I didn’t make it back onto the computer for blogging after my skeet shooting at the 3-F Club the same day. The temperature hovered around 15 degrees without the wind chill – a bit nippy but I’ve shot in worse. The wind was a bit of a factor, forcing clay birds to soar or dip from time to time. It also helped to lower the temperatures with a wind chill factor. My fingers would start to get cold around station 6, but I still managed to shoot four rounds of skeet – at 25 birds each time. I ended up with rounds of 22, 23, 25 and 22 – not stellar, by any means but pretty good for the conditions … and I beat Mike George. He shot two rounds of 22 and 21, his worse rounds of the season so far. Up until that point, he’d been doing pretty darn good good. Just don’t tell him I said so. John Hess was also spending some time on the field, working to improve his scores. He did each time he went out, ending his third round with a 17. Consistency is key with skeet – shooting the same birds the same way each time until you get their movements and your lead down pat. Our reward for shooting in these winter conditions was an order of Joe’s chicken wings from the 3-F kitchen. They’re tough to beat! Upon returning home, I was on the computer again, but this time to help my 12 year old daughter write her first newspaper article. She had just returned from a five-day trip to the Washington, D.C. area to attend the presidential inauguration and other activities associated with the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. After fine-tuning her article for a couple hours, we decided to take a break and head over to Four Seasons Cinema and catch the movie “Bolt.” Upon returning home and after a cup of hot chocolate, I was back on the computer again starting to work on a piece for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Every two weeks, I cover the Northeast for one of their websites, HYPERLINK “http://www.huntandshoot.org” http://www.huntandshoot.org, giving new shooting and hunting opportunities for 10 different states. I’ve been doing this for two years and it’s helped to open my eyes to a new world out there around the Northeast. There’s plenty of shooting opportunities for everyone from novice to expert – you just have to seek them out. Check the website out some time. This morning I will head over to Pendleton Center United Methodist Church to recharge my soul and then it will be back to the 3-F Club for some more shooting punishment. After that, I’ll need to do a little more writing for NSSF and then off to Niagara Falls for some different kind of shooting at the hockey rink. After a good sweat, I’ll be heading home to finish up some writing on the computer before I hit the hay for a quick sleep. Depending on how I do during the day, I may have to get out of bed around 5 a.m. to finish up the NSSF piece by 8:30 a.m. Monday morning and our weekly staff meeting with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. On a final note, yesterday’s blog made reference to one of the local leaders in the local sporting industry for many years, Doug Stein. I asked that you send letters of encouragement and get well cards to his home. Please do that if you get the chance. If you know Doug well enough to stop by and see him, please do so, but not without a call to his wife, Kim, first. Doug has good days and bad days. Even his good days aren’t the best and according to doctors he’s not long for this world. They give him a couple of months, insisting that they can’t do anything more for him. It seems so hard to believe that with the technology we possess, we can’t do more for these kinds of afflictions. Doug is a good friend and we did a lot together – fishing, hunting and shooting. I still can’t fathom a world without this dedicated, stubborn, lovable hunk of a man. I pray that his last days on this earth are painless and peaceful; that he is able to understand that there are plenty of people out here that respect and admire him for the person he is and what he has accomplished for sportsmen over the years. Hang in there, Doug! Please prove them wrong!!
Saturday morning. It’s cold! I’m dreading heading out to the 3-F Club at noon to shoot a couple rounds of skeet. After making a pot of coffee this morning, I put the finishing touches on a story for the New York Outdoor News publication on a new state record walleye caught last Tuesday in Cattaraugus County. You can check out the complete story in the next issue of the Outdoor News, complete with photo. If you’re not a subscriber to ON, you should be. It comes out every two weeks and Steve Piatt with wife, Paula, do an excellent job staying on top of all the sportsmen’s issues in the state in a timely fashion. It’s also filled with tips, tactics and basic outdoor knowledge that can help to make you a better hunter, fisherman and sportsman. It’s available on most of the major newsstands but the easiest way to get it is to subscribe. Back to the record.
The new record walleye was caught by Thomas Reed of Kill Buck, NY while fishing a private pond located just off a tributary of the Allegany River Jan. 20 through the ice. He was using a creek chub off of a tip-up and it weighed in at 16 pounds, nine ounces. That’s about all I’ll share for now. Check out the next issue of ON for the rest of the story … like Paul Harvey says.
The 3-F Club winter skeet league is both fun and an extreme challenge to even the best shooters. It’s days like these that really put a hurt on your scores and Mike George of Niagara Falls is probably smiling right now. He’s already got enough scores in at this point of the season to wait these conditions out. He can cherry pick the days to shoot so that the weather doesn’t play as much of a factor because he’s retired. In the battle for who will be top gun on our team, I beat out Mike by one bird last year. He’s vowed to take that title back from me, something I’ve held three years and running – something that has been difficult for Mike to accept. He put his mind to it this past summer and was top gun in the summer league last year. But this is the winter and the snow and wind have a say in who’s going to score the best.
