Outdoor Journal: Twenty-five years flew by quickly

Today is a very special day for me — the 25th anniversary of my first column in the Daily Gazette, w

Today is a very special day for me — the 25th anniversary of my first column in the Daily Gazette, which so many still refer to as the Schenectady Gazette.

My very first column appeared on the sports page on Aug. 8, 1988, and I believe it was about bass fishing. I remember I was very proud of the Gazette’s outdoor page because it wasn’t filled with advertisements, just a whole page of hook and bullet and all outdoors. And I still hear, “It’s definitely the best outdoors news in the area.” I don’t believe there’s another newspaper in New York State or in any other state that commits an entire page to the outdoors.

I remember when Jack Hume, once a member of the Capital District Bassmasters who recently retired from his position as the publisher of the Gazette News­papers, asked me at one of the club meetings if I’d be interested in writing for the Gazette. There was no hesitation in my, “Yes” answer. It was the beginning of some of my most enjoyable and unforgettable memories.

I also remember when I got home and told my wife about it, I also said, “How the heck am I going to be able to think of something to write every week?”

That was 1,300 weeks ago, and at an average of 2,400-plus words a week, that’s 3,120,000 words. And now I would like you all to know that a number of these stories have been written in tree stands and ground blinds.

Having written for several mag­azines and newspapers prior to the Gazette, I was often given general writing assignments, but with the Gazette, it was totally up to me. Hume reminded me it was a

regional newspaper and that I should always try to integrate that in my columns. I was in total agreement, and I continue each week to try to not only feature our regional and state outdoor opportunities, but also reporting what our local outdoors men and women are doing.

It was with this in mind that I started my Fish Tales and Buck Tales, and they quickly became not only the best place to find out fishing tournament and regular angler news, but also a place for our local hunters to share their deer hunting stories. These columns have also led me to a number of new friends and acquaintances.

And speaking of acquaintances, when your mugshot is over your column every week, you’ll find new friends everywhere you go. I really enjoy it when I meet someone in a store, at the boat launch or wherever when they say, “Wait a minute, you’re the guy who writes for the Gazette.”

There are also the opposite reactions, primarily to hunting. These come in the form of phone calls and emails from those who are obv­iously anti-hunting, and most of the callers will not tell me their names even though I have their telephone numbers on my caller ID. Years ago, I would argue with them, but now I just listen, and before hanging up, I thank them for buying the Gazette.

In all the years I’ve been writing it, only one hunter let me know he was unhappy with Buck Tales. He had emailed me inform­ation about the nice buck he shot and I included it in the column. Several weeks later, he emailed me again, this time blaming me for a hunting fine he had to pay. Apparently, the Department of Environmental Conservation read my column and found out he had no license or carcass tag and was given a ticket. I was laughing when I replied, “Why did you send it to me for Buck Tales?”

Others I’ve been scolded by told me they weren’t happy with me for promoting coyote hunting, youth hunting, turkey hunting and hunting in general. Some were downright nasty, but it comes with the territory. I know the vast majority of those who read this page every Thursday know the values of hunting and fishing and its place in the conservation of these precious resources and love them both as much as I do.

I also believe letting readers know what’s out there will improve their outdoor experiences and is also important, and that includes good buys. In these 25 years I’ve reviewed a number of firearms, ammunitions, rods, reels and lures and just about anything that involves hooks and bullets. It’s my job to let readers know how to improve hunting and fishing, and my “What’s New” columns are aimed at doing just that.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the recognition I get as the Daily Gazette outdoors writer. I meet many readers when I’m on the water, in the woods and generally in public. One of my most enjoyable of these meetings, which is still happens quite frequently, is when I’m on the water and pull up to another boat and ask how they’re doing. I can’t count the number that say, “Doing good, that guy at the Gazette was right about this Stik-O-Worm wacky wig, you should try it.” And the fun part is when I ask them for their names so I can put it in my Fish Tales column and they realize who I am. It’s amazing how many of the anglers I approach have wacky worms on their rods. And I can’t tell you how happy and satisfied it makes me to know I’m helping them catch more fish.

The promotion of kids’ hunting and fishing has always been a big part of my outdoor writing, both are extremely worthwhile trad­itions I believe have to be carried on. During these 25 years, I’ve been invited to a number of youth events and there are two special ones I’ve continued to attend annually.

The first is Ryan’s Farmers Market’s Annual Kids Fishing Tourn­ament on Six-Mile Waterworks in Albany. This year was the 15th year, and I’ve had the honor of being their tournament director since the beginning. All the proceeds of this event go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeast New York. Mike Ryan and I have enjoyed helping and watching as many as 100 kids each year tossing their bobbers and worms and seeing those smiling faces as they proudly bring their catches up to be measured.

The other event was the Indian Kill Nature Preserve in Glenville kids tournament founded by Mark Storti. Unfortunately, last year was its last. Each year, I got to give the 100-plus young anglers the “Fishing Tip of the Day” before they ran off to the water. It was smiling faces everywhere, especially when one of those feisty rainbows pulled down their bobbers. By the way, the Schenectady Conser­vation Council stocked this stream with 375 rainbow trout this year, and will continue to do so annually. Sure would be an excellent fishing contest to start up again.

There are other special outdoor events that I’ve been invited to as an outdoor writer for the Daily

Gazette. As a bass fisherman and bass tournament angler, how long do you think it took me to say “Yes!” when the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society called me in 1995 and asked if I’d like to be one of the media chosen to ride with the Classic qualifiers on High Rock Lake, N.C.?

Several days later, I received my plane tickets, and as luck would have it, I got to ride all three days with different pros as their press observer. It was the beginning of seven Classic invitations, all of which I accepted. I enjoy watching people’s faces when I tell them I have fished in seven Bassmaster Classics and actually won one. Press anglers were allowed to fish on the final practice day with their pro qualifier and can bring in one bass. I won the media award with a three-pounder in 1997.

That year, that I also received an invitation from New York state Gov. George Pataki to be one of the anglers attending the opening of the 40-mile stretch of the Hudson River from Troy to Hudson Falls that had been closed to fishing since 1976 due to GE discharge of PCBs. All fishing in this stretch now is catch-and-release only. My co-angler that day was Channel 10 meteorologist Steve Caporizzo, and we caught some nice fish.

On a more personal note, I’d like to thank the Daily Gazette for letting me use them and my column as an excuse to take a number of hunting and fishing trips to other states in the past 25 years, and convince my wife that these adventures were only business. This is the same lady that on one of our early dates, over four decades ago, let me sit on the hood of her 1954 Chevy and drive slowly through the old Menand’s dump shooting rats with a .22. She also rowed the boat on Lake Champlain while I stood in the front of the boat, bowfishing for garpike. And since she retired, she’s the first to proofread my columns before I send them to the Gazette.

I thank all my readers and hope you all will continue to follow my columns. Keep those emails of your outdoor experiences coming. And thank you Daily Gazette for letting me be a part of the Gazette family.

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