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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 12, 2014

Southern zone deer season opens with high hopes

This coming Saturday, November 15, will see an amazing transformation. People who normally have to be dragged out of bed after hitting the snooze alarm several times will be up and about long before the alarm goes off. The person who is always misplacing glasses or is unable to find their keys will have all their clothing and equipment laid out in military precision. Those who complain or put off tasks because it is raining or too cold outside will not give a second thought to the frigid temperatures, rain or snow forecast for the day.
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. This year crossbows became a legal instrument to use at the end of the bowhunting season. And of course the total number of deer hunters has declined in recent years for a variety of reasons.
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. Somebody recently put it in perspective when he said, “there will never be more bucks in the woods than there are on opening day.”
The past few years the season have 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. 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 mid day. 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.
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 200 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 7 in both northern and 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.
Processing Venison: Although some people like to cut up and package their own venison, for those who do not have the facilities or skill, it is a good idea to go to a professional. Phil Roe of Hamilton is one of the best. He will not only do a great job of cutting your deer the way you want, he offers a variety of specialty services and products for your venison such as summer sausage, pepperoni, etc.
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.
Venison Donation: 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 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.


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