after a while I bought some land from him. I put up a cabin, built a pond, made some habitat improvements for the deer and turkey, and I never had to worry about anyone interfering with my hunts. I spent many enjoyable times there over the years.
In Medina, I had a very good neighbor who farmed the land around me and so I had great goose hunting. Another farmer in the town of Alabama had some great corn fields for ducks and geese and I had sole rights to hunt them. I also hunted ducks in small potholes and creeks and made an annual trip to a lake near the St. Lawrence River.
As I get older and look back on all of my hunting experiences, and the fact that I didn't have to contend with the issues that many hunters face on public lands today, I'm very thankful. My first day of deer hunting this year was great, as it brought that all back.
All hunters need to realize that times are changing and what we do out there in the fields determines what the public thinks of us and our future hunts.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or firstname.lastname@example.org .