John Hammer

My wife Linda and I purchased our 100 acre piece of paradise in 1992 for general recreational use and specifically, for a place to hunt whitetails. Several decades ago the Naples area property was a hilltop potato farm. We never really considered building a cabin or other structure on the property since it is only a 15 minute drive from our home in rural Yates County. Eighty-six acres are wooded and are enrolled in 480a with the rest consisting of whitetail food plots, a pond, and a gas pipeline right-of-way.

Satellite view of “The Farm”

Through our first decade and a half of ownership, deer, turkeys and squirrels were abundant but other common small game species such as ruffed grouse and rabbits were nonexistent. Fortunately, this changed along with much of the old farm’s habitat as a result of our first commercial timber harvest in 2005 and subsequent TSI work completed under our new forest management plan. Timber stands with significant aspen regrowth soon became core areas for several ruffed grouse and brush piles became preferred home sites for rabbits. As the saying goes; “if you build it, they will come”!

With the changed and improved habitat came my friend and companion “Sammy the Grouse”. You may have already seen Sammy (named by my 3-year-old grandson), as he has been featured on the cover of the NYFOA brochure for the past several years. He was at my side anytime I was near his core area between 2008 and 2013.

Sammy spent countless hours with me in deer stands over the years and he was great company, even though his movements occasionally cost me a shot opportunity.

Like the time he flew up and perched on my arrow as several deer were approaching.

Sammy was also an avid shed antler hunter, often spotting antlers on the ground well before I saw them.

He was a very effective supervisor, always there to critique my work.

The last time I saw Sammy was in June 2013. I was heading through his core area with chainsaw in hand to do some TSI work, and suddenly the ground around me came alive … with scrambling ruffed grouse chicks. The hen was trying to lead them away from me and meanwhile Sammy was pecking and flapping his wings against my leg chaps. Next thing I knew they were gone … and that was the last time I ever saw Sammy. Did he and the hen move the chicks to a completely new area to protect them? I’ll never know for sure, but as you can imagine I looked for Sammy every time I went to my farm over the next several months and I missed him a lot.