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Young and old enjoy gatherings

The first day of autumn was overcast with occasional rain, but visitors in good numbers enjoyed good times at the many National Hunting and Fishing Day gatherings set up around Western New York.

The Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs brought together sporting clubs, gear representatives, dog handlers, shooting range assistants, DEC personnel, a food plots expert, and dispensers of free hotdogs and snacks for an informative, fun day in and around the Elma Conservation Club clubhouse.

Despite spurts of rain and clouds, attendance was up for both presenters and visitors from Erie County for the 41st edition of NH&F Day.

"We ran out of material for the kids," said Dayton Kane of worm harness tying gear New York Walleye Association members used to make lures for attending kids.

Charter Captain Tom Marks had a full house for his presentation on bass and other area fishing prospects.

Paul Cwiklinski from Whitetail Food Plots had adults and youths interested in growing forage that will attract and retain deer and other wildlife on smaller acreage areas.

Dogs had their day that day. Along with a continuous retriever-dog exhibit on the club's pond, ECO James Hunt brought along his now-famous Matz, a 10-year-old dog that has assisted in investigations for nearly a decade. Even after a formal presentation in an area surrounded with viewers, Matz still accepted a pet or two from kids of all sizes.

An Elma-based company had on display and ready for test runs of its new Action Trackchair, a camo-covered, motorized wheelchair that can be adjusted to levels at all kinds of odd angles while afield. Jared Smyczynski, 10, of East Aurora is fleet of foot, but he handled the joystick mounting and had that device going in any direction an angler or hunter might need afield. Check it out at

More than 300 attendees, including 57 volunteers, participated at the Erie County event this year. The signed-in youth went from 80 last year to 107 attending exhibits; girl attendees rose to 26 percent of the youth count.

The New York Power Authority's Wildlife Festival, held on the weekend of NH&F Day, draws more than 10,000 visitors during its two days for presentations.

Folks endured some rain on Saturday but the Sunday crowd enjoyed good weather great exhibits and hands-on activities.

Zack Whitmer, 13, of Niagara Falls was the big winner in the Kids Fishing Contest on Sunday. Zack caught the largest fish for the 13 to 15-year age class, a 3.92-pound smallmouth bass from the reservoir and he also caught the largest fish off the platform overall, a 2.81-pound sheepshead to win another plaque and fishing equipment prizes.

Top fish for the 8-to-12 groupwas Joey Hahn of Niagara Falls with a 1.24-pound silver bass, also caught off the NYPA platform. Biggest catch for the 7-and-under class was a .06 pound bluegill Isabella Carr of Youngstown reeled in while fishing in Bond Lake.

The Livingston County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs now coordinates a two-day event at the DEC Region 8 headquarters in Avon. Marc Osypian organized this year's activities and was pleased with "an average attendance of about 3,000 for both days."

Rain and breezes hampered some outdoor shooting events, but crowd numbers were steady throughout and exhibitor clubs and organizations had an opportunity to get their good word out about hunting and fishing pursuits.

"It was great to see grandfathers and their extended family gathered and walking around there," Osypian added. The federation is planning additional activities for the 2013 NH&F Day celebration.

Godfrey Pond at Stafford in Genesee County held its second annual version of a NH&F Day weekend. "We saw a better turnout than last year, even with the weather," said Glen Adams with the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs. That federation manned an air rifle shoot, which drew 52 young participants.

Bow season starts tomorrow, small game seasons and many a popular game fish is biting as the fall season progresses, and outdoors folks everywhere look forward to safe, enjoyable and bountiful outings as the fall season unfolds. Coordinators at many sites are already planning for the 2013 NH&F Day gathering to highlight the volunteerism and accomplishments hunters and anglers contribute throughout the year.?