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OPPORTUNITIES ARE SCARCE, BUT DEVOTED HUNTERS CAN STILL FIND GAME

Hunting is still a go -- if you know where and how.

Hunting opportunities narrow at the start of February, but options remain open to Western New York's devoted hunters. Ohio's archery season, open to vertical bow and crossbow hunters -- the last state-managed big-game hunting in the Northeast -- ended Wednesday. Only a few small game options remain. Hunting for rough grouse -- the only upland game bird season still open -- continues until Feb. 28, as do squirrel and cottontail rabbit seasons. Crows can be hunted on Fridays to Mondays until March 31 and coyote hunters have until March 25 this season in Western New York.

For those hunters still anxious to get outdoors for a big-game hunt or pheasant hunt, three possibilities remain until at least March 31.

Creekside Whitetail Ranch in Forestville not only offers whitetail hunts, but also hunts for fallow deer and bull elk, two species that hold their antlers until late March or early April. Boar hunts, for either Russian or European varieties, add another option. Creekside proprietor Pete Smith plans to begin Miriam turkey hunts about April 1. For details, call 1-888-965-2146.

Ringneck Hunting Preserve on Broadway in Darien Center missed much of the heavy snow that fell close to Buffalo. Gene and Peggy Bontrager arrange either morning or afternoon chukar and pheasant hunts for single parties. "The birds grew big and are flying fast," Peggy said. For details, call 547-3749.

Forrestel Farm Hunting Preserve on Water Works Road in Medina offers hunters a 580-acre area for pheasant hunting. Along with ringneck trips, Bill Keppler can set up hunts for chukar, quail and partridge. For all bird hunting options, check with Keppler at 798-9110.

Bird hunting season on preserves in New York State is open until March 31, with a state option of continuing until April 15 if snow cover is severe.

Big mulie

Linda Schenne has the range on big mule deer bucks. She and husband Ron of West Falls spend early-season mule deer hunting time in Jordan, Mont., with Sun Trek Guided Hunts, and Linda consistently takes respectable mulies and antelope.

This past season she took a trophy-class 10 pointer (eastern count) still in velvet. Her deer weighed about 220 pounds. She uses a Remington 700 model in .270 caliber. Ron proudly reports this is her sixth mulie taken during their past seven fall hunts.

These are family hunts. Even their dog Saillie, a Hungarian vizsla, went along for Linda's hefty harvest this past season. Saillie got into the hunt for sage grouse after the big-game hunt.

Toronto trippers

Yoshi Shrine Club of Ismailia Temple will have a bus ready for a trip to the Toronto Sportsmen's Show at the Shrine Temple, 1600 Southwestern Blvd. in West Seneca, at 9 a.m. March 17; the bus returns at about 8 p.m. The show runs March 10-18 at the National Trade Centre at Exhibition Place. The complete package is $30. For details, call Bob Kindred (826-2323) or the Temple (826-4595).

Free meals

Once you have the venison, game birds or fish fresh from the field or freezer, Lawry's provides 20 ways to serve game and fish in a new booklet "Game Recipes, Third Edition." For a free copy, write: Lawry's Game Recipes Booklet, c/o The Walker Agency, P.O. Box 14390; Scottsdale, Ariz. 85267-4390 or call (800) 248-9687.

Fisher caught

An Ontario Court of Justice at Simcoe ordered a Port Maitland-area commercial fisherman to pay $5,000 in fines for inaccurately reporting fish harvests in eastern Lake Erie waters.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources officers observed James Case of Lowbanks fishing inside rehabilitation boundary areas south of Long Point on April 13, 2000. Ministry officials note eastern basin walleye and perch stocks have decreased by more than 75 percent since 1972 and strict enforcement of newly established commercial fishing regulations are in place "to protect local, genetically-distinct stocks of fish from further decline."

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