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Taking stock and mourning friends

The 2010 year fostered as many reflections of seasons and years past as it made memories that will carry into and beyond the new year.

>Reflections

The sun set into a brightly hazed western horizon at about 4:45 on Tuesday evening, the last day of the bow and muzzleloader season. Each year that moment of truth, Ernest Hemingway's popular catch phrase, sparks memories of times past.

On the way back from my tree stand out back, a rising full moon lit the way home and heightened some of those thoughts of close friends recently departed, successful and just plain enjoyable hunts and outings, and the annual rite of passage we all formally or informally mark with the ending of yet another year amid all this outdoors bounty.

For bounty, my count went to just one button buck taken last Saturday with the trusty flintlock. For many, nature's abundance this year offered many deer hunters trophy-class whitetails that will soon be hung on the wall with care.

For Amherst hunter John Eagan, 53, that trophy rack and fond reflections came on Dec. 12, the last day of gun-hunting season for deer in Western New York.

Eagan spent the night at a buddy's before hunting at Ashford Junction in Cattaraugus County. The morning started well.

"I could see a nice buck coming through the brush, didn't have time to count points, and took a good shot," Eagan said of a deer that appeared at 8 a.m.

After checking the blood trail, he realized he hit the deer farther back than he thought and decided to wait for the deer to bed and stiffen. Pushing the deer just had it move further. So he quit tracking and sat reflecting.

"The extra time had me reflecting on memories of past hunts with dad. My best buck [previously] was an eight-point taken opening day with dad in 1975. Although he's gone, whitetail lessons learned would be useful over the rest of the day," he said.

Dad's lessons paid off. At about 2 p.m. he finally came upon his monster deer, a 12-point, non-typical framed rack that green scored at 143-145.

We will share accounts of other hunters who have taken sizable bucks. Initial reports have the overall deer take slightly higher and taxidermists taking in a few more huge heads for mounting this season than the year past.

>Memorials

The year had outdoors folk saying goodbye to close friends who shared a devotion to outdoors pursuits. The Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs suffered two losses with the passing of longtime Alden rep Bob Fuller and the November death of Richard Zawacki, Depew Rod & Gun Club and Hawkeye Bowmen contributor for decades.

Both men had served their clubs and area sportsman's efforts extensively. Last year, two notable outdoors figures left this life in December: Avid Lancaster hunter and angler Garnet "Gar" Galvin, 44; and veteran outdoors writer Joe Ognibene.

Friends, family, and Lancaster officials gathered Dec. 11 along the banks of Cayuga Creek in the village to dedicate a Gar Galvin Trail.

"It will be marked with distinguished signs at each end of the trail that goes along the bank where Gar enjoyed fishing the most," said Town Supervisor Robert Giza of the trail that runs from Lake Avenue to Broadway downstream from the Como Lake Park dam.

>Outdoor writings

Ognibene's writing production came up in a jesting comparison after an error in a deer-season dates reference at the start of a column on the passing of Zawacki.

At times, Ognibene would enter minor miscues on season dates. But if his more than a half century of devotion to first-hand reporting on outdoors encounters is reflected in reports on this outdoors page, I accept a critical comparison as an accolade.

That goof resulted in about a dozen notes from friends and informed readers all day Dec. 5. About two dozen years ago, when I began producing outdoors columns for The Buffalo News, a young, competent sports reporter, Mark Gaughan, noted that straight events reporting, not commentary columns, will usually generate about 3 to 6 letters per year.

Developments in e-mailings have boosted the number somewhat, but few surpassed Gaughan's gauging. A column on an out-of-season pintail duck and a hoax cell-phone send of a trophy buck garnered several responses.

But I doubt that any good or bad outdoors report will ever match the two dozen responses forwarded the first week after a tribute column on John S. Sillick, the educator and small-farm operator who penned a weekly "Alps Road Journal" column in The News and other publications. Two years later, readers occasionally ask about another edition of Sillick's collected columns.

His death in September 2003 ended a memorable career of insightful, down-home views and commentary that warmed feelings in all readers, not just those with outdoors/agricultural roots.

Next week: Prospects for area fish and wildlife in 2011.

e-mail: odrswill@gmail.com

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