Writers' safari, New York style

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the New York State Outdoor Writers Association's Annual Safari, this year held in St. Lawrence County. The hub for the gathering was Basswood Lodge and Hunting Preserve near Rensselaer Falls. I've been friends with the Forsythe family, who own and run the operation, for many years. So the four-day visit was special in two ways: I was able to network with my fellow outdoor media members, while spending time with my friends, the Forsythe's.

Basswood is one of the finest lodges in the entire East, and offers a variety of hunting adventures, from wild turkey to preserve pheasant, to both native and exotic big game, and also what is considered the finest waterfowl hunting in the Atlantic Flyway. The operation encompasses a total of 2,300 acres, 1,300 owned and 1,000 leased. Within this is 360 acres of the best waterfowl wetlands in the East, home to massive numbers of various duck species as well as Canada geese. Of course, due to the high quality habitat, both wet and dry, the area brims with all sorts of wildlife, both game and non-game species.

Basswood has three large lodges, two of which are close together along County Route 14, just east of Rensselaer Falls. Media members were lodged in these two, and the facilities certainly were far from what you'd expect in a "hunting lodge." Satellite TV, lounge, full kitchen, recreation room, complete with a regulation pool table, lodge-length outside decks with extended roofs, and spacious bedrooms. Not exactly "roughing it." The views from the lodges are magnificent, and various wildlife is almost constantly in view.

An operation as large and successful as Basswood doesn't just happen. It takes years of hard work, proper planning, business savvy, knowledge of habitat and wildlife, and then the desire to maintain and improve the level of what's there. Despite the great habitat and abundant wildlife, the preserve raises 4,000 pheasants and 1,200 mallards each year and is constantly maintaining, expanding and improving habitat. Plus, at its huge high-fence operation at the Old Stone Fence facilities, it maintains large numbers of deer, red stag, elk, bison, wild sheep, goat and boar. Media members attending the safari had the choice each day to hunt gobblers, fish, or spend a half day doing each. That area of the state harbors arguably the highest density of wild turkeys in the entire state, and thanks to its own prime habitat and also agreements with other landowners, Basswood has jibs on the best locations in the area. Angling was available in Black Lake, the St. Lawrence River, and in any of several quality trout flows nearby. For media members who relish hunting and fishing, it was like being a hungry kid in a candy store.

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