New York Columbus weekend youth hunt plan intact
Albany — A proposed three-day youth deer hunt over the Columbus Day weekend has remained intact as DEC moves toward regulatory approval of several portions of its five-year deer management plan.
Comments on the youth hunt and other proposals – including an Oct. 1 opener to the Southern Zone archery deer season, altered opening dates for the Northern Zone’s muzzleloader and firearms deer seasons and expanded antler restrictions in some areas of southeastern New York – will be accepted through May 21.
Chances are DEC won’t hear anything new on the offerings, which have already been scrutinized by hunters across the state who weighed in during previous public comment periods and at statewide meetings on whitetail management.
And the fact that DEC officials haven’t wavered from the initial proposals may be a clear sign that all systems are go for the changes, including the youth hunt, which received mixed reviews, particularly from some archery hunters who fear the three-day firearms offering for 14- and 15-year-olds will disrupt deer movement and send deer into a nocturnal pattern.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, in a news release announcing the proposals, called the changes “consistent with input we’ve received from the public and deer management goals.”
The finalized youth hunt proposal was kept under wraps after DEC backed off the plan for the three-day Columbus Day weekend hunt. At that time, DEC chief wildlife biologist Gordon Batcheller said the department was still committed to a youth hunt, but needed additional time for discussion as to when and how it would be crafted.
DEC stopped short of putting the Columbus Day weekend hunt in place at that time; a news release indicated it was removed from the plan “to allow continued discussion to identify the most appropriate option.”
There’s an estimated 16,000 youth hunters eligible for the youth deer hunt. Surveys have indicated many would participate, but even so hunter density would be low in most areas, officials said in an effort to allay fears that the youth hunt would disrupt the archery deer season.
“We see it as a deer management issue, with the reduction in the number of hunters in New York,” Batcheller said. “We need to do something – and maybe a number of things – to get people out hunting. They’re the ones who are going to be our future deer managers. Hunters are the means by which we manage deer, and we see recruiting young people and getting them afield as a deer management issue.”
Under the youth hunt proposal, hunters ages 14 and 15 will be able to take either a buck or antlerless deer in either the Northern or Southern zones. Pending regulatory approval, the hunt would be held Oct. 6-8 this year.
In announcing the proposed youth hunt, DEC officials said it “is not expected to have any noticeable impact on deer behavior or bowhunter success, particularly in light of the more than 100,000 small-game hunters also afield during the early fall.”
DEC officials also noted that similar youth hunts are held concurrently with archery deer seasons in neighboring states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
They also pointed to a survey of youth hunters and their mentors which showed the strongest support for the Columbus Day weekend hunt.
“We hope experienced adult hunters will step up and find a young person to take afield,” Batcheller said. “This won’t work unless the experienced hunters (take a youngster hunting).”
In addition to the youth hunt, the plan calls for:
- the Oct. 1 kickoff to the Southern Zone archery deer season.
- expanding mandatory three-points-on-one-side antler restrictions in Wildlife Management Units 3A, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W. That move – hunters under age 17 are exempt from the regulation – comes on the heels of growing support for ARs in those areas. DEC officials said antler restrictions will reduce the harvest of yearling bucks; last year, nearly half of all bucks taken in those units were yearlings.
“The restriction is expected to decrease total buck harvest approximately 35-45 percent initially,” DEC said in a news release.
- altering the Northern Zone muzzleloader and regular season starting dates by “up to one week later certain years” to increase bowhunting opportunities and accommodate the proposed youth hunt. Under the proposal, the Northern Zone muzzleloader and firearms deer and bear seasons will begin one week later in 6 of 10 years – depending on the calendar – to allow for a longer early bow season in those years.
- establishing a late bowhunting season in the Northern Zone to run concurrently with the late muzzleloading season.
- allowing DMPs to be used during Northern Zone bow and early muzzleloader seasons “to simplify regulations and increase hunter opportunity and choice.” Current regulations allow use of DMPs in the Northern Zone only during the regular season and late muzzleloader season. The change will impact several units where DMPs are issued in the Northern Zone – WMUs 6A, 6C, 6G, 6H, and 6K – and won’t impact the number of permits issued, officials said.
- simplifying the description of the area open for deer hunting during the January firearms season to include Suffolk County, subject to local discharge restrictions. DEC officials said current regulations “include a complex and lengthy description of open areas that are unnecessary, considering existing local ordinances and legal setbacks from structures for discharge of firearms.”
- setting provisions for the designation of “Deer Management Focus Areas” to intensify the use of in specific areas to assist communities in dealing with out-of-control deer numbers. The rule will increase bag limits to two antlerless deer per hunter per day and establish a Deer Management Focus Area deer hunting season in late January. It will carry with it specific permit, tagging and reporting requirements in the focus areas.
The first defined focus area under the new regulation is in Tompkins County and includes portions of the towns of Caroline, Danby, Dryden, Enfield, Ithaca, Lansing, Newfield and Ulysses. “This area has very high deer populations and relatively poor access for hunters,” DEC officials said. “Deer management focus areas will enable greater harvest opportunity for hunters who are able to gain access to lands for hunting, and are intended to augment on-going management activities in the affected area.”
- adjusting bear seasons in the Northern and Southern zones to remain consistent with bow, muzzleloader and regular seasons for deer.
- correcting a road name in the boundary descriptions for WMUs 5A and 5C, where Franklin County Route 24 was incorrectly identified as State Route 24.
DEC officials said previous comments on the proposals “were important in finalizing the deer plan and developing this rulemaking proposal.” This round of comments, officials said, “should be specific to the proposals and should not be resubmissions of previous comments submitted on the full deer management plan or previous regulatory proposals.”