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May 7, 2012 - 9:13am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, whitetail deer, Red Fox, kits.

Batavian Jeff Gillard paid me a visit a week ago, telling me about a red fox den nearby his home. Hoping to get photos of kits Jeff had been seeing, that same evening Claudia and I set up in said location during the last hour of daylight as Jeff had suggested but saw only one of the adults.

The next evening proved futile as nothing entered the meadow. Jeff then came to the rescue, providing the photos seen here. Above is one of the adults with a kit at her side while far to the right and somewhat difficult to see is another one of her young.

One of the adults appears to be investigating a kill.  

A quick scan of its surroundings prior to digging in.

Time to chow down.

Despite the undergrowth, Jeff caught one of the young near the den entrance.

It pauses to scratch an itch...

...before moving onward.

Whitetail doe still in her winter coat.

It won't be too long before they'll be sporting their "summer reds." Good job, Jeff, and thanks very much for sharing these photos with us!

May 5, 2012 - 10:48pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, full moon, supermoon.

 

If the moon seemed especially big and bright Saturday night -- that's because it was.

The moon was at the point on its elliptical path called perigee, the point where passes closest to Earth. At this point, it is 31,000 miles to closer than the opposite side of its orbit, or apogee.

While the full moon appears largest just after it rises, it officially reached its closest point to Earth at 11:34 pm. Exactly one minute later, the moon, Earth and sun line up and this allows the moon to achieve its full brilliance -- 30-percent brighter and 14-percent larger than any other full moon this year. 

Here framed by spruce boughs, the brilliance of the full moon will have drowned out all but the brightest fireballs of the Aquarid meteor shower, also on tap Saturday night, according to NASA.

Officially, this year's supermoon was "eclipsed" by the supermoon of March 2011, which passed by Earth some 250 miles closer than this year's.

April 25, 2012 - 8:06pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, bluebirds, chirping sparrows.

While the weather on Monday and Tuesday was a bit of a curveball for man and beast alike, by first light on Wednesday the sound of upbeat chirps and warbles once again emanated from the woods out back.

While the robins, cardinals and noisy flickers were all on hand, it was the bluebird that caught my attention. Unlike past encounters, the male, though it flitted from time to time, never strayed too far, allowing me to take its picture.

Shortly thereafter he was joined by this female.

While trying to focus on the male, I inadvertantly left her head out of the frame.

Meanwhile, in the front yard a lone chirping sparrow appears to be searching for a meal. 

It wasn't alone for long, as two others flew in to claim dibs. It's always nice to hear and see the songbirds, and good to see the sun shining again.

April 14, 2012 - 10:01am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, bluebirds, cardinals, robins, doves, coots, flickers.

We've evidenced prolific bird life so far this spring. This robin was perched in the cottonwood while singing its praises of the day as I snapped the photo.

A male cardinal appears to be on the lookout high in our apple tree. Actually he was listening for the whistle of a female -- after she made a flyby, off he went in pursuit.  

For the second consecutive year, the bluebirds are nesting nearby -- this female was flitting about in our backyard.

The telltale red marking on the back of its head gave away this northern flicker perched in the sumac.

He seems to be sizing up the sumac drupes...something I've not seen before. We usually see them probing the soil for grubs.

A lone mourning dove poking around the stubble

This duck-like creature is actually a coot, member of the rail family. Instead of webbed feet, it possesses three long pointy toes, which enable it to run across the water and matted vegetation.

Often seen with ducks, the coot is an excellent swimmer and diver, feeding mainly on aquatic vegetation.

March 29, 2012 - 8:19pm

The wetlands in early spring have an allure all their own. Long before the first green buds or shoots begin to emerge, a cacophony of spring peepers permeates the air as nature begins her own seasonal celebration. In the above photo, a late afternoon sun casts a golden brown tint on last year's cattails. 

Here in the Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area it's a good time to watch migrating waterfowl and an opportunity to see the diving ducks that will later congregate on the bigger bodies of water. 

This pair of honeymooning honkers is all set for the mating season. An incredible number of geese wintered in the region, many of which began nesting weeks ago.  

Redwing blackbirds have a penchant for teetering on cattails. Another harbinger of spring, as soon as the spring peepers begin their serenade, the redwings won't be far behind.   

Flooded timber is a wood duck magnet.

