Rod, Gun & Game: New holiday deer hunting season poses questions, ice fishing is just ahead

The first-ever NYS Holiday Deer Hunt is on. It started the day after Christmas and will run through Jan. 1, ending 30 minutes after sunset. Archery, crossbow and black powder firearms are allowed in the Holiday Deer Hunt. Remember that if you plan to use a crossbow, you need to have a muzzleloader license ($10, visit the town clerk). Hey, yep, this is New York state. If you hunted during the regular deer season and did not

Musky season closed Dec. 15 on the Canadian side of the upper Niagara River and Denis Kreze of Fort Erie, Ontario, shows how he closed the season.

take a deer home, you might ask why we need this extra deer season. There are no deer out there. That’s the opinion of many WNY deer hunters, but on the flip side, many hunters claim they watched dozens of deer walk through their area and let them pass, waiting for a more giant deer. So it depends on where you hunted. That’s my best guess. But if you are visiting from out of state, you came back home to visit for the holidays, you can now go hunting for a day or two, and I like the idea. So many hunters that I have talked with did not harvest any deer. The number did not even see any deer. There could be many reasons for the invisible deer, as some hunters sleep in the stand, and others move around a lot. According to wildlife experts, deer have excellent eyesight; they will simply walk around you if you move too much. You’ll never see them. If you live in the village of East Aurora, the deer seem to have no fear about movement at all. There are dozens of deer walking the streets and backyards after sunset. Find a landowner near the village and get permission to hunt there with a bow or crossbow. Everyone now has the last chance to put some venison in their freezer. If you’re one of them, get going! Just don’t upset the neighbors with a gunshot from a muzzleloader too close to a house (500 ft. minimum).

For steelhead fishermen and ice anglers, the forecast is good. The streams are still flowing if you have waders, a fishing rod, bobber and an egg sac. The fish are biting too. From Buffalo to Pennsylvania, any Lake Erie trib is heavy with steelhead from the first hole near the lake to the last impassable barrier upstream (dam, waterfall, etc.). Tie on some 8-pound fluorocarbon leader to your regular fishing line of higher strength and let your cast fly. Local bait shops carry pre-made egg sacs and single eggs that the fish will usually devour in short order. 

Steelhead, like this whopper caught by Matt Nardolillo, are swimming in big numbers across many of our local Lake Erie tributaries.

For ice anglers, your time is coming, you know that. Ice fishing contests abound for the 2022 ice fishing season. Perhaps the most popular of these contests with a longstanding line of followers and competitors is Captain Bob’s Winter Fishing Derby that runs from Jan. 2 through Mar. 15. This contest is likable because it does not matter if there is ice. The contest is open to seven species: steelhead, perch, walleye, crappie, sunfish/bluegill, northern pike and rudd. Prizes range from $150 to $50 for fish that place. Captain Bob’s is located at 10295 Main Street in Clarence. The entry fee is $20. This contest is not based on the weight of the fish but only on the length in inches. Contact Steve Hawkins (Capt. Bob) at 716-407-3021.

Other ice fishing contests include several others. The NYS Winter Classic Fishing Contest will run from Jan. 1 – Feb. 28 with rules and details for this all-state competition at There is one new local winter fishing contest starting in 2022. The Chautauqua Lake Winter Fishing Contest will run from Jan. 15 – Feb. 27; it will run with or without ice and includes six species. Register with Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors at 165 West Fairmount Ave, in Lakewood. Other registration stations are coming as well. The cost is $25, all-cash payback. The more anglers who register, the higher the prize purse. It could be hundreds or thousands in the purse. Imagine that! Contact Mike Sperry at 716-763-2947.  

Another outdoor-based activity that comes to life after the New Year is winter 3D archery. Several local leagues frolic in the snow, many allow walk-on shooters. In Glenwood, the WNY Winter 3D Archery League begins Jan. 2 at Glen Coe Conservation, 9869 Foote Road. It runs from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., open to the public for walk-on shooters. Contact Pat Abramo at 716-438-8601. 

There are indoor target archery and archery learning options, as well. Allied Sportsman at 12846 Clinton St. in Alden offers weekly competitive indoor archery for 14 weeks starting Dec. 30 at 6:45 p.m. The cost is $10 per night. For information, contact John Floriano at 716-725-5822 or Kevin Ulrich at 716-430-1059.  

Similarly, indoor youth archery and indoor adult archery are available at the West Falls Conservation Society at 55 Bridge St. in West Falls. The popular Adult Learn-to-Shoot is a fun program conducted by Bryan Zeller, Paul Calleri and their team. The program is open to the public and you can join them every Monday at 7 p.m. for two hours, except not on the second Monday of the month. The cost is $5 per night. Contact Bryan Zeller at 716-826-4621 or email at [email protected], or Paul Calleri at [email protected]. West Falls also offers the Junior Olympic Development Program (JOAD) for kids from 5 to 18 years of age. This popular program was initiated many years ago at West Falls by master archery instructor Bob Pfeil, and has enjoyed a rapid increase in the number of youth participants at that facility. Prior to that, the program was initiated in WNY decades ago at Leo’s Archery by Harry and Mary Staebell, the present site of the 42 North Brewing Company. The JOAD youth classes will run weekly beginning Tuesday, Jan. 18, and run for 1 hour, starting at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Register on-site or contact Pat Nash for additional information at 716-481-0539.

Guess what? The days are getting longer; there is now more time for everything. Stay jolly, my friends! Happy New Year!

Outdoors Calendar: 

Dec. 26 – Jan. 1 – Special holiday big game season – Archery, Muzzleloader and Crossbows are allowed (you need a muzzleloader license for crossbow). Visit

Dec. 30 – Indoor Target Archery, Allied Sportsman, 12846 Clinton St., Alden, weekly program, 6:45 p.m. start, $10/night, call 716-725-5822 or 430-1059 for info.   

Jan. 1 – Feb. 28 – NYS Winter Classic Fishing Contest,

Jan. 2 – WNY Winter 3D Outdoor Archery League, Glen Coe Conservation, 9869 Foote Road, Glenwood, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., open to the public, call 716-438-8601.

Jan. 2 – March 15 – Captain Bob’s Winter Fishing Derby, $20 fee, 7 species, call 716-407-3021.

Jan. 3 – Adult Learn-To-Shoot Archery, West Falls Conservation, 55 Bridge St., $5 fee, call 716-826-4621 

Jan. 15 – Feb. 27 – Chautauqua Lake Winter Fishing Contest, 6 species, $25 fee, call 716-763-2947.  

Jan. 18 – Youth Archery Program (JOAD), weekly program, West Falls Conservation Society, 55 Bridge St., register on site, 6 p.m. start, $5 fee, Contact Pat Nash at 716-481-0539 for more info.  

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