William D. “Bill” Decker Jr. depends upon the definitive change of seasons unique to upstate New York for his livelihood.
Decker and his family own and operate Sportsman Adventure at 114 Southside Drive in Oneonta. The store has moved around a couple of times in the years since Decker decided to change professions, leave the body shop he had known for ten years, and open a store doing something he loves — hunting and fishing.
“It wasn’t the store that was the hard thing,” Decker said Monday afternoon during a lull in a busy day. “I have always been hunting and fishing up here, I know a lot about that. It was more the taxes and payroll — that was the learning curve.”
Right now residents of upstate New York are ice fishing and trapping, according to Decker. Sportsman Adventures sells everything an ice fisherman might need from sleds to saws and poles to bait. Decker said trappers are doing well this year, as the price of pelts has risen over the past two years.
A testament to the passion for ice fishing in the area is the volume of minnows sold at Sportsman Adventure.
“We get them in by the truckload from Albany; they are certified disease-free,” Decker said. “We are going through a whole lot right now, about 800 dozen a week.”
Decker is selling a lot of guns and ammunition this month as well. He said this is due to a reaction in anticipation of the NY SAFE Act, which was supposed to go into effect Jan. 15, but has been delayed. It requires, among other new regulations, a background check on individuals purchasing ammunition.
“We have had a pretty good run on guns and ammunition,” Decker said. “People tend to want to stock up before some new law hits and it is harder to get stuff.”
In the spring, many residents and tourists look forward to trout fishing in the rivers and creeks flowing through the region. When summer comes, Decker said the fishermen move to the lakes to fish for bass.
Autumns is hunting season in the Leatherstockings, and it begins with bow hunting. Sportsman Adventure sells, tunes and repairs bows and has the necessary accessories to practice and to hunt with a bow.
Sportsman Adventure moved from Southside Mall into a shopping plaza so that Decker could expand into selling guns and ammunition. When the property on Southside Drive became available last year, Decker and his family were excited. The property includes residential as well as retail space, which suits the family well.
The business began as a as a part-time occupation for Decker, selling new and recycled hunting and fishing gear at lawn sales and flea markets. In 2008, Decker and his wife, Amy, rented a store in Southside Mall.
“I couldn’t find a loan — you hear about all those grants and low-interest loans to help small business, startups and all — no one wanted to help me out,” Decker said. “I cashed in my retirement. I knew it would work. And you see, we do a pretty good business.”