On the opening day of the pheasant hunt, Jim was up and cooking at his café and sports center before 6 a.m. Hunters arrived at Jim’s Sports Center for breakfast and coffee and there was much anticipation for the opening of the pheasant hunt which started at 8 am sharp.
The early patrons were buying up the trespass permits as fast as they could which enabled them to hunt on any farm in Syracuse. For everyone 14 years or older, it was more exciting than Christmas. It was a very festive atmosphere! From the 1960’s to mid-1980’s, the opening of pheasant and duck hunting was like a national holiday.
Members of the Lions Club were posted at all roads leading into Syracuse to sell trespass permits to the hunters from the surrounding towns for $15. The members patrolled during the hunt to help make sure people were using good sense. They didn’t want hunters knocking down fences, shooting cows, or vandalizing property.
After the hundreds of hunters descended on the farms of Syracuse for a brisk morning hunt, many would return to Jim’s Sports Center. They’d restock on shotgun shells, eat a hardy lunch, play a game of punch board or pool, and swap stories with other hunters. As the day wore on, facts became more and more embellished as each hunter tried to outdo his friends with a better story about birds seen or shots made.
The punch board was a form of gambling that is certainly not allowed today. The board had several hundred numbers someone could punch for a quarter each. People had the chance to win a rifle, shotgun, fishing pole or other hunting items if they picked the right hole to punch.
My dad participated but he certainly wouldn’t allow me. We’d save our money to buy shotgun shells. When my friends became interested in dating, sometimes they came home from dates feeling a little discouraged. It seemed they got more bang for their buck with shotgun shells.
The excitement of opening day, minus the selling of permits, would repeat its self at Jim’s Sports center for the opening of duck hunting around the many marshes and cattails around Syracuse. Those were the good old days.