When the regular big-game rifle/shotgun hunting season opens Saturday morning in the Southern Zone, I am sure that a large portion of the 515,074 hunters who purchased a big-game hunting license (through Oct. 27) will be in the deer woods.
This has always been the most popular of the two zones; the Northern Zone opened on Oct. 24. This popularity is based primarily on the number of deer, which in the Southern Zone greatly exceeds the Northern Zone. As a comparison, last year’s total deer harvest in the Northern Zone was 33,938; the Southern Zone harvest was 186,511.
I am sure we are all excited about the opening and hopefully, we have all been out to the range to get re-acquainted will our rifle/shotgun to insure accuracy.
I recently overheard a shooter at the range tell his friend, “close enough,” after shooting several shots. That is not the attitude I hope you have. That attitude wounds deer, and can make for a unsuccessful hunt. Spend the extra time, and be sure your firearm is “dead on.”
Scouting, too, should have been done by now, and if it wasn’t, then you have one day to get it done. Don’t be surprised when you go in blind on opening morning; know what to expect. Your choices are to take Friday off from work, or rely on last year’s information. I like the first choice, and have actually used it many times. My boss, who fortunately for me, was also a deer hunter, used to refer to it as Ed’s annual “deer flu.”
If you are a bowhunter, and have taken the early opportunity to be in the deer woods, you should be ready. You also probably know that the rut has started, and the bucks are chasing the does and offering us the best opportunity to get a buck. If you find the scrape lines and sit it out long enough, your chances are excellent for getting a shot.
Speaking of sitting, it is something I do every opening day. In fact, where I hunt in Allegany County, I am in the woods and sitting before sunup and do not move or come out until sundown. I have found that most hunters will sit for awhile, then have to move. These are my drivers. I have shot a number of bucks pushed to me by those hunters heading out for that 9 a.m. coffee break and their noon lunch.
For the avid deer hunter, on Friday morning, the anticipation will begin when we wake up, and it will continue to build throughout the day. For me, it was the one day of the year that I looked at the clock at work at least every half hour. And come evening, just getting your gear in order adds to the adrenaline flow. Forget getting a restful sleep. I always set the alarm, but I have never heard it go off because I am up well before it was set to ring.
Even before the deer season ended last year, I began receiving calls and e-mails from concerned hunters who were not seeing as many deer as the year before. But I also receive an equal amount of hunters who have been successful and happy with the season. This is actually a common complaint, and I really do not have an explanation. I too, at times have my doubts, but I have to accept the numbers published by DEC.
Counting the number of deer in New York is extremely difficult, and the formulas and techniques being used to estimate the size of our deer herd seem to be very reasonable. If you look at the statistics of deer taken last year, 222,979, they are actually a bit higher than the previous year. Looking at just the Southern Zone, big-game season firearms hunters shot 59,517 bucks and filled 79,847 Deer Management Permits (DMP). The prior year’s buck take was 61,773 and DMPs were 78,731.
One statistic I found interesting was the number of Deer Management Assistant Program (DMAP) which are issued to landowners to help control the deer population damage on their property. These permits are only valid during the open deer season and must be filled only by a licensed hunter. Last year, there were 10,010 issued. These can be used only for antlerless deer.
The other deer management tool offered to landowners are Deer Damage Permits (DDP) or nuisance permits. These may be limited to harassment techniques or the actual shooting of only antlerless deer and only during non-deer hunting seasons.
HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL
If you are willing to travel, here are the top five counties, based on the number of deer taken during the 2008 season. Hunting most of these counties would require a few hours of driving and probably overnight accommodations, but as you will see, there are plenty of racks walking around in their deer woods. And most of these areas have state lands with public hunting.
The perennial leader with a total harvest of 13,572 deer, 5,326 of which were bucks, is Steuben County. In second is Allegany County, with a total of 9,355, of which 4,394 were bucks. Out of all the counties, Allegany’s 4.2 bucks-per-square-mile is one of the highest. Third is Cattaraugus with 9,284, of which 3,871 were bucks, and Chautauqua is fourth with 7,664 total and 3,176 bucks. In fifth is Orange County, with a total take last year of 7,371, of which 3,166 were bucks.
In comparison, here are a few of our local counties’ 2008 harvest statistics. Columbia County’s total 2008 whitetail harvest was 3,524, with a buck take of 1,863 bucks. However, unless you have permission, open hunting or obtaining permission to hunt land is hard to find here. Washington County was second with 3,450 total and 2,068 bucks, and this too is a hard place to find public hunting areas. Third was Schoharie County with a total of 2,660 and 1,552 bucks, while Saratoga County was fourth with 2,246 and 1,246 bucks. This is another county that is hard to find a place to hunt. Well down on the list was Schenectady County, where the total take last year was 508 deer ,of which 296 were bucks.
To find public hunting areas, go to page 60 in the New York Hunting & Trapping 2009-10 Official Guide To Laws & Regulations book for a complete list and telephone numbers of state parks where you can hunt. It would be wise to read the regulations, especially this year’s changes on page 6.
RACKS TO BEAT
Want to take over the lead in the Whitetail Record Book of New York state? Here is what you have to beat.
In the gun category, the record for typical buck is a 14-pointer taken in Allegany County by Roosevelt Luckey in 1939 that scored 1981⁄4 inches. The non-typical leader is Homer Boyan’s 26-pointer which was also taken in Allegany in 1939 that scored 2441⁄4. In the archery category, the typical leader is a Westchester 14-pointer taken by Rich Johnson in 1998 that scored 1801⁄8. And the non-typical bow buck is an Erie County 17-pointer taken by Mark Surdi in 1996 that scored 2051⁄8.
However, Mark Surdi’s record may be in jeopardy. According to a Field & Stream release on Oct. 26 Bjorn Holubar used a bow and arroe to shoot a 20-point buck on Long Island that is estimated to be a 200–class. I saw a photo of this buck, and it has a quadruple beams.
The 2008 hunting season was the safest in state history with a total of 27 incidents, four of which were fatal. Of this total, 12 occurred during the deer season, and three were fatal as a result of a rifle. After reading a description of these incidents, most were the result of breaking some common sense and basic firearm safety rules. Here are some of those rules, as stated in a recent press release from DEC.
-- Always point your gun in a safe direction.
-- Treat every firearm as if it was loaded.
-- Be 110 percent sure of your target and beyond.
-- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
-- Remember to wear hunter orange. Why? Over the past 10 years, 15 New York state big-game hunters have been mistaken for deer or bear and killed, and every one of these victims was from that small minority of hunters who did not wear hunter orange. But not even one person who was wearing hunter orange was ever mistaken for game and killed.
There are two things a hunter in the field/woods should never think or say, regarding his or her target: “It looked like or, it sounded like.” Keep it safe and keep it fun. Good luck and don’t forget Buck Tales.