What a difference a week makes. Last week's unseasonably warm weather may be the reason for the algae blooms that sprung up in several marshes on the refuge.

A trio of painted turtles catching some sun atop a muskrat den. 

A flock consisting mainly of widgeons makes a migratory respite while a lone swan hugs the shoreline in the background. We saw no puddle ducks such as mallards and woodies, but there were a number of ringneck ducks and scaup on the marsh.

Already new shoots and buds are beginning to appear across the wetland and scenes such as the one above will change drastically as last year's cattails will soon be lost in this spring's greenery. 

March 19, 2012 - 8:58am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, Pileated Woodpecker, power lines.

This pileated woodpecker is hard at work high atop one of the utility poles of   National Grid's power line.  

I was raking our back yard when I heard its telltale and raucous cuk-cuk-cuk-cuk. That was followed by the sound of it hammering away at what I thought was a tree in my neighbor's woodlot.   

Still thinking it was in the woods, every few minutes I'd stop raking and look into the trees. The pileated had been at it for quite awhile before I spotted him, so I had no reason to think it wouldn't stay a bit longer. With that, I went inside to get the camera.

Quite often we see red-tail hawks perched atop the utility poles but this is the first time I've seen a pileated woodpecker have a go at them. And he didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave -- he was still there when I finished raking.      

March 9, 2012 - 2:50pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, Sharks, skin-diving, lobsters, Abaco, Bahamas.

That's Leon Selapack, owner of L & L Transmission, holding a pair of lobsters. Photo was taken in late February 2003 near Johnny's Cay, offshore from the island of Abaco, Bahamas. Leon was part of a group that included Batavians Ricky Moore, Scott Offhaus, former Batavian John Fanara and myself. This being his first spearfishing adventure, Leon was a "rookie on the reef," so to speak. The pics were from day three of a week-long outing in which Leon would learn that, while everyone in the group enjoys a good shark story, it's not necessarily fun to be part of one.   

I once read the words of a veteran diver who said, in reference to encounters with predatory sharks, Man, when he starts swinging his head from side to side, it's a good time to be somewhere else"......Those words were far from my mind as I swam toward the bottom amid the square miles of patchwork coral found offshore of the outer islands of Abaco.

Before trying his hand with a Hawaiian sling, Leon decided to take a few pics. Here he caught me armed with a sling, skirting the edge of a coral head and peering into the recesses where fish hide out. Shortly afterward in this very spot, the first shark showed up. It was just off the bottom over a sandy pocket and eight or nine feet long. What's more,  it was close -- too close. And it wasn't just shakings its head from side to side - its whole body seemed to be writhing as it twisted and turned, just a whole lot of rapid movement. It was clearly in a state of agitation.  

Click on the headline to read more.

February 25, 2012 - 11:42am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, sunrise, skyscape, lunar sky.

Normally, the sky serves as a backdrop for innumerable photo subjects and under a variety of conditions. But there are those times when the sky itself is the subject. On such occasions the sky needs no help, no setup, all by itself it steals the show...this sunrise as seen from Genesee Community College literally stopped me in my tracks. After I snapped the above photo, the following moments were like looking into a panoramic viewfinder as the horizon went through some rapid changes...

Shape-shifting clouds, intense yellows, red and orange. Whether it be described as moving, inspirational or spectacular...it was totally surreal.

The pics hardly do the scene justice -- what you see in the photos spanned the horizon from north to south, an unbroken view of the entire surrounding area.  There is certainly something to be said for rising early.

Once autumn foliage is gone, bony branches and various moon phases offer a variety of photo ops. This pic has a Halloween look to it.

Playing a waiting game with the moon, wind and clouds...

It was a crisp, cold winter night when I pointed to the crescent moon and my dad promptly told me it was one of his fingernails he had thrown into the sky. Yeah, I believed him...I was of pre-school age at the time.

This is one of Claudia's favorite evening photos taken from our back yard. 

Another of Claudia's photos...it reminds me of  a '50s and '60s TV ad...hint: "plop, plop, fizz, fizz."

Late in the day cloud bank, August 2011

Lunar nocturne

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February 17, 2012 - 10:09am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, cardinals, sharp-shinned hawks.

