Are you going to work Tuesday? In case you didn’t know it, Tuesday is Oct. 1, and there are seven hunting opportunities that open on that day.
Probably the most popular is going to be the early bowhunting for deer and bear in the Southern Zone. Thousands of New York state bowhunters will be perched in their tree stands long before first light, anxiously waiting for that big eight-pointer they’ve recorded on a trail camera for the past few weeks.
For me, it’ll be the first year in over 40 years that I miss the opening day of the bowhunting season. I can no longer draw my hunting bow due to a bad shoulder, and yes, I was one of those hoping we had a reasonable crossbow season like so many other states have.
The crossbow season we had that allowed us to compete with the gun hunters was just a tease, and then they took that away. But on Oct. 5, I’ll be in Pennsylvania with my TenPoint crossbow for the opening of their archery season. In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, they realize that the crossbow belongs in the woods with regular bows.
Here’s what the Pennsylvania Game Commission has to say about the big-game crossbow hunting: As long as a hunter possesses a general hunting license and an archery stamp — as well as other required licenses, such as an antlerless deer license or permit or a bear license — an archery hunter may use a crossbow to participate in both the early and late archery deer seasons, as well as the two-day archery bear season.
In our area and most eastern parts of New York, Tuesday will find quite a few hunters in orange jackets/vests and matching colored hats flocking to state lands that were recently stocked with these tasty birds. Many will also have their bird dogs with them.
According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, there will be almost 30,000 adult pheasants released this season on lands open to the public. The north and eastern season opens Tuesday; in central and western portions of the state, Oct. 19; and Nov. 1 on Long Island.
In the north and eastern areas, the special youth hunt for junior hunting license holders ages 12-15 is Saturday and Sunday. It’s perfect timing, because Saturday is National Hunting and Fishing Day. In western New York, youth hunt days Oct. 12-13, and on Long Island, it is Oct. 26-27. A 2012-13 hunting license is required during September and a 2013-14 license starting Oct. 1.
The boundaries for these pheasant hunting zones conform to Wildlife Management Unit boundary descriptions which you can find on the DEC website. For a complete listing of all the pheasant release sites in 2013 go to www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9349.html.
My first stop Tuesday will be in the turkey woods in Saratoga County.
Last year, there were 6,422 turkeys harvested during the fall season, which was considerably higher compared to 4,243 the previous fall, but well below the DEC five-year-and 10-year averages of about 8,800 and 10,300, respectively.
Their interpretation is the decline is due to fewer turkeys and a decline of turkey hunters of about 2 percent. The actual decline of fall turkey hunters over the past decade dropped from 77,000 to 49,000.
In terms of the county harvests, Delaware had the highest fall take of 394, and Orleans was the lowest with 11. Schenectady County had 24, Albany 121 and I was one of 83 who shot a fall turkey last year in Saratoga County.
I believe the decline in fall turkey hunting has several reasons. One is that there are so many other hunting opportunities that are open at the same time. And now the bowhunting season in the Southern Zone opens on the same day.
I haven’t encountered a bowhunter yet in the woods, but I’m sure I will eventually. Another reason is fall turkey hunting is very different than spring hunting.
In the spring, toms and hens are very vocal, and when your calls are answered, it’s quite exciting. There’s nothing more adrenaline-lifting than having a love-sick tom gobble and double-gobble at your yelp calls and knowing he’s headed your way.
That doesn’t happen in the fall. Those that do their homework in the fall can actually pattern a flock of turkey and set up accordingly. Others sneak and peek their way through the woods trying to find a flock. When they do, they should empty their shotgun and run like a crazy man/woman through the woods, screaming, busting the flock and getting them airborne.
The rest is easy. Set out a few decoys, and wait for about a half-hour, then start making soft calls. The birds want to get back together, and they can be coming from any direction. Just don’t forget to reload your gun.
Yes, I forgot to reload once, but I got lucky. It was with a single-shot New England Arms 10-gauge which, after I chocked the hammer and pulled the trigger on an empty chamber, I was able to reload and still shoot a bird.
Cottontail and Varying Hare (snowshoe) rabbit hunting in the northern zone this early is usually not a first choice of the October hunter. Most traditional bunny hunters hunt both later in the season, especially in the snow.
Although I hunt them early, I thoroughly enjoy listening to a beagle brigade hot on a cottontail in a swamp or a white rabbit in the snow when it is taking the brigade over the hills of the Adirondacks.
Ruffed grouse is one of the most popular native game birds pursued by the wing shooters in New York state. Unfortunately, these challenging little birds’ numbers are declining.
The season opened Sept. 20 in the northern zone, and this Tuesday will be open in all the state with the exception of Long Island. If you fill your daily bag limit of four of these fast-flying birds dodging in and out of heavy cover, you’ll have done something. In my four-plus decades of hunting them, I can only remember doing it once.
Annual hunter grouse logs revealed some very interesting, but not surprising, results. Last year, there were 280 hunters who completed grouse logs. They spent 7,000 hours in the woods and had almost 5,000 flushes. The estimated time to kill 1.4 grouse was 16 hunting hours.
The DEC would like help from ruffed grouse hunters — a complete grouse log. For more information and getting a log, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and type “grouse log” in the subject line, call 402-8883 or go to www.dec.ny.gov and search “grouse hunter log”
Last year, the first Youth Deer Hunt in New York state was held Columbus Day weekend
(Oct. 6-8), and it was quite successful. Approximately 7,779 junior hunters participated, and they harvested 1,411 deer (744 antlered, 669 antlerless).
It will again be held Columbus Day weekend (Oct. 12-14). Resident and non-resident junior hunting license holders (ages 14-15) may take one deer with a firearm during the hunt. Junior hunters may use a Deer Management Permit (antlerless only), Deer Management Assistance Program Tag (antlerless only) or a regular season tag for a deer of either sex. This youth deer hunt will occur in both the Northern and Southern zones except in bowhunting-only areas and Suffolk County. During the youth deer hunt, mentors are not allowed to carry firearms or bows.
It’s important that all hunters read this year’s “New York Hunting & Trapping 2013-14 Official Guide to Laws & Regulations.”