We’re never going to win this league, but if we can place in the top five we feel we’ve accomplished something. While we’re always trying to do the best we possibly can, it’s all about the fellowship and getting together to share some time. On shooting nights, we trying to bring out different outdoor game dishes to sample and share with our team and other shooters in the league. It’s all about the laughs, at each others expense. If you don’t have a thick skin, you probably can’t make it on our team.
On a sad note, there has been a huge void in our team this year. Doug Stein of Grand Island, who was always at the top of our list of shooters and near the high gun mark, is missing from our group this year. Last summer he had some emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor and he’s been undergoing treatment to deal with his situation. Doug is one of those guys you love to pick on. He gets himself into pickle after pickle, not in a terribly bad sense. His stubbornness has earned him the nickname of “Rock Head.” That same attitude seems to be affecting his health and it sounds like he could use some support from his friends in the sporting community.
Doug has not been seen out and about for months. He doesn’t want visitors and he rarely answers calls. So in an effort to give him a little pick-me-up, drop him a note or card to his home at 1877 Huth St., Grand Island, NY 14072. He’s done a lot for the sporting community over the years and has volunteered his time and talents for everything from fishing trips in lakes Erie and Ontario to serving as president of the Niagara River Anglers Assn. for eight or nine years. He helped to get their whole pen project started up back several years ago.
I’ve been fighting this blog thing for a week now. My head is filled with little tidbits of information like this, things that have weighed heavy in my mind. I need to get into a frame of mind that this thing doesn’t have to be anything too dramatic or extensive. I just need to write some words as I travel this journey through the outdoors, words that will hopefully bring a laugh, a tear; some knowledge and insight – and help you understand where I’m coming from on some of the key issues.
Off to pick up some shells, my daughter from play practice at Niagara Wheatfield and on to the 3-F Club. Wish me luck. I’ll try and report back later as to my success (or lack thereof). BTW, the 3-F Club is a great spot to pick up the sport of shooting like skeet. Members are quick to help you with your shooting proficiency and when the shooting is over, there’s usually some hot food and cold beverage around. They are located at 904 Swann Road, Lewiston, across from the Fatima Shrine.
Jan. 8, 2009 – Indianapolis, Indiana. When Jim Neiss asked me to do a blog for the Niagara Gazette, the first question that ran through my mind was: What the heck is a blog … really! I pulled out my trusty Webster Dictionary. No luck. I looked for something similar in the computer Thesaurus. No word existed. This new term is an in-thing to do now, however. In an effort to keep up with the changing times – heck, even our New York State Outdoor Writers Association has initiated blogs on their website at www.nysowa.org – I took Neiss up on his offer. And, he has promised me that the weekly outdoor columns and fishing forecasts will be covered more efficiently in the future on the Gazette electronic pages because he’s taken over the website. So we begin our journey through the great outdoors …and our visit to Indianapolis.
Indianapolis is the site for the Archery Trade Association Show, a closed door celebration of the archery industry for manufacturers, vendors, wholesalers and media. It’s a big deal if you’re into the archery scene and the reason the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) chose this location for the mid-winter Board of Directors meeting. Current president Phil Bloom is a Hoosier and proud of it. He pushed for this site for the Board (of which I am a first year member), and many were glad he did. It’s been a while since I attended this show and there were quite a few familiar faces in the booths and walking down the aisles.
After registering for the show (I was traveling with Bill Hilts, Sr.), our first stop was the members lounge where we hooked up with Daniel James Hendricks from Glenwood, Minnesota. Hendricks was named the 2009 winner of the Bill Hilts Sr. Award, recognition given out annually by the American Crossbow Federation. The veteran bowhunter was cited for his outstanding work over many years in promoting a unique hunting opportunity. He is the editor/publisher of the popular Horizontal Bowhunter Magazine and is an international leader in promoting the crossbow hunting experience. He was instrumental in forming the first crossbow organization in the State of Minnesota. Dan is also a leader in promoting hunting opportunities for physically challenged sportsmen and women and promotes several hunts for those hunters in several parts of the country. We took photos of Hilts, Sr. presenting the award to Hendricks and then it was off to the show.