This winter has seen a drop in the normal activity around our bird feeder. Juncos, chickadees, nuthatches and the like have been infrequent visitors. That's not surprising -- the mild winter has afforded them ample feeding opportunities afield. Despite the food abundance in the wild, the cardinals have shown up with regularity.

The sharp-shinned hawk, pictured above, must be enjoying the winter weather, as small birds make up a good part of its diet. I've seen that intense stare at close range once before. My first encounter with a "sharpie" took place while I sat in a tree stand. That autumn afternoon it flew in for a brief stop, perching a few feet away -- I assumed it was attracted to the turkey quill fletching on my arrows.  

The cardinal's coloration causes it stand out even on a dismal day or in a forest interior. Though pleasing to the eye, with bird-eating raptors in the vicinity it's akin to placing a target on its back. 

The sharp shinned hawk's long legs, short rounded wings and very long tail all come in handy for coursing through the woodlands at high speed in pursuit of its prey.

This cardinal has so far managed to stay off the sharpie's menu. Around our home, at the first sign of trouble small birds fly into a spiraea hedge or thick  grapevines in an adjacent woodlot.

While they are built for winged pursuit, the sharp-shinned hawk will also pounce on its quarry from a low perch, notably small mammals such as mice and voles. That may have been what he was up to before I arrived. In the above photo, he's unfolding his wings and a second later he was airborne, flying deeper into the woods.

February 9, 2012 - 9:45am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, winter weather.

Somewhat silhouetted by the sun, these phragmite plumes stand out nicely against the blue winter sky, creating a scene hardly resembling early February. 

To my memory, I don't recall seeing as much waterfowl activity in our area as evidenced this winter. With no snow cover, waterfowl have been able to glean the grain fields, and local waters have iced over only occassionally but never for very long.

This scene is more reminiscent of April -- and trout season.

This snowfall was picturesque and like the others it didn't last long.

Here dining on sumac, wintering songbirds haven't had trouble finding food this season. While sumac is a normal part of their winter diet....... 

it seems they don't care much for sumac sno-cones.

By Sunday morning these waterfowl could find themselves evicted. Predicted low temps for Friday and Saturday show single digits and this mantle of ice could envelop the entire marsh.

It's been a nice run but we're certainly not out of the woods yet. Over the course of the next few weeks will we see more blue sky with just an occasional bite from Old Man Winter......

or will we one morning wake up to a setting such as this?

February 3, 2012 - 8:08am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, northern pike, skin-diving.

As mentioned in my previous post, by the late '80s chasing down northern pike had taken a back seat on my list of priorities. I did, however, enjoy watching pike -- in addition to other species -- in their own element. Skin-diving local impoundments made that possible and that is how Jody Hebdon and myself bumped heads with one particular northern pike, an encounter that was not only unexpected but also quite invigorating.

On a hot July afternoon several years ago, we had donned mask, fins and snorkel in an attempt to cool off. We hadn't been in the water long when we spotted what looked like the tail end of a decent-sized pike sticking out of the weeds, the rest of it hidden by the dense growth. Several feet below us the fish remained motionless while we watched from the surface. Then, with no warning, it vacated the weed bed with one mighty sweep of its tail. Streamlined and built for ambush, in the blink of an eye that pike was out in the open where we could see its size.     

As I swam down for a closer look, the fish began swimming away from me. Then, about the time it disappeared into the depths, I noticed something strange. There, several feet below the surface, some of the taller growth at the edge of the weed bed appeared to be swaying. Ever so slowly it was beginning to lean in the direction where the fish had disappeared. Taking a closer look, I saw a single strand of monofilament fishing line wrapped around the moving weeds. From there the line angled downward toward the deep water, other end no doubt attached to the pike.

What to do? Grab the line? You bet! But first I needed air. After reaching the surface I told Jody, between deep breaths, just what the deal was. I dove again, seeing small perch and bite-sized bluegills hovering idly about as I tried to relocate the line. I was nearly out of air again when I saw it. Thinking to myself, here goes nothing, I took hold of it and began back finning to the surface. Ascending, I kept my eyes on the line, following it into the darkness. On the other end I could feel the fish, then watched as it emerged from the depths -- and what a sight it was. The pike undulated, shaking its head from side to side, its mouth wide open and gills flared. I remember feeling as though I was watching a Jacques Cousteau documentary.

