Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Young guns ready for Southern Zone

Bloomfield, N.Y. – New York state’s single biggest hunting day –
the opening day of the Southern Zone firearms deer season – is
taking on a new look this year.

The Nov. 15 opener will send thousands of 14- and 15-year-olds
afield for the first time in the firearms deer season, courtesy of
long-awaited legislation lowering the state’s minimum hunting age
for deer and bear.

“There’s definitely more interest among young hunters this year,
now that 14- and 15-year-olds can hunt,” said Doug Grove, owner of
Bristol Outdoors in Bloomfield (Ontario County). “And it has
definitely translated into more license sales and more gun
sales.”

DEC officials say it may be awhile before any solid data comes
in on the impact of the lowered hunting age in terms of license
sales and deer harvests.

“It’s difficult to calculate the impact on the harvest,” said
DEC wildlife biologist Jeremy Hurst. “We’ll take a look at youth
license sales but we don’t anticipate any significant impact on
harvest numbers. We’re ecstatic over the youth hunting age being
lowered, and we just hope they’ll get out there. We’re really
looking forward to the season.”

Since the 14- and 15-year-olds need to be accompanied by a
license “mentor” hunter, a more likely scenario is that the youth
will harvest a whitetail that otherwise would have been taken by
the mentor, many sportsmen have speculated. That would mean little
in the way of increased deer harvest statewide.

“There’s quite a bit of interest this year,” said Patsy Leader,
owner of Shooters Sports in Valatie (Columbia County). “Kids are
excited, their parents are excited, and that’s good.”

Steve Wright of Wright’s Sporting Goods in Waverly (Tioga
County) says his shop is moving “a lot of youth guns” as a product
of the lowered hunting age.

“It’s good that they’ll be able to get out there this year,”
Wright said. “And the guys seems to be seeing a lot of deer. Down
here, land access is the biggest issue. We don’t have much in the
way of state land.”

Heading into the Southern Zone firearms opener, DEC officials
were anticipating a slightly higher statewide deer take this
season. At least some of that will be the product of an increase in
Deer Management Permits, which typically equates to more antlerless
deer being harvested.

Statewide, DEC is planning to dole out more than 528,000 DMPs
this year, up 13 percent from the 2007-08 total of 466,220.

Leader says many hunters in her area of Region 4 say that’s
still not enough.

“Hunters want more DMPs because there’s so many does out there,”
she said. “There are tons of deer but you can’t always get access
to hunt them.”

New York hunters last year harvested 219,141 whitetails,
including 104,451 bucks. The bulk of that tally – 185,185 deer, of
which 84,172 were bucks – came in the Southern Zone.

More and more hunters appear to be passing on smaller, yearling
bucks in anticipation of encountering a more mature deer, and DEC
has antler restrictions – a minimum three points on one side – in
several Catskill area WMUs.

“It seems like there’s a growing number of hunters looking for a
trophy buck, but some guys are just looking to put venison in the
freezer and don’t really care about the rack,”_Grove said. Leader
predicted that the tough economic times may lead many hunters to
“just look to fill their freezer this year. They bought a license
and want a return on their investment.”

Over 10,000 – about 5 percent of the total statewide deer
harvest were taken on Deer Management Assistance Pro-gram permits.
Those tags are allocated to property owners – many of them farmers
– to remove deer to help alleviate crop damage.

Hurst says weather rarely plays a major role in the overall
Southern Zone deer harvest, even if it’s poor on the opening
weekend.

“Because our seasons are so long and there are several important
weekends, we usually catch up even if the weather is very poor on
the opening weekend,” he said. “It would be a factor only if there
was a prolonged week of poor visibility because of fog or heavy
rains.”

About 35 percent of the total buck take occurs on the opening
weekend, with 75 percent of the total buck harvest coming in the
first week of the firearms season, which runs from Nov. 15-Dec. 7
in the Southern Zone.

The Southern Zone archery season runs from Oct. 18-Nov. 14 this
year, while the firearms deer season is followed by a combination
archery-muzzleloader season Dec. 8-16.

Many Southern Zone whitetail hunters will have an additional
opportunity to take a bear this fall. DEC opened 13 additional
Wildlife Management Units to bear hunting this season in response
to a growing number of bruins that are expanding their range across
much of the Southern Zone.

The WMUs are located across the Southern Tier in parts of
Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Wyoming, Genesee, Monroe,
Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Yates, Steuben, Schuyler,
Tompkins, Tioga, Cortland, Broome, Chenango, Madison, Onondaga,
Oneida and Otsego counties.

The bear season in the Allegany Range begins with an archery
opportunity from Oct. 18-Nov. 14, followed by the Nov. 22-Dec. 7
regular season and a late muzzleloading and archery season Dec.
8-16.

In the Catskill Range, the archery season is set for Oct.
18-Nov. 14, with the regular season running from Nov. 15-Dec. 7 and
the late archery-muzzleloader season Dec. 8-16.

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