The results you're seeing don't especially surprise me: without knowing exactly where you are, I did a TVFool check for the center of Oriskany... and only the Utica stations are line-of-sight. All of the Syracuse stations are a two-edge shot (meaning the signal is skirting two hills); WMHT in Schenectady is a one-edge shot.
Your assumption about distance is not correct: most Utica stations are less than 10 miles away, except for WKTV, which is about 20. Syracuse stations are generally around 40 miles away, and Albany / Schenectady stations are about 75 miles away.
Several things to consider and try. First, the stations you are trying to receive are in radically different directions, but your antenna is directional. Using a rotator will help greatly: it's very unlikely that you will receive distant stations unless the antenna is pointed right at them. Second, if you still have trouble getting reliable reception, using an antenna with higher gain (if you like Antenna Direct, a DB-8 is an example, and will give you nearly 6dB more signal than the antenna you are now using). Winegard and Channel Master also have antennas that are good candidates for longer-range reception.