The following article by member Ed Noonan was originally published in The Daily Gazette on October 9th, 2014.
When the New York State Outdoor Writer’s Association announced that this year’s conference would be held in Cortland County, I quickly signed up.
I attended a NYSOWA safari there in 2012 when Mike Kelly and Mike Joyner, members of our writers group, co-chaired the event, and they again were responsible for this event.
My enthusiasm for returning to Cortland was based on the great welcoming we got at the Safari and the fact that I was able to take a hefty long bearded tom. This memory, plus the photo I saw of the Hope Lake Lodge at the Greek Peak Ski Resort, where we would be staying. And when fellow outdoor writer Dan Ladd of Fort Ann and I arrived, the view from our third-floor patio was awesome.
That evening at our meet and greet cocktail hour, we were introduced to our hunting/fishing guides, and I was pleased to be paired with Joyner, author of a number of turkey hunting books and past president of the state National Wild Turkey Federation. Needless to say, I was eager for the morning hunt.
Hunting turkeys in the fall is quite a bit different than in the spring, when the birds are quite vocal. In the fall, you find them, run at them shouting like a mad man to bust up the flock, then sit down wait 30 minutes and try to call them back. This was not exactly what Mike had planned for us.
At 8 a.m., I met my “four” guides; Mike, his friend Terry Day and their canines. Mike’s Jake was a Weinheimer and Terry’s Piper a Byrne, which was a special blend ofPointer, Setter and Plott-hound bred by John Byrne Jr. of Virginia just to hunt turkeys. I can honestly say these two really had a nose for finding turkeys.
We began our hunt at one of the accesses to the Finger Lakes Trail, and the fall colors were at their peak. We all worked together for perhaps a half-mile, then Terry and Piper took a secondary trail that would eventually circle back to our trail. It wasn’t until we were also at our meeting point at the top of the hill that we heard Piper bark, and shortly thereafter, we saw turkeys scattering. We all set up quickly where we had seen the flock. I am always amazed at how still the dogs are laying on the ground beneath camo covers.
It wasn’t too long when Mike and Terry’s call were answered, and although we heard several responses, Terry and I watched one about 80 yards out, but it never came within shotgun range. But even though I did not get a shot, seeing those dogs work made my day.
That afternoon, while enjoying a great lunch at the Lime Hollow Center for Environmental & Culture — a great place to send your kids — I found out that our anglers all had caught fish in the area’s lakes, rivers and ponds. The two bowhunters, Dan and Bill Hollister of Valatie, who spent the morning bowhunting from tree stand, were not visited by any whitetails.
Turkey hunting for me the next day was rained out, but about 3 p.m., Leo Maloney, Sherrill and I decided to fish the onsite Hope Lake, which is about the size of Lake Lonely. Fully dressed in rain gear, Leo headed for the far side of the lake and I stayed on the other. On my first cast with a wacky-rigged Stik-O Worm, I caught a 14 inch largemouth, and minutes later from the other side of the lake, Leo held one up, also. In just 90 minutes of fishing. we each caught and released six largemouths and probably lost an equal amount.
One of the highlights for me at the conference was at our Sunday morning members meeting, where Leon Archer, NYSOWA president, handed over the gavel to my good friend, Wayne Brewer of Seneca Falls, our new president. Wayne is the retired director of the state Environmental Conservation Police. THANK YOU CORTLAND COUNTY.