Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Early muzzleloader push fizzling

Albany – Another push for an early muzzleloader deer season in
the Southern Zone may not be gaining any traction with DEC.

Although there’s been support among some sportsmen for an early
muzzleloader season, early indications are DEC isn’t considering
such a move for this season.

“We discuss all kinds of ideas, but nothing is in the works on
our end along the line of an early muzzleloader season,” DEC
big-game biologist Jeremy Hurst said. “The issue has been raised
each of the past few years in resolutions within the New York State
Conservation Council.”

DEC in 2005 did propose an early muzzleloader deer season in the
Southern Zone, but that plan was scrapped amid vocal opposition
from some sportsmen – notably New York Bowhunters, Inc., the
statewide archery hunters’ organization.

Earlier this year, the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s
Clubs approved a resolution in favor of the creation of an early
muzzleloader season. That resolution proposed a weeklong (Sept.
24-30) season for antlerless deer only.

“Tags to be used would be leftover big-game antlered tags (from
the previous license year) and/or special muzzleloader tag only,”
the resolution read. No leftover DMPs would be used, and hunters
would need to possess the special muzzleloader license.

Under the Erie County proposal, any type of muzzleloader –
including inline models with scopes – would be permitted.

While Hurst said the early muzzleloader season isn’t on the DEC
radar this season, he added that it “remains one of the management
tools available to us should Southern Zone deer populations need
additional anterless control.”

Deer numbers across many Wildlife Management Units in the
Southern Zone have been in a rebuilding mode in recent seasons,
however, after back-to-back rough winters and some overharvesting
in some WMUs led to low whitetail numbers.

Sportsmen in some areas of the state are continuing their push
for an early muzzleloader season. A standard letter sent to DEC
Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Patricia Riexinger
labels an early muzzleloader offering an enhanced opportunity in
“the fastest-growing sub-segment of big-game hunters in New York
state.”

About 232,000 muzzleloader licenses were sold last year.

The letter also says the early black-powder season would offer
hunters an opportunity to go afield in warmer weather conditions;
would offer an additional weekend of hunting; and gives hunters an
opportunity for afternoon hunting at a time of extended daylight
hours.

“This new season, over time, will slowly reduce buck-to-doe
ratios to allow for more competitive breeding patterns,” the letter
states. Supporters of the proposal also cite an additional economic
impact to the hunting industry.

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