New York – Bill Hilts Jr

Sportsmen need to stay informed

It was a Saturday night, a few days before Christmas, and my phone rang. It was the copy person at the Niagara Gazette reviewing my column for the next day. The column focused on the fact that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had just vetoed the proposed legislation that would have extended the use of crossbows for another two years – under…

It's about more than the harvest

As I hunkered down trying to keep warm for opening morning of the Southern Zone big game season, I could see and hear my breath beneath a huge hemlock that stood tall in the middle of Rock Creek State Forest in Greenwood, Steuben County. If this tree could tell stories, our dad would be a big part of that history….

Restoring lake trout in Lake Ontario

I received a phone call on the second Friday morning of November from Capt. Frank Campbell. “What do you have going on today?” he asked. “Working on travel guide stuff and updating the hotline. Why? What’s up?” I asked. “Charter cancelled and fish are snapping at Artpark. Want to take some photos?” One hour later I was meeting him at…

Waterfowl wins duck/goose opener

“That’s why they call it hunting,” said Dave Manz, a former Buffalo City Court Judge who was getting ready to shake himself off like a Labrador retriever after doing what he was intended – retrieving a bird from the water. The only difference was that Manz was crawling out of his layout blind after a disappointing morning in a Niagara…

Outdoor writers converge on Niagara

After quite a bit of a variety of outdoor adventures that took me from Alaska to Missouri, it was time to settle back into my own little slice of the outdoors right here in Niagara County. Outdoor writer Bill Vanderford from the Atlanta, Ga., area was in town to sample our outdoor resources – the final leg of a tour…

Branson’s Taneycomo a great trout fishery

Branson, Mo, was an unlikely site for the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers, which held its 56th annual conference at the Chateau on the Lake. If you’ve ever been to Branson, you were probably there to take in the shows, the strip and all the glitz. But there’s much more to Branson than the entertainment experience. In fact, just…

Weathering Alaska

About the only guarantee you can get when it comes to weather is that it will happen – good or bad. Our recent trek to Alaska took us from Fairbanks to Valdez – a six-hour drive through some absolutely spectacular country. Of particular note was our travel through Thompson’s Pass, looking more like the terrain of Switzerland. At least that’s…

Alaska: OWAA meeting and a 'Bucket List' check

It was two years ago when the Outdoor Writers Association of America announced that they would be holding the group’s landmark conference gathering in a special place – Chena Hot Springs, a short drive from Fairbanks in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Yes, Alaska, our 49th State, was our destination Sept. 3-6. As this is being written, after much…

Recognizing the next generation

It’s good to see fishing and hunting participation on the rise. Based on recent reports revealed through the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, angler numbers have increased by 11 percent and hunter numbers jumped by nine percent since 2006 – the last time the survey was conducted. National organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation and…

The underrated Upper Niagara River

There’s no question that we're spoiled when it comes to fishing here in Western New York. Being the outdoor sports specialist for Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation certainly has its advantages – although I wish I fished half as much as everyone thinks I do. Catering to media and holding on-the-water meetings are part of the job … but someone…

Guiding light: Hire a charter

It was one of the hottest weekends of the year … so far. I found myself on the boat of local St. Lawrence River region legend Capt. Allen Benas of Clayton, owner of the Thousand Islands Inn and Thousand Islands Fishing Charters. My wife Sandy and I were part of a mixed half-day charter that benefitted a father and his…

Cooking spices up outdoor experience

Hunting and fishing are a huge part of the outdoor experience for sportsmen. However, it doesn’t have to stop there. Preparing your fish and game can add some flavor (pun intended) to your overall enjoyment and satisfaction, allow you to experiment with how it's prepared and ultimately how it tastes as you complete the cycle. I love cooking. My favorite…

Florida trip teaches lessons

Our ultimate destination was Ponce Inlet, Fla. – south of Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state. My wife Sandy and I were visiting her son Keith and his family in Jacksonville – wife Brandy, sons Mark (9) and Chris (7); daughters Giselle (5) and Alaina (1 1/2) and we found a short-term rental of an excellent…

Ultimate honor for Olcott Beach

Olcott Beach, a small hamlet on Lake Ontario in the Town of Newfane, Niagara County, is relatively quiet, unassuming … and a good spot to go fishing! After a monthlong voting process and a record number of votes being cast (nearly 330,000), Olcott Beach was named the Ultimate Fishing Town USA by the World Fishing Network. It was made official…

Becoming a 'Happy Camper'

It was just a few days before Memorial Day weekend and I had still not made any arrangements for camping. The group I had been camping with at Pendleton Center United Methodist Church decided to hold off on camping this holiday weekend, something we’ve done as a group for over a decade. But sometimes life just gets in the way….

WFN helps highlight N.Y.’s angling resources

New York has work-class angling opportunities. We know that because we live here. I’ve been fortunate to travel all around this state, from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain; from the Hudson River to the Finger Lakes; from the Catskills to Chautauqua Lake … and many points in between. I Love NY Division…

2012: A smelt odyssey

The oldtimers remember how it was with smelt, the tasty baitfish that became somewhat of a springtime tradition. It was sort of like spring bullhead fishing; a good time to catch and eat. The smelt seemed to be everywhere – in the tributary streams off Lake Ontario and in the Finger Lakes streams of New York. For most, that’s become…

Pen projects' unsung heroes

It’s all about what’s going on behind the scenes to make our sportfishing resource one of the best on the planet. Yes, we know about the fish hatcheries themselves and the personnel who collect the fish eggs, hatch them and get them ready for fish stockings each spring – the salmon and trout for the Great Lakes. But it doesn’t…

First trout a memorable one

I’m not sure how old I was, but I was definitely knee high to a grasshopper. Mom, Dad, my brother Rick – that was our family back then. It was before David and Susan came along, so I was probably seven or so. The Hilts clan was camping in the Adirondacks and Lewey Lake in Hamilton County was our preferred…

Crossbow movement takes shape

It’s no secret that I’m an ardent advocate for the crossbow in New York. I’ve used these tools for more than two decades and see them for what they truly are – a fun and effective way to hunt … with limitations. As the crossbow fever starts to spread across the Empire State, the effort needed a conductor, a director…

Watching the neighbors

While attending the Allegheny Sport, Travel and Outdoor Show in Monroeville, Pa., it a tradition to pick up a copy of the Pennsylvania Outdoor News to see what’s happening in the Keystone State. In the Feb. 24, 2012 issue, the lead story talked about trout being destroyed in an Erie hatchery due to disease issues. Steelhead to be stocked in…

Winter skeet shooting always a challenge

The wind was blowing out of the southwest 25 to 35 miles per hour and the outside temperature – without wind chill – hovered around the 30-degree mark. There was a threat of snow in the air and being outside was the last place I wanted to be. One problem: This was going to be the only day that I…