Water tends to magnify an object, making it appear 25 percent larger than its actual size. Once on the surface, and with the fish twisting and turning below, I turned to Jody and stole what may have been Roy Scheider's most memorable cinema line (from "Jaws" of course), blurting out, "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"

Several times I slowly worked the fish close only to have it take back the line each time, not in long, slashing runs, but slow and deliberate, disappearing back into the depths. Jody and I would later discover there were 19 yards of line attached to the pike -- exactly 57 feet. 

After 45 minutes of give-and-take, we had worked the fish into water about six-feet deep. Previous experience with pike told me the most crucial time was at hand. Fish about to be brought to the net often go ballistic -- even those appearing exhausted. And because we had no net, we planned to slip our hands beneath the pike and flip it onto shore. What's more, we had a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth to contend with.

Of all the pike I've tangled with through the years, this one certainly ranks right up there in terms of excitement -- perhaps even more so. I mean, how often does one get face to face with their catch while it's still in the water?

January 29, 2012 - 5:00pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in fishing, outdoors, northern pike.

When I was in ninth grade, science teacher Ron Warren, having posed a question to the class, said, "Mr. Nigro, would you please stand up and give us the wrong answer." 

I didn't do too bad scholastically during my junior high school years -- but I should have done better. The reason being, I seldom paid attention. A good deal of my classroom time was spent daydreaming about catching fish. Later, as my high school years were drawing to a close, instructor and fellow angler Don Andrews told me that, if I were ever to fall down and crack my head open, northern pike would spill out all over the floor. 

My early pike fishing fantasies were limited to the Tonawanda Creek, occurring anywhere from Parker Grinnell's pasture to the entire stretch of creek downstream from Whiskey Run.

Sometime in my 20s the wilderness waters of the Far North beckoned, and those imagined scenarios began to take place in a land of muskeg and jack pines, places only accessible by float plane. But regardless of the location, those daydreams never involved catching a lot of pike, just one big tackle-smashing brawler that would inhale a wobbling spoon and peel line from my reel like a runaway freight train.

Before those dreams became reality, there was a short stint where I tried my hand at ice fishing. Back then I wasn't so bothered by the cold and pulling pike through the ice helped the winter months pass quickly.

Whether fishing in remote locations or close to home, the pursuit of northern pike provides a volume of memories. Yet after float-plane rides into the wilderness of Manitoba, the far north of Ontario, the barrens of the Northwest Territories, and along the way discovering the tenacity of wilderness lake trout, by the late '80s my zeal for pursuing the toothy northern had diminished a great deal. Thus, the stage was set for a most unexpected and exciting encounter with old esox lucious................stay tuned!

January 10, 2012 - 5:41pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, chipmunks.

In any other year this chipmunk would have long since retired to its winter sleeping quarters. But with the unseasonal temps, all the leaves down and a lone apple beckoning, this little fella ventured into the upper reaches of our tree for an early winter treat.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, we've had numerous visitors eat the apples -- squirrels, cottontails, woodchucks and a variety of birds. But this is the first we've noticed a chipmunk sampling the fruit.

While he appeared a bit tentative at first, eventually he dove in with gusto.

Oops -- nearly forgot to say a blessing...........................................................

.........................................................................................Amen.

It appears he stuffed his cheek pouches to the max for his long winter nap!

December 23, 2011 - 12:31pm

That's Mike Barrett pictured at the counter of Barrett's Batavia Marine. His father, the late Dave Barrett, sold me Remington 870 when I was 17. Knowing it was my first shotgun, he threw in a box of shells, #5 pheasant loads. Not long afterward, I purchased my first wild game cookbook. While those are two of my earliest memories of Barrett's, they are far from the first.

Barrett's was founded in 1954 by brothers Dave and Charlie Barrett. At that time, my visits to the west end of the city were either to John Castronova's Redtop for char-broiled Arpeko hot dogs or to Flavorite Farms for ice cream.

Mike Barrett has seen the numerous changes through the years and he easily recalls the wide-open spaces on the west end and the mere handful of businesses in operation then.

Not only are those establishments gone, so too are the wide-open spaces.

Today, despite the crowded surroundings and the fast-paced world around them, Barrett's remains a favorite among the outdoor crowd.

In addition to hunting and fishing gear and outdoor wear, Barrett's is still the place to take an outboard in need of repair, have a gun barrel reblued or have the eyelets on a favorite fishing rod repaired.

