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Outdoor Journal

Muzzleloading season offers a last chance

Thursday, December 13, 2012
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Outdoor Journal


No one still carrying unfilled deer tags needs to be told the reg­ular big-game (firearms) season has ended.

But remember the words of the legendary Yogi Berra, who in 1973 said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” We still have six days to hunt during the muzzleloading season with a bow, crossbow or a muzzleloader. You know they’re still out there, just keep trying. I have 80-plus hours in the deer woods, mostly sitting on my rump overlooking a well-used deer trail, scrape or where someone has put me and said it’s a “good” spot.

If you look at this year’s “New York Hunting & Trapping 2012-13 Official Guide to Laws & Regulations,” page 25, there are also special late-season opportunities in Westchester and Suffolk Counties.

As you’re reading this, I’m probably sitting somewhere hoping to shoot a buck or doe so I can have some venison in my freezer this winter. Last year, I was lucky enough to shoot a deer on the very last afternoon of the muzzleloading season, and I did it with a borrowed gun. Right now, I think we need a little snow cover to help us find out where they are and where they’ve been. I enjoy getting on a late-season deer track in the snow and following it, and it’s quite satisfying to catch up with and shoot it.

From the reports I’ve gotten, or should I say not gotten, it appears there hasn’t been a lot of deer taken. Based on the number of buck tales I’ve received — half as many as last year — the take is down. What really amazes me is that I didn’t receive any buck/doe tales from bowhunters who took a deer during the additional two weeks added to the beginning of the bowhunting season in the Southern Zone. I recently spoke with two butchers who process deer for hunters, and both said their business this year is down about 40 percent.

Adkhunter.com author Dan Ladd of West Ft. Ann told me that they only took one buck from the north high country, and that was the spike horn he shot with a muzzleloader. And I know these “iron sight” guys hunt and drive those mountains hard.

I guess we’re just going to have to wait for this year’s Department of Environmental Conservation deer take report to see how we did. If any readers have deer tales to tell, try to get them to me as soon as possible so I can put together one more Buck Tales column.

HUNTER’S ALERT

I was recently informed by the New York State Conservation Council (NYSCC) that they oppose bill 10583A sponsored by Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney (D, 11th district) which was recently delivered to Gov. Cuomo. All hunters should oppose it because of its negative impact on the youth hunt. At the end of the bill, it states that, “The only junior hunter days for big game hunting the department of environmental conservation may authorize during the archery seasons are junior archery days.”

I remember that in the Sept. 14 press release issued by DEC, that commissioner Joseph Martens announced the Columbus Day weekend (Oct. 6-8) and said: “I encourage bowhunters to set your bow aside for the weekend and be a mentor for a youth’s first firearms deer hunt.” He was referring to the fact that that weekend was during the Southern Zone’s early bowhunting season, which this year began Oct. 1 — two weeks early.

If Gov. Cuomo signs the bill, it will definitely be a tragedy. Commissioner Martens was right on the money when he said: “The youth hunt is a great opportunity for the next generation of New York hunters and is an important step in preserving our hunting heritage while maintaining our ability to manage deer through hunting in the future. We received enthusiastic feedback from parents and excited young hunters who took part of the Col­umbus Day weekend.”

At the time of that field report, Oct. 11, 486 deer were taken by jun­ior hunters, but more importantly, it gave 12,753 junior hunter license holders the opportunity to partic­ipate in this hunt. Signing and approving this bill will end it all. If you want to see some happy kids with deer, click here.

Please take the time to contact the governor’s office at www.state.ny.us/governor, or call 474-8390. And it wouldn’t hurt to suggest he re-think the ridiculous crossbow hunting regulations in place right now.

HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES

With the big-game season soon to end, we have several choices on how to get through the winter weekends. One is inside the house, and the other is outside. Inside is watching the NFL and the Outdoor Channel, living hunts through other hunters. Outside is grabbing a shotgun and starting to chase some small game or waterfowl. When hard water comes — if it does — fit in some ice fishing.

While sitting on watch in Sar­atoga County, I’ve noticed a big migration of both Canada and snow geese. Every time I go by Saratoga Lake, there are literally 1,000 of them floating around out there, and I plan to be lying on the cold wet hard ground in some of their favorite feeding fields very soon, waiting for them when they lift off the lake and head for their feeding fields. You just can’t beat lying there in the dark among your magnum shell decoys with the wind blowing in your face, temper­atures well below freezing and awaiting for that honking of the first flight of Canada geese. Once they appear on the horizon, the adrenaline rush will usually warm you up, and if it doesn’t, that first shot will.

I also love snow goose hunting, but I find it to be a lot harder, both to find them, then to shoot them. The technique that works for me, and what I’ve done this year, is ride the roads early to locate a field they’re in, then return that afternoon and the next morning. Obviously, you should get permission from the landowner who “us­ually” is quite willing. I’ve watched a flock of snow geese turn a green field into mud in several days. The pros usually set out 500 or more decoys. I don’t, which is probably why I don’t always score, but I do get some every year.

The limit this year is 25 per day, and that’s my goal, which I honestly don’t think I’ll ever achieve. I’ll continue to hunt the field early in the mornings and late afternoons until they no longer come into it. I also found that I can get maximum shooting if I wait for the birds to be on the ground. When they begin to get nervous and take flight, I start shooting. The hardest part of shooting in a field full of snow geese is picking just one bird at a time. On my first snow goose hunt, there were three of us who did everything right, and when the whole field of at least 200-300 snows lifted off together only one was killed, and I didn’t get it. I (we) have gotten a lot better since that first time hunt.

The Canada geese are also here and definitely a lot easier to call in or lure with decoys, but you still have to be in full camouflage and stay still until they lock those wings.

BACKGROUND CHECKS HIGH

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) recently reported that this year’s Black Friday became the largest single day ever for background checks conducted in a single month. The adjusted Nov­ember 2012 monthly National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figures of 1,525,177 was a 38.5 percent increase over the 1,101,076 in November 2011. This is the 30th straight month that the figures have increased when compared to last November. In addition, this November’s was more than 8 percent higher than the previous high in December of last year.

NSSF also reported that violent crime and firearm-related accidents continue to decrease.

MUST HAVE

On a recent deer hunt in Pennsylvania, I actually stalked a bunch of eight-plus-pointers and shot at least eight or 10 of them the first night I was there, and I didn’t have to tag or clean any of them. We did it all in my host’s living room with the Big Buck Hunter Pro 2-Gun Multi-Player Edition.

This lifelike electronic hunting game hooks up easily to a TV. It comes with two shotgun controllers and a video game console isn’t needed because it’s all built into the game controller. Just plug it in and start shooting. It runs on four AA and three AAA batteries.

It’s designed for ages 8 and up, and I really enjoyed getting beat by an 11-year-old young gun. Check it out at www.basspro.com; it’s on sale now for $40. Santa, I wouldn’t mind getting one of these on Dec. 25.

 
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