The idea of an Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame was conceived by Ed Lints in 1982. He wanted a way to honor those people who unselfishly gave their efforts to enhance outdoor sports for others and to promote conservation. During the first year he spent many hours trying to sell the idea to sportsmen’s clubs and individuals in Central New York. A small group agreed on the concept and the Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame was founded, with its first induction class in 1983.

Along with co-founder Bill Girvan, and several others including Ed Schwalls, Tony Giglio, Jack Moran, Red Hibbert, Vin Cain, Mike Barretta, Gary Worosylo, and Don Keller, the early years were spent trying to gain acceptance and recognition and make the organization viable. Central New York media including John Pitarresi of the Utica Observer Dispatch and Jack Fredericks of WKTV were very helpful in publicizing the organization and the people honored.

As Bill Girvan recalls, finances were a problem in the early years. The various sportsmen’s clubs around Central New York that nominated inductees actually paid for their plaques. The first museum was in Rome, NY and then moved to Trinkhaus Manor in Oriskany. A major fire destroyed the building and the entire contents of the Hall of Fame Museum.

The organization was faced with the task of replacing the plaques, mounts, and other educational displays. This is a reason why some of the plaques of earlier inductees do not have the details of accomplishments that more recent inductees do. But the organization still did not have a home and most of the material was stored in boxes in Mike Barretta’s garage for approximately two years. In addition to being Treasurer of the organization for approximately 20 years, Mike doubled as the keeper of the inventory while they awaited a home.

In 1992 the Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame was re-named and incorporated as the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame. This was recognition of the fact that the organization wanted to reach out and include sportsmen and women from all areas, as well as gain wider recognition for inductees. The logo for the Hall of Fame was created by the award-winning professional artist, Tom Yacovella.

Some of the plaques and material of the Hall of Fame was on display for a while at D & D Sports in New York Mills. Eventually arrangements were made by President Don Keller and Vice President Bill Girvan to have the organization’s plaques, mounts, and other material such as awards put on display in the meeting room at the new Gander Mountain Store in New Hartford. This was intended to be the Hall of Fame’s Museum as well as meeting place.

In 2010 a crisis arose when the organization was told to remove everything from Gander Mountain in August of that year. Faced with the short notice and nowhere to go, the Board authorized the removal and hauling or storage of all its property. Bill Lloyd oversaw the operation and secured a safe place to store everything at the Wildlife Sports & Educational Museum in Vails Mills. Thanks to the generosity of Bob Kazmierski, the immediate crisis was solved and plans for the future were being laid.

Bob Kazmierski, owner of the Wildlife Museum in Vails Mills, near Great Sacandaga Lake, generously offered space at his world-class museum at no charge to the organization. Details were worked out whereby the Hall of Fame would have its own room in this superb facility at the main crossroads of Rtes. 29 and 30.

Work proceeded in the winter and spring of 2011 and thanks to the efforts of Bob Monacchio, Mick Elliott, Ron Kolodziej, and Ed Noonan, and others the museum was completed in May of 2011. A grand opening was held that month and Fulton County Tourism has continued to help promote this as an attraction.

Meanwhile thanks to modern communications such and electronic media, the word of the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame has continued to spread. News of inductions and other matters regularly reaches media outlets throughout the state, helping to make it known statewide.

Today the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame boasts of nearly 300 men and women inducted from all areas of the state. They are honored for many different fields or accomplishments but each in his or her own way has made a difference in preserving or enhancing outdoors sports for future generations.

By honoring and making public recognition of these individuals it is a small reward for all their efforts. It also helps inspire others to carry on and do their part in promoting conservation and outdoor sports.