One of the first booths we ran into was the Quaker Boy Game Calls booth and the crew from Orchard Park. Chris Kirby, Dave Streb and Bob Wozniak were a few of the guys on hand, promoting some of their new products like their new series of foam fit mouth calls; their Firebox box call, which is waterproof; an H20 Easy Yelper, another waterproof call perfect for whatever Mother Nature throws at you; a Trifecta slate call with three different surfaces to give you three different sounds when you’re in the woods trying to call that bird in; an don’t forget the new Twist-A-Bleat, a new device that will allow hands-free operation of that bleat call. A perfect fit for QB’s Squeezin’ Bleat, something I started using last fall in the woods.
One thing that was missing in the booth was Ernie Calandrelli of Lewiston. The veteran caller and all-around outdoor expert was off at another show. I’m sure he will be a regular mention in this blog thing as we travel down the road. Enough for now. More a bit later. On thing is for sure, while blogging will take a little more time out of my schedule, it will allow for much more information – more than can be conveyed weekly in the pages of the Niagara Gazette. We hope you will become a regular reader. Thanks for taking the time to follow the Journey!
Dave Streb, General manager with Quaker Boy, shows off the Firebox. Streb also greeted a long time friend, former National Wild Turkey Federation Executive Director Rob Keck.
Bill Hilts, Sr. (left) congratulates Daniel Hendricks at the ATA Show for being honored with the Bill Hilts, Sr. Award. Bill Hilts, Sr. was glad they left the word “memorial” off the plaque!
Showing off the Twist-A-Bleat.
Bill Hilts, Jr. of Sanborn has been writing in the pages of the Niagara Gazette since 1980 – for nearly three decades. And if you’ve been around for longer than that, you know that his father, Bill, Sr., did the outdoor column for 25 years prior to that. I guess you could say it’s become a tradition with the Hilts family. Bill, Jr. was brought up in the outdoors, literally. His grandparents – Irvin and Dorothy Hilts – helped Western New York become in tune with nature by selling Scotty travel trailers. They also ran a fishing camp in Ontario for many years, but that was before Bill, Jr. was born. Dorothy was a scribe herself, writing a book on her camping adventures, “Wheels of Joy.”
Bill, Jr. grew up in the outdoors, but also managed to include some serious baseball, softball and hockey along the way. He played baseball with Starpoint Central, Niagara County Community College and Oswego State. Hockey action was in Niagara Falls, participating with the Mang’s Sharks in the New York-Penn League and the Niagara Falls Warriors in a senior league that saw them reach the National Senior Tournament some ten years in a row. He still dons the blades with the Niagara Falls Senior Alumni League every Sunday night at the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion…but the legs don’t work like they use to.
He started writing more seriously when he graduated with a BA Degree (some people insist it was a BS Degree) in Communications from Oswego State with almost enough credits for a minor in Journalism back in 1978. He started doing some work for Gun Week newspaper in Buffalo and that went on for a couple years until he started to do some more freelancing. He found out the hard way that writers really don’t make a lot of money and took some other jobs until in 1986 he interviewed for the Niagara County Sportfishing Promotion Coordinator. It’s a job he continues to hold with a slight refinement on the title as “Outdoor Sports Specialist” with Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation.
All along the way, his writing and other media outlets continued to expand. He was the first writer ever to receive a paycheck for an article from The Conservationist magazine. He’s written thousands of articles for a variety of outdoor magazines – Great Lakes Fisherman, Great Lakes Angler, Fins and Feathers, Fur-Fish-Game, NY Outdoor News, Lake Ontario Outdoors, Salmon-Trout-Steelheader, Outdoors Magazine, NY Game and Fish Monthly, NY Fish and Game, New York Outdoors, Fishing World, among others. He’s also penned a book on salmon through the North American Outdoor Group. In addition he has an outdoor segment with WLVL and WECK radio every weekend and also does some internet work for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. He’s assistance editor with North American Bear, working with his dad (the editor) to bring that publication up a notch.
His contacts help make the job easy. He’s past president of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association and is current president of the Lake Ontario Sportfishing Promotion Council. He’s also on the board of directors with the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor
Writers and the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He serves as secretary of the Friends of the WNY Great Lakes, a support group for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He’s active with the Lake Ontario Sportfishing Stakeholders Council and seems to keep busy with groups and clubs like the Niagara River Anglers Association, the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association, 3-F Club (especially in their Winter Skeet League), LaSalle Sportsmen’s Club and the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs.
To relax, outside of hunting and fishing activities, he enjoys photography, camping with his 12 year old daughter Natalie, singing with the Men of Hymn group at Pendleton Center church and reading a good book. Music is a passion, as well, listening to tunes from an impressive collection of rock, country rock, smooth jazz and oldies. And he also loves to travel – new places; new faces.
Now that you know a little bit about Bill, Jr. and where he’s coming from, this blog will take you into his world and share in his journey into the great outdoors. Sit back and enjoy the ride …