Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Southern Zone has a wet, tragic start

Swan Lake, N.Y. – A wet Southern Zone firearms deer opener was
marked by a pair of hunting-related deaths, including a
16-month-old toddler who died when a stray bullet tore through her
grandparent’s mobile home in Sullivan County.

State police said Charly Skala of Woodbourne was standing in the
kitchen of the home at about 4 p.m. Nov. 16 when a bullet entered
the home and struck her in the upper body.

She died a short time later at Westchester Medical Center, where
she was flown following the incident.

The hunter who allegedly fired the shot, Edward J. Taibi of
Queens, faces numerous charges, including felony manslaughter in
the second degree and several DEC violations for hunting over bait,
hunting over a salt lick, taking an illegal deer and discharging a
weapon within 500 feet of a residence.

Taibi was held without bail earlier this month in Sullivan
County Jail following his arraignment in Town of Bethel court. His
case was assigned to the Sullivan County Legal Aid Bureau.

Police said Taibi was hunting in a tree stand and fired one shot
that wounded a deer. He then descended the stand and fired another
shot from his .300 Winchester Magnum that struck the mobile home
about 400 feet away.

Police said Taibi was hunting on a friend’s neighboring property
at the time of the incident.

Under DEC law, it’s illegal to discharge a weapon within 500
feet of any occupied dwelling unless the hunter owns or leases the
property or has the owner’s consent.

The felony charge against Taibi stems from his recklessness,
investigators said.

“His actions resulted in the death of another,” said Senior
Investigator Mike Orrego of the Liberty state police barracks. “He
killed a person. You do have the obligation to the safety of
others.”

DEC officials said the death of a nonhunter through a hunting
accident is extremely rare. But the tragedy has already sparked
calls among some Sullivan County residents and lawmakers for a ban
on rifle use. That, however, has to be approved by the state
Legislature if any such request is made.

The other hunting-related fatality also occurred on Sunday, the
second day of the Southern Zone firearms deer season.

Twenty-three-year-old Derrick Lockwood of Humphrey (Cattaraugus
County) died in Olean General Hospital after being accidentally
shot in the stomach by his brother, Daniel Lockwood.

The incident apparently occurred during a deer drive, officials
said.

Statewide, New York’s single biggest hunting day was a wet one,
with steady rains pelting the 400,000-plus hunters who headed
afield in the Southern Zone.

Not surprisingly, that led to a lower-than-usual Opening Day
deer harvest. About 35 percent of the total buck harvest comes on
opening day, and by the end of the first week of the season about
75 percent of the total buck harvest will have been tagged.

DEC_Chief Wildlife Biologist John Major said the opening
weekend’s buck harvest was down by 28 percent from 2007.

Still, officials are confident the deer take will slowly climb
back to normal ranges before the season closes Dec. 7.

“By the end of the third day it was back to 23 percent (below
last year),” Major said. “_And that gap will narrow, I’m sure. What
we generally see is that it tends to even out, whether it’s a slow
start or a great one. That’s probably because we tend to have
longer seasons than some neighboring states.”

The Southern Zone opener was also a first for thousands of 14-
and 15-year-old hunters, who for the first time were able to hunt
big game with a firearm. The state Legislature earlier this year
approved a long-awaited bill lowering the minimum hunting age for
deer and bear with a firearm.

Those young hunters got a soggy induction into the sport.

“I was soaked to the bone by 9:15 a.m.,”_said Scott Follendorf
of Pendleton (Niagara County), who hunted in_Steuben County with
family members. “I went back to the camp at 10 to get changed and
get some lunch, then headed back out – with a waterproof
jacket.”

Follendorf said he didn’t see a deer in three days of hunting,
including during a 10-inch snowfall on Monday. But he wasn’t
discouraged.

“I knew it’s kind of tough in the rain,” he said.

Dick Beamann of Bristol Outdoors, a popular sport shop in
Bloomfield (Ontario County), said the Saturday opener brought both
soakings and success.

“We had some guys who hung in there and stuck it out; most guys
went out in the morning and then got back out in the afternoon,”_he
said. “Some guys got deer, others just got wet. But we had some
breaks in the rain out here.”

Major said that with a three-week season, there’s plenty of
opportunities to connect on a whitetail.

“Hunters who tend to stay motivated can still be successful,”
said Major, who hunted in the Finger Lakes area and saw many
hunters “staying until 9 or 10 in the morning and then heading out.
But with the Saturday opener, they had all of Sunday to hunt.”

DEC was continuing its monitoring for Chronic Wasting Disease,
which appeared in Oneida County in the spring of 2005 but has yet
to be found since. Major said testing in the CWD containment zone
of Oneida and Madison counties will continue, as well as statewide
testing.

“We’ll test every deer we can get our hands on in the
containment area; we’re estimating around 1,500,” he said.
“Statewide, we did 5,000 last year and are targeting about 2,000
this year.”

Southern Zone hunters last year bagged 185,185 whitetails,
including 84,172 bucks.

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