N  I  A  G  A  R  A       G  A  Z  E  T  T  E  - Sunday, September 28, 2008

OGNIBENE: 'This has been one wild ride'

By Joe Ognibene

It has been said that all things must end — and that includes outdoor columns, namely this one, which ends with today’s publication. I did not come to this conclusion lightly.

Let me explain why it is time for me to bow out. My right knee, which I have used, misused and abused over the years, needs replacing. Later this week that will be done and then I enter a period of rehabilitation during which time we will be teaching the new knee how to walk. This means I will be on the shelf, so to speak, and unable to be out and about to gather information to write an informative column.

Another reason is now that Mary is gone I don’t want to spend the winter rattling around by myself in this big, lonely house. There are too many memories in every room. I have decided as soon as I am allowed to drive the fishing rods will be packed and I will be heading south to chase large-mouth bass. I’ll send back periodic reports from Florida and maybe mention any Niagara Falls snowbirds I run across.

Leaving something that has been a very important part of my life for the past 51-plus years is not the easiest thing I have ever done, but I look back with pride and satisfaction knowing I did my best. Not everyone agreed with some of the stances I took and that is understandable, but I like to think I told it like it is.

The New York Bowhunters will not be inviting me to their social functions and will no doubt be happy to see me fade away. This column may fade away, but the drive to legalize the crossbow will not, and sooner or later it will come about. Their argument against the crossbow is the same argument presented by longbow and re-curve enthusiasts when the compound was introduced.

I enjoyed writing articles that exposed PETA for the bunch of hypocrites and weirdos they are. Another thing that I am quite proud of is my plunking down $5 to become the first charter member of the Niagara River Anglers Association when Mark and Joan Daul told me about it. This is an organization that did what many said could not be done, restocking the Niagara River with walleye that many are catching today. Thanks to the late John Long, who donated land for rearing ponds. NRAA became the model for other clubs throughout the state to do the same. Now the club has fallen victim to the curse that has befallen other organizations, cliques have formed and dissension is rampant within the group. We can only hope that common sense among the members eventually prevails and NRAA once again becomes the grand and proud organization it once was.

It has long been my belief an outdoor column should do more than tell readers how to catch a fish or bag a deer. There are too many problems involving hunting, fishing, trapping and, most important, gun ownership that must be brought out into the open. I have tried to alert my readers when legislation needed either support or opposition on subjects involving our outdoor activities. I make no apologies for the political toes I stepped on over the years. They needed stepping on. The column fulfilled its obligation when it drew attention to the sad shape some area launch ramps were in. A few were repaired and others replaced. If this column were to continue it would still thump the drum for blaze orange for all deer hunters. No, I do not advocate mandatory wearing of blaze orange, but I sure do recommend it. Movement, not blaze orange, is what spooks deer. Now that rifles are allowed in our Southern Tier someone wearing camo and crawling through the brush could be spotted over the sights of a 30:06 and that might not turn out well.

The column sometimes sounded like the town scold when telling everyone to be careful of guns, ladder stands, wading unfamiliar streams, climbing over fences, careless use of a bow and any other blockhead stunts many of us have all pulled at one time or another. It is heartening to see others have taken up the cry for signs to be erected in the lower Niagara River Gorge warning everyone of the deadly danger that rushing water presents. The average tourist has probably never seen water raging as it does in the gorge and the temptation to get close can be tragic.

This column joined many others in calling for adoption of the Great Lakes Compact by our federal government to assure the waters of our Great Lakes are not exploited and sold to the highest bidder. Earlier last week, the U. S. Congress voted to approve the compact and was given assurance the president would sign it. The Great Lakes are now safe from diversion, but still need protecting from our own stupidity by ignoring conservation efforts and not halting pollution. In the years to come there is no doubt efforts will be made to undo the compact and vigilance is needed by all the states bordering the Great Lakes as well as Canada.

There are many problems in our outdoor world at present and in the future that calls for a voice that refuses to be stilled. Let’s hope someone comes along with a “fire in their belly” to point out what needs attention, correction or elimination and screams to high heaven about it.

That’s what I think I’ll miss most, no longer rocking the boat.

To all my readers — thank you, it was one “helluva ride.”

Joe Ognibene is a local sportsman who has covered the outdoor scene since 1957.