Are you as anxious as I am for Saturday’s opening of New York state’s Southern Zone regular (firearms) deer season?
Hopefully, you’ve visited your favorite deer woods and renewed your relationship with your favorite deer rifle/shotgun at the range. Although I’ve not received the number of North Country and bowhunter buck/doe tales I usually have by this time of year, I’ve seen a lot of deer, mostly does, while turkey, goose and small-game hunting.
What really surprised me about the lack of buck tales was that the bow season in the Southern Zone opened two weeks early (Oct. 1), which I assumed would result in early bow kills. We’ll have to wait for the DEC reports.
Normally, I would be hunting at my Allegany County hunting club camp, but today, my daughter and a future hunter, Sammy Ray Dunston (19 months old), are coming to visit grandpa, and he’ll be here until Tuesday, soooooo, I’ll sneak out somewhere on Saturday morning for a few hours near home and be back to have lunch with him. When he leaves, I’ll head to Allegany.
Since the Department of Environmental Conservation changed the opening day in both the Northern and Southern zones to Saturday, both should experience a good crowd of hunters that weekend, but the Southern Zone attracts, by far, the most attention, and rightly so, because of the denser deer population.
As an all-day “sitter,” especially on opening day, I’ve used this all-day hunting pressure and hunter movement to my advantage. Over the years, I’ve found that 8 a.m. or so is coffee break time back at the truck, 11-noon, lunch, and 1-2 p.m. a return to the woods for the lunch crowd. There’s also a group of hunters who can’t sit for long periods of time, so they become still hunters, and my favorite time on opening weekends is when it’s very cold, snowy, rainy and/or windy. This also gets them on the move.
My club members call me “the pumpkin” because on those cold and blustery days, I layer on quite a bit of orange clothing, enough to keep me warm and sitting still all day. It takes me awhile to get to my stand and up into the tree, but I stay all day. And, “yes,” I definitely strap myself in.
CHANGES AND REMINDERS
• The mandatory antler restrictions Wildlife Management Unit areas have been increased. These areas include 3A, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S and 4W. If you hunt in any of these areas, any buck you shoot must have at least one antler with three or more points. This restriction applies to all bow, crossbow, regular gun and muzzleloader seasons on public or private lands.
• The wearing of hunter orange is a controversial subject among hunters. I’m an orange wearer when I enter the deer woods. In my early hunting days, I had what I called close calls with hunters who saw a dark object, me, moving through the woods through their scope. Obviously, that should NEVER be done, but with dark clothing, you’re inviting hunters to check you out. This is also a good reason to carry binoculars. Why take a chance? I don’t think I’ve picked up a hunting magazine or watched a deer hunting video/TV show with gun hunters not dressed in hunter orange.
Last hunting season, there were 14 hunting “incidents” during the deer season; four were fatal. Three of the four were shot by other hunters. I wonder how many were wearing orange.
One of the fatalities was a hunter in the process of field-dressing his deer when he was shot in the chest. I read several of the other incident report statements that included: “I thought,” or “I saw movement.” I really think hunter orange might have eliminated these.
Although it is not mandatory to wear it in New York state, DEC says that deer are less sensitive to orange and red. And what we should really think about is that in the past 10 years, 15 New York big-game hunters were mistaken for deer or bear and killed. NONE of them were wearing hunter orange. This is why I’m an orange pumpkin.
For a good comparison of a hunter wearing and not wearing hunter orange go to, http://www.outdoorhub.com/how-to/video-see-how-easily-you-can-become-a-safer-hunter/.
• I was taught at an early age by an old Adirondack hunter who I had lunch with. I met him on top of the trail on Owl Head Mountain overlooking Long Lake. It was actually my first time there, and during our conversation, he asked me: “How sure should you be before you pull the trigger?” My quick response was 100, and his was, “Wrong. Be 150 percent sure of the target AND beyond, and if there are any doubts, don’t shoot.” Makes very good sense, doesn’t it?
• Those of us who like to hunt from a tree also have some safety rules we should follow. Number one: if you have a permanent stand or a portable that you left up last year or longer ago, you should have tested it by now. Do not wait until Saturday. We have already had a few fallen hunters; one died. A lot of things can loosen that stand that has been out in the elements a year or more.
• When you climb into your stand, use a line to lift your EMPTY rifle/shotgun to your stand, and lower it the same way. EMPTY and lower BEFORE climbing down. Before loading your gun in the stand, buckle your safety vest. I prefer a vest to straps because they’re are much safer. You wear a safety vest to keep you alive in the event you fall, so why would you want a $30 safety harness rather than a $99 vest? You’re worth it.
• One last reminder, if you’re one of us who bought a crossbow thinking we’d have an opportunity to share a piece of the bowhunting season or have our own season, you can still use it, but only during the early bear season, regular firearms season and late muzzleloading season. Definitely not a great opportunity, considering you’ll have to compete with gun hunters.
According to the Department of Environmental Conservation stats, crossbow hunters harvested 491 deer last year. I believe/know your odds are better going to Pennsylvania, where they let you hunt with bowhunters. I’ve been doing it for several years. A non-resident hunting license for deer, bear and two turkey tags (fall and spring) is only $126.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING
When that alarm goes off at 3 a.m. Saturday, most of us will have probably been awake waiting. It’s deer season and in spite of how long we’ve hunted, we’re excited. If you’re not, you’re not a deer hunter.
When the sun rises at 6:50 a.m., you’ll be sitting on watch, on that same old stump, on top of the same ridge, tucked into your ground blind or strapped safely into your stand overlooking a fresh scrape just like we’ve done for years. Stay awake, that big eight-pointer could walk by any time.
Last year’s deer harvest of 228,359 was less than 1 percent less than in 2010.
The adult male harvest statewide last year was 110,002, 93,120 of which were taken in the Southern Zone. As for last year’s Deer Management Permits, 554,207 were issued and 87,439 were filled.
Let’s see how some of the nearby counties did last year. The first number after each county is the total buck take, then the total deer take: Albany, 1,145/2,029; Columbia, 2,094/3,392; Fulton, 646/954; Herkimer, 1,763/2,743; Montgomery, 764/1,255; Rensselaer, 2,173/5,100; Saratoga, 1,349/2,501; Schenectady, 344/584; Schoharie, 1,513/2,522; and Washington, 2,351/3,937.
If I could go anywhere in the state on opening day in the Southern Zone, I’d pick WMU 9H, which is a 973-mile area spreading over parts of Erie, Genesee and Wyoming counties. Hunters harvested 11,237 deer there last year, of which 4,642 were bucks. My second choice would be WMU 7H, a 1,242-mile area spreading over large areas of Chenango, Cortland and Madison counties and small areas of Broome, Onondaga and Oneida counties. Last year, they shot 8,246 deer there; 4,227 were bucks. If I was invited to hunt in WMU 8R, I’d still be very happy. This 270-mile area includes parts of Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties, and only gave up 4,639 deer, 1,547 of them bucks, but it’s the deer-per-square-mile that caught my eye. They have 5.7 bucks and 17.2 deer per-square-mile.
If you’d like to share your hunting success, buck, doe or bear, with other hunters, send me all the details of your hunt. Please include your full name, where you live (city), where you were hunting, what you shot and include number of points, weight, etc., type of hunt (stillhunting, tree stand/blind, drive), gun or bow, shot distance and anything else you think would add to the tale. Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t use photos, but if you want to email them to me, I’ll put them on my blog: www.noonanpics.blogspot.com.