As might be expected, members of the sporting community don't always enter the store intent on making a purchase. Oftentimes they simply need input and advice, whether it be hunting and fishing tips, tactics, equipment care or legal aspects of their sport.

And that hasn't changed over the years. I'd be remiss if I failed to mention some of Barrett's employees who provided helpful insight in days gone by -- people like Bob Smith (now City of Batavia Animal Control Officer), Danny Carmichael and the late Paul Levins, each of whom supplied countless people with conscientious service and answers to their questions.  

Above is Jack Taylor, Genesee County Chapter president of SCOPE (Shooters Committee on Political Education). A 20-year employee with Barrett's, Jack is much like his predecessors at the store -- he's eager to assist customers.

John Lawrence, angler, hunter and former trap-and-skeet All-American, looks over a shotgun he had refinished.

Evidently, he's pleased with the results.

That's Jim Quartley perusing the aisles. He's been frequenting Barrett's since he was old enough to peddle a two-wheeler. Any fishing equipment he purchased in those early years was immediately tested in the waters of Tonawanda Creek.

Warsaw trapper Gary Smith looks over the store's inventory. He said he'll be putting out sets for mink, muskrat and beaver this season.

I've enjoyed a memorable outing or two with this guy in days gone by...He's avid trapper, waterfowler and noted flyfishermen, Ron Wickings.

In addition to his ability as a gunsmith, Mike Barrett is up to date on outdoor policy and changes that affect the outdoorsmen of New York State. Here he briefly reflects on recent issues concerning the outdoor scene. 

A customer checks out the merchandise on the used gun rack...and it brought back memories. I purchased my first rifle from that same rack in the late '60s, a Winchester 225. It was the aforementioned Bob Smith who sighted that gun in for me -- he had it dead-on at 150 yards.

It's a pity that neither of this pair cares to bring a camera afield -- if either one had ever kept a journal of their outdoor exploits it would have made a great sportsmen's anthology.

This painting on Barrett's wall reflects the atmosphere of the store itself, capturing an earlier time, when the covers of outdoor magazines weren't glossy photos, but graced with the work of gifted artists, people who created settings that captured the imagination of young outdoorsmen.

The men who walked into the store on this day -- and others like them -- have spent a good part of their life enjoying such settings, be it cattails or woodlots, field or stream. And their adventures often began with a stop at Barrett's.

November 30, 2011 - 10:33pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, Tundra Swans, Red Fox.

Amid the honking of geese and the feeder chuckle of hungry mallards, a dozen tundra swans were clustered together on the low ground of the massive grain field. Unlike the ducks and geese, the swans were silent, content to rest, preen and forage in the murky field runoff.

Given a choice, I would have preferred to capture the swans flying in formation against a backdrop of blue sky. Unfortunately the sky was overcast and the swans were already on the ground. Beggars can't be choosers.

Normally I would have been happy to hunker down and watch the ducks and geese. Myriad waterfowl were dropping out of the sky nearly nonstop to feed in 80 acres of recently cut corn. There's something graceful in the method ducks and geese employ on their descent, the symmetry in their cupped wings, tipping slightly one way then the other while zeroing in on a potential feast -- especially when arriving in such large numbers. 

On this day it was the swans which had piqued my interest and while I considered the opportunity a sheer bonus, I had no way of knowing the situation would soon take an interesting turn, courtesy of one furry predator. 

I had been watching this pair of swooners for several minutes when off in the distance I noticed an orange blur of movement moving rapidly along the ground. It was a red fox, slinking its way through the cut corn, moving in for what appeared to be an easy meal among the hundreds of waterfowl ... all the fox had to do was select a target.

Naturally, I figured one or more of the feathered critters would sound the alarm, thus causing a mass exodus of both ducks and geese. I readied the camera, hoping to get a photo of the southeast horizon as it turned black with hundreds of panicked waterfowl. But things didn't turn out exactly as I expected.

The fox alternately skulked and scurried through the cut corn, paying no mind to the ducks and geese. The geese, in turn, paid no mind to the red fox slipping through their midst. In fact, there wasn't the slightest sense of urgency, no rise in the crescendo of their two-tone honking as is usually the case in times of apparent danger. Instead the geese merely raised their heads to keep an eye on the intruder. 

