Just about any time you look into the friendly skies over Oswego County this month you’ll see and hear chevrons of migrating Canada Geese. The reason they’re more cautious (they’re flying much higher, and unwilling to come down near us) than the geese we’ve seen all summer long is because they’re truly wild, not the locals that were mostly harvested during last month’s early season. Hailing from the Arctic Circle, they’re on their natural fall migration to swamps in the south and don’t want anything to do with humans.
You’ll notice a similar paranoia displayed by a lot of the mallards and other ducks, too. And while their hunting season doesn’t start until October 27, a lot of these guys are also new arrivals from the great white north and they cotton to humans about as readily as cats to rats.
That’s why there are so many duck blinds along the shore of Oneida Lake. In order for hunters to get close enough for a shot nowadays, they have to dress in camo, hide in a blind surrounded by spreads of decoys, call the waterfowl in and pop up to shoot them as they’re coming in to join the decoys.
This form of duck hunting requires a lot of work setting everything up, teaching a dog to retrieve and learning how to properly call the fowl.
What’s more, shooting the birds requires a lot of skill. They move fast, especially when a hunter pops out of his concealment, scaring them all half to death, and shooting a couple if he’s lucky.
But the thrill of having done it makes it worthwhile, especially in Oswego County.
You see, we’ve got some of the hottest duck hunting spots in the state. For instance, Lake Ontario offers hunting opportunities for open water species like buffleheads, while its bays and barrier ponds offer mergansers, mallards, black ducks, you name it. Similarly, Oneida Lake and the sprawling wetlands in its Three Mile Bay/Big Bay Wildlife Management Areas (3,495 and 120 acres, respectively) offer world class waterfowling.
And then there’s always the Oswego and Oneida Rivers and the wetlands in our northern WMAs, especially Happy Valley.
One of the most exciting ways to hunt is with a canoe. Stan Oulette, owner of Deer Creek Motel (315-298-3730), suggests float down Deer Creek, feeder to another popular Oswego County WMA, Deer Creek Marsh.
“Paddle along quietly,” he advises, “and you’ll get shots at ducks you’ll spook at every bend in the stream.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s access site on NY 3, a couple miles north of Port Ontario, offers a beach launch for car toppers and parking for about 10 cars.
For information on everything from hunting zones and hunting seasons to the “Rational for Waterfowl Hunting Seasons,” go to www.dec.ny.gov/index.html and click on hunting seasons. For a map of state forests and wildlife management areas in Oswego County, go to http://visitoswegocounty.com/fishing-hunting/hunting/where-to-hunt/.