Outdoor writers celebrate 50 years, by George

Leon Archer was among a host of NYSOWA members who enjoyed a day of fishing on Glen Lake during the recent conference.

Fifty years ago, the New York State Outdoor Writers Association (NYSOWA) was formed. The official inaugural meeting was held in Lake George, an effort spearheaded by the late Hans Paller of Massena and William R. Hilts of Sanborn. And when many people reflect back on a landmark moment, one of the common phases is “… and the rest is history.”

It would be appropriate here, too.

Back in 1967, it was a different era. Hunting and fishing were more socially acceptable. Some of the major newspapers in the state offered outdoorsmen not one but two outdoor writers. Newspapers and magazines were the main forms of communication. The NYSOWA logo included a typewriter and it still does today. The idea of forming an organization like NYSOWA was to foster communication channels within the state, share ideas and show off the natural resources that the Empire State had to offer by holding regular meetings and conferences.

Times have changed significantly in the last 50 years. The Internet was born along the way, redirecting and altering our ways of the written word forever. Newspapers and magazines are struggling and outdoor coverage for the masses is evolving into something different. Social media, blogs, podcasts, YouTube and websites are gaining momentum and outdoor media outlets have been forced to adapt if they want to stay busy … and alive.

The 50th Anniversary of NYSOWA may very well have been every bit as significant as the first one, if not more so, thanks to the likes of conference co-chairs Dan Ladd of Fort Ann and Ed Noonan of Saratoga Springs. Glenn Sapir of Putnam Valley and Leo Maloney of Sherill made special contributions along the way, as did a committee of members that included Mike Joyner of McGraw (the current president), Chris Kenyon of Wolcott and Leon Archer of Fulton. A significant group of people came together for a common cause, as is the case time and time again. This one was special, though.

At the top of the list was Hilts (Bill Sr., my dad) making the trip from Sanborn in western New York to Lake George, 50 years after he helped organize the first one. He’s 85 years old now and still manages to write a little, as well as get outdoors and enjoy some hunting and fishing. What a role model. He turns 86 in December, and before then, he will be hunting the hills of Greenwood in Steuben County for the regular-season big game opener in the Southern Zone.

Not far behind on the list in making this anniversary gathering a memorable one was the fact that we had a very special guest rubbing elbows with us. The legendary Jim Zumbo of Wyoming, originally a New Yorker, was our guest for the conference and our keynote speaker for awards night. By the end of the conference, he would be an honorary member of the group. It was only a formality. He was already one of us and we knew it.

I was able to spend a morning on the water with him, dunking worms for panfish from a pontoon boat supplied by the Docksider Restaurant on Glen Lake. Other notable writers joining in on the foray were Will Elliott of Pavilion, Steve Zahurek of Schenectady and Archer. We filled the bottom of a cooler with slab bluegills and we all told interesting stories – including Zumbo. What a blast!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a little bit about the conference and our headquarters, Dunham’s Bay Resort (www.dunhamsbay.com) on Lake George. The setting was perfect. The Lake George Chamber of Commerce and CVB teamed with the Warren County Tourism Department (www.visitlakegeorge.com) to give the group a taste – no, let’s make that a four-course meal – of Adirondack hospitality.

We enjoyed a two-hour lunch cruise on the Lac du Saint Sacrement (www.lakegeorgesteamboatcompany.com) highlighting a beautiful fall day in which members previously enjoyed muzzleloader hunting for deer, small game action for pheasants and ducks, Lake George lake trout and landlocked salmon trolling and panfish casting on Glen Lake to name but a few of the activities.

The State University of New York Adirondack Culinary Arts students hosted an impressive wild game dinner on Friday night that included venison sausage, brown butter seared striped bass, and wild boar. There were several other foods (like a slow-braised Whitefield Farm chicken) on the non-wild side and the young adults did an outstanding job. It’s one of the best meals we’ve ever had as a group.

Yes, we were in a special part of the state, making memories as we kicked off the next 50 years.

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