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Sporting wildlife

New sights at museum in Vail?Mills

August 1, 2010
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

VAIL MILLS - Visitors to the Wildlife Sports and Educational Museum will get a look at a new woodland scene. In one section of the museum, a deer stands between rock ledges, while behind it is a picturesque painted scene, complete with pine trees and a river running through it.

Bob Kazmierski of Johnstown, the president and curator of the museum, said he worked on the mural this winter.

"I've painted similar things before, but they've usually been smaller," he said with a laugh.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

Bob Kazmierski, the curator of the Wildlife Sports and Educational Museum in Vail Mills, points to a whitetail deer mount known as “The Beatty Buck” on Tuesday at the museum.

One corner of the museum room was set aside for the mural. The framing for the scene was constructed first. Then the rock ledges and the deer were added later, Kazmierski said.

It took him about a week to complete the painting.

"I planted about a million trees with my paint brush," he said with a laugh.

He used paint donated by the Benjamin Moore manufacturing plant in Johnstown.

Paul Connelie, the plant manager, said it seemed like an interesting and worthy project to donate to.

"It fell outside of many of the traditional uses of our paint," he said.

New additions

Since the museum started in 2006, it has made a number of additions.

A relatively new addition shows a mounted grizzly bear and wolf fighting over a dead moose.

"We've had great help from a lot of taxidermists," Kazmierski said.

More than 70 different taxidermists have done work for the museum.

He said support has helped the museum put together a huge collection of whitetail deer mounts. When the museum opened it had about 80. Kazmierski said now it has about 120 for visitors to look at. A lot of the bucks required the museum to get special permission from the owner to have castings made of the originals, he said.

However, there is more than just whitetail deer to view at the museum. The museum has a wide variety of mounts, including an albino deer, a piebald deer that was harvested in Stratford, a coyote and a black coyote that were both harvested around Fulton County, a black bear, a two-headed calf, a king salmon from Alaska, and a woodland buffalo.

The museum also has a "guess-the-animal" game using samples of animal fur. Kazmierski said people can touch the fur, guess what animal it is, then lift it up to see the answer. The museum also has a rack with furs on it from a variety of different animals, including the arctic fox, wolverine and skunk.

The museum also has a large collection of equipment used for hunting, fishing or trapping. The collections essentially allow the visitor to take a trip through time because they are arranged in chronological order, so people can see the improvements made in fishing, hunting and trapping equipment.

"People like how the cases go from the old stuff to the new stuff," Larry Stuart of Broadalbin, a volunteer at the museum, said. "There is so much history there."

For the future, Kazmierski said, he would like to get more schools to bring students to the museum. While he understands school districts have to be concerned about costs, he also pointed out that the museum offers discounts for school groups.

Kazmierski said the museum has eight acres of land, which is plenty of room for it to use if it needs to grow.

He said in the future, the museum could add a research center and library. That way, people would be able to come and learn more about hunting, fishing and trapping through different materials.

"I'm very pleased with what we have been able to get together so far," he said. "We are also looking to add new stuff."

Kazmierski is also pleased by the comments left by visitors. People, visiting from states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois among others, left many comments along the lines of "It was great" and "Great collection and great story."

However, one seemed especially fitting.

"I'm ready for deer season now officially."

For more information, visit the museum's website at



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