Bowhunters will see some changes

By Steve

Albany — New York’s 200,000-plus bowhunters are preparing for a
2005 season that will see some changes from last year, but not
nearly as drastic as once proposed by DEC.

That said, while archers are happy that deer season is
approaching, some aren’t happy about the season itself.

At one time, DEC had proposed an Oct. 1 opener and a weeklong,
mid-October, combination early archery and muzzleloader season as
part of a sweeping overhaul of its Southern Zone regulations.

Bowhunters voiced strong opposition to that plan, which was
ultimately scrapped. The final version included a Saturday opening
date as well as a Saturday opener for the regular shotgun — and,
in some Southern Tier counties, rifle — season.

Still, archers aren’t happy with losing the final weekend of
their season to the opening of the shotgun/rifle season in the
Southern Zone — typically a period of peak rutting activity.

“The archers are losing two days with the Saturday opener this
year,” DEC Big Game Section Leader John O’Pezio said. “But they’re
also getting four more days in the late archery season.”

The 2005 archery season actually kicks off in the Northern Zone
on Sept. 27 with the deer and bear bowhunting season, which runs
through Oct. 21.

Suffolk County’s liberal archery-only season begins Oct. 1 and
runs through Dec. 31, while Westchester County’s archery-only
season is open Oct. 15 through Dec. 31.

The Southern Zone archery seasons are Oct. 15-Nov. 18 and Dec.
12-20, the late season running concurrently with a late
muzzleloader offering.

But the seasons tell just a sliver of the story for bowhunters.
Across the state, they’ll take aim at whitetails while dealing with
other details as well.

In portions of Oneida and Madison counties, bowhunters — as
well as shotgun and muzzleloaders later — will be required to take
any whitetails harvested to a check station for Chronic Wasting
Disease testing. DEC has established the checkpoint in an effort to
further identify the status of CWD in the wild herd, where two deer
tested positive earlier this year.

“We’ve continued our CWD testing on road-killed deer through the
summer, and haven’t had another positive case,” O’Pezio said. “We
expect to test another 1,000 to 2,000 deer during the hunting

Archery hunters will also take to the woods with dramatically
fewer Deer Management Permits in their possession. DEC cut DMP
allocations statewide from nearly 522,000 last year to 314,840 this
season. While sportsmen at the DEC meetings earlier this year
voiced support for the move, the pendulum has now swung now that
the tag scarcity has become a reality.

“Now the hunters want the tags,” O’Pezio said. “Earlier this
year, all we heard was that the deer weren’t out there and we
needed to cut DMPs.”

O’Pezio said the lack of a DMP could impact “hunter
participation and the amount of time hunters spend in the woods,”
but many bowhunters either use their DMP at the first early-season
opportunity or not at all. That’s why bowhunters generally take a
higher percentage of bucks than shotgun and rifle toters.

“Many hunters recognize when the peak rut occurs, and they don’t
want to harvest a doe when the buck of a lifetime might be
following right behind it,” said Dick Henry, the former DEC deer
team leader and now Region 4 wildlife manager.

Archers will also be hunting under a pilot antler restriction
plan in the Ulster County area of Wildlife Management Units 3C and
3J, where only bucks with at least three points on one side will be
legal for harvest.

DEC officials feel that despite this season’s DMP allocation
cut, the future of deer hunting in New York looks solid.

“I think the deer population will rebound very quickly and I
think you’ll see a gradual increase in DMPs over the next couple
years,” O’Pezio predicted.

He added that it’s unlikely that weather — notably the drought
conditions over much of the state — will have any measurable
impact on the harvest.

Henry said some acorns are beginning to drop in some areas,
perhaps due to heat stress. But bear complaints in many areas are
down substantially this summer, “which indicates the food is
available out there for both bear and deer.”

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