Albany — What began last fall as a proposed major overhaul of
the Southern Zone hunting regulations has, apparently, ended with a
plan that carries only one significant change — a Saturday opening
date for the regular firearms deer season.
DEC officials once again unveiled what will likely be the final
version of the proposed regulations, although a public comment
period runs through May 23.
“From our perspective, this is the best proposal to move forward
with at this point,” said DEC Deer Team Leader Dick Henry of the
plan that creates a Saturday opening date for the regular firearms
season, on the third Saturday in November.
The proposal, twice altered from its original form following a
series of about two dozen statewide meetings to receive comments
from sportsmen, also calls for:
- an archery season from the Saturday following the second Monday
in October to the day before the opening of the regular Southern
Zone firearms season.
- concurrent, nine-day late archery and muzzleloader seasons,
which will begin the day after the close of the firearms season in
the Southern Zone.
- an antler restriction proposal in Ulster County (Wildlife
Management Units 3C and 3J) whereby only bucks with at least three
antler points on one side will be legal for harvest.
- bear season in the Allegany region running from the first
Saturday after the opening of the regular deer season to the end of
the regular Southern Zone deer season.
- bear season in the Catskills region running from the first
Monday after the Southern Zone deer opener through the end of that
- archery bear season in the Allegany and Catskill regions
running from the Saturday following the second Monday in October
through the day before the Southern Zone regular deer opener, and
the nine-day period following the first Tuesday after Dec. 7.
The new proposal is perhaps more noteworthy not for what it
contains, but what’s no longer included.
The initial proposal of last October was highlighted by an early
archery season beginning Oct. 1, and an early muzzleloader season
in mid-October for one week. DEC later modified the plan,
eliminating the early archery start and calling for a three-day,
primitive muzzleloader season.
All those plans have now been scrapped, based largely on public
comments at the statewide meetings and via letters and e-mails to
“There was certainly interest in an early muzzleloader season;
we had heard that during our State of the Deer Herd meetings,”
Henry said. “But did it outweigh the opposition to it at this
DEC officials, Henry said, took sportsmen’s concerns into
account not once, but twice — during the initial State of the Deer
Herd sessions and then again at the statewide meetings in February,
where hunters voiced strong opposition to the early muzzleloader
DEC’s efforts to sell the original proposal were further stymied
by a slow 2004 deer season, where harvest figures were down by 18
Although opposition to the early muzzleloader season came from
the hunting community in general, New York Bowhunters, Inc.,
orchestrated a strong push against any change that would infringe
upon archery season.
“Probably the biggest and most valuable change is the Saturday
opener,” Henry said. “Obviously, there was some opposition to the
whole package. Are we ever going to come up with a package that
pleases everyone? No. That’s just a fact of life. Ultimately,
though, this is a step in the right direction.”