Not as confident as the geese, the ducks took wing and circled the field several times before alighting farther away.

With geese on every side, the fox crept forward. He appeared to be focused solely on the swans. I couldn't help but wonder what caused this obviously healthy and robust-looking red fox to pass up an easy meal. Was it curiosity?

After all, tundra swans do pass through, but they are not something we (or a red fox) see every day. On the other hand, when confronted, a lone goose can and will give a good account of itself, inflicting damage with its wings. And the fox was certainly outnumbered. Maybe he thought the guys in white were easy!

The fox came to a stop at the water's edge. There he simply stared at his intended quarry, sizing them up for several moments. Either he didn't want to get his feet wet or he realized the swans were considerably larger than the geese -- and perhaps more formidable.

Eventually the fox left and judging from its exit, it either winded me or spotted me. It turned tail and fled, darting through the corn the same way it came, putting to flight two or three geese that happened to be in its path. By that time on a dead run, the fox still paid no mind to the honkers, instead high-tailing it toward the distant woodlot from whence it came.

November 15, 2011 - 7:44am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, taxidermy, Back to Nature taxidermy.

A couple of years ago this 6x6 bull elk was bugling in the mountains of Colorado when bowhunter Jack Chmielowic Jr. first laid eyes on him. It was a moment in time he wanted to remember. In recreating the moment, he would need someone  with experience and a meticulous nature who provides quality work. Not long after arriving back in Genesee County he placed a call to Doug Harloff of Back to Nature Taxidermy. 

Several months later the process was complete and Jack Chmielowic, above left, was quite satisfied with the outcome. That's Doug on the right. 

"It's hard to believe 24 years have elapsed since I began my own taxidermy business here in Oakfield," Harloff said. "During that time, my business has grown and I've mounted fish, upland game, waterfowl, small game, bear, buffalo, antelope, elk, caribou and thousands of deer heads. Every day is really neat because there is something new to work on and I am never bored."

While he enjoys working in his studio, there was a time when taxidermy was the farthest thing from his mind.

"After graduating from Batavia High in 1984 I worked on my dad's farm for a year. The following year I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and while I didn't give it a whole lot of thought at the time, I suppose there was the possibility of going to college after I did my hitch," he said.

But never in his wildest dreams did he imagine he would have the opportunity to receive an education while still serving in the military.

"I was stationed at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina when I first met the Reynolds, an elderly couple who had their own taxidermy business. I just walked into their shop one day and eventually we became good friends. After a while they took me under their wing, introducing me to the old-school style of taxidermy.

While it was a bit primitive by today's standards, working with them gave me the basic knowledge of mounting fish, birds and deer heads. Nowadays, a person can spend a lot of money on tutition to attend a professional taxidermy school or training. Needless to say, I was very fortunate to have met the Reynolds."

While the Reynolds taught Doug Harloff the art of taxidermy, what he didn't reallize at the time were some of the realities and responsibilites of running his own shop and the costs involved. 

"When you take into consideration the outlay for supplies, electric, heat, advertising, just to mention a few, by the time you're done paying the bills, you're not that far ahead at the end of the day. If I stopped to figure out the amount of time I invest in each mount, I would cringe if not for the fact that what really matters is the end product.

"To take a downed animal and bring it back to a lifelike state, (and) in the process recreate the customer's wildlife encounter is an endeavor requiring practice, patience and a great deal of tolerance. It has been a learning process and, in my estimation, it has become an art form as well."

One of his future goals is to become heavily involved in state and national taxidermy organizations and to enter his work alongside the best competing with the best taxidermists in the country and to have his work critiqued by those considered tops in the business.

"A quality mount takes time and for this reason, as well as a backlog of job orders, a customer should expect to wait a year to 18 months to get their mount back. I will not and do not rush to push my mounts out the door. It's hard enough making sure the tanning process worked (one lesson I learned the hard way a while back). Now I am basically doing a double tan on all my mounts, which of course takes a lot more time."

Harloff is well aware that, due to the sluggish economy, money can sometimes be tight and a full shoulder mount might be out of the question. For this reason he offers an affordable option called the European skull mount.

In this process he utilizes dermetid (flesh-eating) beetles which clean the skull before he lightens them to a bone-white finish.

