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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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Southern zone deer season opens Saturday

Hundreds of auto headlights will criss-cross the country roads of Madison, southern Oneida, Onondaga and Chenango counties in the pre-dawn darkness on Saturday morning. Sunrise will find orange-clad hunters sitting on stonewalls or in tree stands, hunched against the chilly air of dawn as they scan the fields and forests for sight of a deer. 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.
Now many hunters take to the woods on October 1 with their stands, compound bows, etc. and enjoy several weeks of seeing and trying to bag a 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 percent 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.
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 since 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. Sixty percent of the state’s total deer harvest comes from the southern zone.
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 few years. Many bowhunters, including my hunting partners Dick Cooper and Bob Washbon, have been seeing a lot of bucks in recent weeks.
Everyone has their favorite areas and tactics but one of the methods that will probably still pay off if there are other hunters in the area is to be sitting on watch about midday. Many hunters get cold, restless or head out 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 hunting spots, 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.
This year the Venison Donation Coalition is again sponsoring free processing of any deer that you would like to donate to the food bank. You can also 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 8 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 percent of the trophy bucks are taken then.
Be sure to let us know of any nice deer that you get or any interesting stories.
Deer Hides Wanted: This weekend and the following two weeks should be a busy time with a lot of deer harvested locally. 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.
Phil Roe Deer Processing: Based on the number and size of the deer that Phil Roe has been processing so far this year, it should be a good hunting season. Phil Roe has a state of the art facility on Randallsville Road in Hamilton and processes a lot of deer every fall. He is popular for his quality butchering service and also will smoke or vacuum pack your venison. Call him at 824-1426 for more information.
Deer–Car Collisions: This is the time of year when deer hunting gets underway with the opening of the southern zone. But it is also the time when deer are in the news in another less popular way – deer and car collisions. There are close to 57,000 deer-car collisions in New York State annually and the majority of them occur in October and November. Not only is this a significant economic loss in automobile damage, it is a serious threat to human injury or even fatalities as the recent tragedy reminds us. However there are ways we can minimize this threat. Most deer travel in groups so when you see one, be alert for others that may follow. Many times the first may be aware of you while it crosses the road but the others rush to catch up and are more likely to dash heedlessly into the path of your car. If it appears that you are going to hit a deer, resist the urge to swerve. That could turn a potential property damage accident into a possible fatal rollover. Whenever possible drive with your lights on high beam. Be especially alert in areas where deer are frequently seen. The peak of the breeding season means that deer are often running heedlessly, including across the highways. All year long deer are most active just before and after sunset. And guess when our heaviest traffic, with most people coming home from work, occurs at this time of year? Yes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when these two peaks coincide there will be more accidents. Hopefully this year you will not be a statistic and any deer that you come in close contact with will be in the woods while hunting.
Game Bird Population Down: Many hunters have reported a disappointing season in the number of grouse or turkeys seen this fall. Grouse populations are typically in a seven-year cycle and most areas have been in the low part of the cycle for the past few years. Numbers of turkeys in the annual survey have been down for several years. One factor is undoubtedly the cold wet spring weather we have experienced the past few years. This typically means that many ground nesting birds will be unsuccessful in hatching their eggs, or that a high percentage of the chicks that do hatch will succumb to pneumonia or other disease. The increased numbers of predators such as coyotes, raccoons, or even fishers, take a large toll on ground nesting birds. This is compounded by cold damp weather since the scent is easier to detect or follow when there is lots of moisture in the air. Thus the predators find the nests easily and kill the hen or chase her and destroy the eggs.


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