Oatka Fish and Game Club was formed in 1946 on Myrtle Street in LeRoy, NY by the following: Manny Mancuso, John Kunego, Bud Dewey, Steve Gehring, Dutch Sherman, Emery McClelland, Don Lawrence, Harold Connelly, Ralph Sperry, and Corrin Schiller. The Club would hold an annual wildlife dinner at the 2nd Baptist Church on Myrtle St. These members negotiated with the Genesee Conservation League for use of the land the club currently sits on and incorporated the The OATKA Fish and Game Club in 1949. They signed their first lease in 1950 and became custodians of the Genesee Conservation League land. The Club was formed as an all male sportsman club.
The land the Club sits on was originally owned by Donald Woodward of the Jell-O fortune and known to the Woodward’s as “Northwoods” which was used by Donald for hunting and fishing. After Donald Woodward’s death the land was inherited by Edith Woodward who donated the land to the Genesee Conservation League as a preserve. The League was located on Panorama Trail in Penfield, New York.
In 1956 the Genesee Conservation Foundation Inc. was formed. The Foundation was an Independent group separate from the Genesee Conservation League. The land was then transferred from the Genesee Conservation League to the Genesee Conservation Foundation, this land was then referred to as the “LeRoy property”. The Genesee Conservation Foundation formed a board that consisted of current and past officers of the Genesee Conservation League; Oatka Fish and Game Club was allowed two non-voting representatives in this group. The main purpose of the Foundation was to manage the LeRoy property. The Genesee Conservation Foundation Inc., funded activities, and met their obligations by selling a fishing easement along the Oatka Creek to the NYS DEC. This easement is 33 feet wide from the high water mark and still exists today. Therefore anyone can fish on the south bank of the Oatka Creek, provided they have a valid fishing license. This does not grant them the right to walk outside that 33 foot wide strip or drive/park on Oatka Fish and Game Club property.
In 1956 the Oatka Fish and Game Club negotiated a new lease for the portion of the property that the Club occupied with buildings, rifle ranges, and trap ranges. This lease was for 99 years at $1 a year. Early on the hunting took place on the Clubs neighbors’ farm lands, because the club was not allowed on the Preserve to hunt. The Preserve had walking trails and the club was (and still is) allowed to hike these trails and cull dead trees for firewood. Due to changes in tax laws and the expense of paying property and school taxes the Foundation went to court in 1976 and had the 99 year lease abolished. They then reset the cost of the lease to pay the tax costs which the Club did for many years.
Along the way the club bought 40 acres of land on the West side of Circular Hill Road. This property, known as the “Sumac”, is owned wholly by the Club. This land can be used for hunting all game as long as NYS hunting rules and the Club hunting rules are followed.
With the Club’s buildings getting older and in need of some costly repairs, the Oatka Fish and Game Club decided that it didn’t make sense to make a large financial investment on buildings that sat on land that the Club didn’t own. Discussions were had about putting up buildings on the Sumac property for the Club to use. Ultimately the Club began negotiations with the Genesee Conservation Foundation to purchase the the land that the buildings, rifle ranges, and trap houses sat. The Club formed the Oatka Game management Society Inc. to take advantage of tax laws and to make the purchase. The purchase was for 20 acres of land for $36,000 in 1991.
In 1994 the club tore down the old Kitchen wing and built a larger kitchen in it’s place with a full basement, restrooms, and an office area.
Around 1995 the Genesee Conservation Foundation had a forester take a look into the management of the Foundations property to see if there was anything that needed to be done. The forester noted that the woods had sustained a large amount of damage and stress from the 1991 Ice Storm. The forester recommended harvesting lumber off the property. In addition the forester recommended management of the deer heard on the Foundation property. the Foundation decided to manage the deer heard by taking does off the property, and allowed the Club to hunt the does. As part of the process of hunting the Foundation land, The Oatka Fish and Game Club set the hunting rules to paper and adopted them by club vote. in 1997 the Club began antlerless deer hunting on the Foundation property. When this was started you would see deer herds of 20 or more deer. Today it is rare to see more than four in a herd.
The Club has since added covered shooting benches for the rifle and pistol range and also put up a storage garage and a covered pavilion area at the trap range. The covered pavilion at the trap range was then enclosed and is now part of the Trap Range House. There was also a barn built to store the Clubs equipment and also an archery range set up. Many of these things were built with volunteer help from Club members. Much of the funding for these projects came from the profits of the annual Sportsman Raffle. The Raffle was started to fund improvements at the club. The Sportsman Raffle continues to be the largest annual fundraiser the club has.