"It's a very neat and cool looking mount," he said, a statement underscored by the number of requests for such a mount.

"Seven years ago I expanded my business into offering a high quality, very clean deer processing operation where a hunter can drop off his deer and have the venison cleaned, trimmed and vacuum sealed.

"It's convenient for someone having taxidermy work done, as it eliminates having to make two stops. For this reason I've built a walk-in cooler and limit what I take in on a daily basis."

In addition to the traditional cuts of venison he offers fresh sausages, jerky, snack sticks, venison jalapeno hot dogs and venisom ham.

Despite his workload, Harloff has found time to help the down and out.

"A few years ago I also began working with the vension donation program. It allows a hunter, if he or she so chooses, to donate their deer to the Western New York food bank to help feed local needy families. All a hunter needs to do is have their deer freshly harvested and legally tagged before dropping it off. It is an organization which I am proud to be affiliated with."   

Doug would like to extend his thanks to all his past customers and wish everyone a safe and enjoyable deer season. You can reach him at Back to Nature Taxidermy, 585-356-9905.

November 5, 2011 - 8:22pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, autumn countryside photos.

To date, this has been an awesome month weather-wise. Come November, any morning you don't have to scrape, shovel or shiver is sheer bonus. So, rather than sit in a tree stand, I thought I'd cruise rural roads like the one pictured above.

Any day now, this field of standing corn.......

will look a lot like this one.

This scene looks like it might have come right out the Andrew Wyeth gallery.

Took this photo between passes of the combine.

The maples to the rear of this country cemetery seemed colorful and quite picturesque from this vantage point........

But from this angle their framework lends a somewhat stately appearance.

This guy is keeping a watchful eye on a roadside carcass....but he's not alone.

His friends are equally interested in a meal. Like evryone else, these vultures must be enjoying the pleasant November weather, but for how long remains to be seen. By the time the snow shovels come out, they'll be perched in warmer climes!  

November 1, 2011 - 11:43am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, Letchworth State Park.

Well known for its spectacular autumn scenery, Letchworth State Park sees a good number of visitors this time of year. And while many sightseers flock to the High Falls, Lower Falls and Great Bend overlook, all noted scenic attractions, there are several smaller, lesser known falls and cascades, all equally picturesque. 

I spent a fair amount of time at the park in the mid to late '90s, but always down on the river. That said, I never noticed settings such as the one pictured above.

A forrested section of the gorge

A nice steady flow, pleasing to the eye

This setting conjured an image of a dish of broccoli sprinkled with Trix!

Come late March and into April, with the spring runoff, the water must be roaring over this place.

Great Bend. I was a fortunate to be able to raft and kayak the Genesee River through the gorge back in the day -- it gives one a totally different view.

lf the water wasn't so cold I would like to have rolled up my pants and hunted for crayfish and salamanders.

For fall color, maples are among my favorite - especially when they're deep red.   

I used my zoom to the max to capture this hawk high above the gorge. While I had to make several stops to get these photos, all he had to do was glide on the thermals.

October 30, 2011 - 8:53pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in sports, Batavia Youth Football.

Spearheaded by a capable trio in the backfield and a stalwart line on both sides of the ball, the Batavia Youth Football League Bills finished the 2011 season undefeated, besting the Packers in the title game. In photo above, Cody Dioguardi prepares to take a handoff from QB Connor Logsdon.

Connor Logsdon on a keeper.

That's Anthony Gallo blocking for his backfield mates.

Yeomen work in the trenches.

Coach Zickl firing up the troops - he and Head Coach Brent Dioguardi did a fine job with the Bills. 

Linebacker Jake Kasmarek sizing up the Packer offense.

Penetrate and pursue...it worked for the Bills the entire game.

October 29, 2011 - 5:37pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in sports, Batavia Youth Football.

The Redskins capped off a perfect season by topping the Steelers on Saturday. Despite the cold temps, a good crowd was on hand to witness the season finale of Batavia Youth Football's B division.

The Steelers backfield reacts as their QB takes the snap.

Redskin's running back slips past the Steelers' defender...

and breaks into the open for a long gain,

much to the delight of Coach A. J. Martino.

Obviously, it takes more than one tackler to bring down this guy!

Steelers offense getting set prior to the snap. The Steelers played tough, but in the end...

they spent a great deal of time chasing down #32.

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