B y Derek Liebig
A mild winter, coupled with an abundant food supply should translate into a successful white-tail deer hunting season in the local area.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York’s deer population is well suited for this fall’s hunting season.
“We expect the buck take to be similar to last year and maybe a little higher in the Northern zone,” Ed Reed, a big game biologist with DEC said.
“The food has been especially good this year. There is a lot of natural feed. We got rain at the right times and there are a lot of acorns and beechnuts.”
The traditional rifle deer hunting season is already under way in New York’s Northern Zone and will continue through Dec. 8. The Southern Zone hunting season begins on Nov. 16 and continues through Dec. 8. The muzzleloading season runs from Dec. 9 to 15 in the Northern Zone and Dec. 9 through 17 in the Southern Zone.
Vermont’s 16-day rifle deer season is later that normal this year and begins on Nov. 16 and continues through Dec. 1.
Deer population growing
Officials said the exceptionally mild winter in 2011-12 and below average winter conditions in most areas of the state last year has allowed the state’s white-tailed deer population to grow. In fact, officials describe the population in many parts of the state as “in need of substantial reduction.”
That designation extends to portions of Washington County. The state has designated most of the county’s population as needing a reduction in the number of accident. However, the population in the northern and western-most areas of the state is actually smaller than what biologists have deemed as desirable.
According to Reed, the number of bucks harvested in 2012 in Wildlife Management Unit 5T, which consists of northern portions of Washington County, was 2.2 animals per square mile, the same rate as 2011. The total number of deer harvested in the area last year, included antlerless deer, was 3.4 per square mile.
In unit 5S, which consists of southern Washington County, 3.9 bucks were harvested per mile in 2012. The total number of deer was 7.7 per square mile.
He said expectations are that the take in 5T will increase slightly from last year and stay about the same in 5S,
Overall, nearly 243,000 deer were harvested in 2012, with the overwhelming majority being taken in the Southern Zone, the largest of the state’s three zones (Northern and Long Island zones being the others).
Optimism in Vermont
Conditions are also favorable across the border in Vermont.
“A mild winter coupled with abundant food supply means goods things for Vermont’s deer population,” Adam Murkowski, a Vermont deer biologist, said.
Nearly 14,000 deer were harvested in Vermont during the 2012 hunting season and biologists estimate the state’s deer population to number 130,000, up 5,000 from estimates last year.
In Vermont, the hunting should be aided by a later start date.
Murkowksi said that the rut, the period during which deer breed, consistently falls during the last two weeks of November. This year’s rifle season ends on Dec. 1, meaning hunters will be able to take full advantage of this year’s rut.
Murkowski said one of the biggest factors, especially early in the season is weather. Warmer temperatures tend to suppress deer movement so cooler, more seasonable temperatures would help hunters.
Although serious hunting accidents are rare, officials encourage hunters to use caution in the woods and follow several guidelines so they and others remain safe.
Hunters should remember to always treat their gun as if it were loaded and know what’s behind their target.
It’s also a good idea to wear blaze orange, especially when you’re moving around so that you are identifiable to other hunters that may be in the woods.
Reed and Murkowski both suggest hunters wear a DEET-based insecticide to fend off ticks and to inspect themselves after they dress a deer as that’s when the ticks generally transfer to humans.
Hunting big business in NYS
Hunting is among the most popular forms of wildlife recreation in New York. Nearly 700,000 New Yorkers and over 50,000 nonresidents hunt in the Empire State.
In 2011, New York was fourth in the nation in spending by hunters and generated an estimated $290 million in state and local taxes. New York ranks third in the nation in total number of resident hunters.
New York’s resident hunting license costs $29; $5 for youth hunters younger than 16. A nonresident license costs $140; a nonresident license for youth hunters younger than 16 is $5 when the accompanied by a licensed adult. A nonresident license in Vermont costs $100; a nonresident youth license in Vermont costs $25.
Licenses can be purchased on the DEC’s website and from licensed agents statewide, including the many town offices. For more information on New York’s deer hunting season, including rules and regulations and a list of local reporting stations, visit www.dec.ny.gov. For more information on Vermont’s hunting season, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.