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An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Southern zone deer season opens

Tomorrow morning, November 17, in the pre-dawn hours there will be increased activity at early morning diners and a steady stream of vehicle lights will cross highways and side roads throughout the area. Thousands of hunters will head for hilltop farms, local woodlots, suburban orchards and thick cover, or state forests to the south. All across the southern part of New York State hunters will set out in pursuit of the nation's most popular big game animal — the whitetail deer.
For a lot of people it is “The” deer season. Opening day is still a big event for deer hunters, but it is a far cry from what it used to be. Due to the popularity of bowhunting in recent years, a lot of the anticipation and excitement of opening day of regular firearms season is lost.
Nowadays, many take to the woods on October 1 with their stands, compound bows, etc. and enjoy several weeks of seeing and trying to bag deer. And, of course, the total number of deer hunters has declined in recent years.
Unlike other season openers, which are mostly psychological, or a welcome beginning of good times to come, the opening days of southern zone deer season are directly related to success. Statistics show that 55% of the bucks taken are shot on the first two days of the season. Thus if you hunt later in the season, your odds of getting a buck are reduced, although there will still be bucks around.
The past few years the season has opened on Saturday instead of the traditional Monday opener. This is designed to make it easier for people, especially youngsters, to be able to hunt on the opening of the season. A few traditionalists complain about the change, saying they enjoyed the two days of camaraderie and preparation on the weekend before the season opener on Monday. The logic of this complaint totally escapes me. Since they had to take off Monday anyway, what is the difference of taking off Friday now?
Easier hunting conditions, the familiarity of hunting small woodlots or farms instead of bigger woods, and increased deer numbers all contribute to the immense popularity of southern zone hunting. Increased numbers of hunters afield also increase your chances of seeing deer because they often move deer from one area to another. And the availability of Deer Management Permits, which allow hunters to take an antlerless deer in specific units, means that approximately one in five hunters will be successful in taking a deer during the season.
There has been considerable discussion about the prospects and number of deer in various areas. Generally there are increased numbers of deer in most areas, partially due to the easy winters in the southern tier the past two years. Many bowhunters have been seeing a lot of bucks in recent weeks.
My friend Terry Yardley had high hopes last weekend, seeing six bucks on his way to a hunting spot. Of course, the southeast wind on Sunday limited his options in tree stands, but he took one that usually had a lot of deer sightings and was in correct position for the wind. But as luck would have it that was the afternoon that the local farmer decided to harvest the crop in the field so no deer were to be seen!
Everyone has their favorite areas and tactics. One of the methods that will probably still pay off is to be sitting on watch about midday if there are other hunters in the area. Many hunters get cold or restless, or head to the truck or nearby diner for lunch. In the process they often move deer that they never see. Thus, a large number of deer are shot by hunters on watch between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
There are a lot of different opinions and favorite methods, but it is probably true that if you are ever going to sit on watch much of the day, this should be the day. Hunters moving to and from their areas, others in nearby areas still-hunting, or driving are likely to cause deer to be on the move most of the day. If you have a good spot in likely cover or a funnel area, the odds are that you will make yourself comfortable and hope someone else moves a deer towards you.
Again this year the Venison Donation Coalition is sponsoring free processing of any deer that you would like to donate to the food bank. You can check the website for a list of participating meat processors. You must call ahead for free processing of any deer you wish to donate.
Of course regardless of where you hunt, your number one concern should be safety. Keep firm control of your gun at all times, do not carry it loaded unless you are actually hunting and only point at what you intend to shoot. Be certain of your target and what is beyond it. Wear some blaze orange since statistics show that most accidents involve people who weren't wearing orange.
Finally, be sure and be an ethical sportsman. In addition to safety, you should be sure of your shot for quick, clean kills. Follow up every shot, even an apparent miss. Remember that even a fatal shot may not show any apparent effects. Follow even a bloodless trail for at least 100 yards. It is the mark of a responsible sportsman to make sure that every possible wounded animal is found.
Good luck to all hunters next week and in the remaining season, which ends December 9 in the southern zone. Remember to enjoy the experience, and don't forget that any deer is a trophy. Even though you may not get one in the first few days, do not get discouraged. Although half of the bucks may be taken in the first couple days, less than 10% of the trophy bucks are taken then.
Be sure to let us know of any nice deer that you get or any interesting stories.
Short Casts
Deer hides wanted: For the deer hunters who have been successful and are wondering what to do with the hide, Jim Ward of Oneida Trap Supply is again buying hides. Call Jim at 363-2913 for information and hours.
Pheasants: Many upstate regions received a bonus stocking of pheasants last week. The pheasants were originally scheduled to be stocked on Long Island but due to the devastation to communities by Hurricane Sandy, the decision was made to forego the stocking there and place the birds in upstate New York instead. Among the areas receiving birds last week were the Rome Co-op Area and Verona Beach State Park (eastern area). Check the DEC website for complete listing of areas that were stocked.
Fishing report: Steelhead continue to be the big story in tributaries to Lake Ontario in this area. In western areas such as Oak Orchard River or 18 Mile Creek, there are steelhead, brown trout, coho and Atlantic salmon providing lots of action.
Locally, walleye fishermen are disappointed at the lack of on-shore action. Ted Dobs reports that action is horrible but there are lots of fish about 1,000 feet off shore. Ted says the big problem is the abundance of shad for food. Hopefully by the end of the month cooler water temperatures will cause a die off and the walleyes will turn to emerald shiners or buckeye minnows.
Check or for more information and up-to-date conditions.
Field Dressing Game Guide: Waterford Press has a pocket-sized, waterproof guide that is ideal for every hunters’ pack. Field Dressing Game provides a simplified introduction to safe practices and procedures for field dressing various species of game and fish, including rabbits, squirrels, deer, ducks, geese, pheasant, turkeys and small game birds. Also included in this handy guide are useful facts about safe cooking of wild game.
Waterford Press Guides are available for purchase at 800-434-2555, at book and outdoor retailers around the country, and at select online retailers. See
DMPs available: There are additional DMPs available in a number of management units. The only ones in this area are 7F and 7H. Most are in Unit 8 in the Finger Lakes. There is no additional fee for applying for these extra permits if you have previously paid the $10 application fee or have a lifetime license. You must apply in person at a licensing agent and permits will be issued until the quota has been reached.


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