DEC wrapping up ‘deer meetings’

Albany – DEC_is still planning a couple more meetings next month
to let hunters voice their opinions on what changes should be made
to the state’s deer management efforts.

DEC_wildlife biologist Jeremy Hurst said the final sessions will
be held in the Kingston area as well as in_New York City.

“The details are still being finalized, but both will likely be
in early to mid-November,”_Hurst said last month.

DEC biologists have held numerous meetings across the state to
gauge hunter sentiment on what changes may be made to the state’s
deer management program. Those changes could impact season dates
and lengths as early as next year as the state looks to ensure it
gets the kind of antlerless harvest needed to keep deer numbers in
check in many wildlife management units.

“The meetings have been fairly positive,” DEC_Assistant Director
of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Doug Stang told the
Conservation Fund Advisory Board earlier this month. “By and large
there hasn’t been a lot of feedback about the license fee
increase.”

Attendance at the meetings ranged from a lot of eight in
Elizabethtown (Essex County) – just three miles from the New York
Outdoor News editorial office – to a high of well over 200 in Bath
(Steuben County)

“Probably the only common denominator is that there are lot of
opinions out there,”_Hurst said. “That wasn’t a surprise. There
seems to be opinions across the board; a wide range of them are out
there.”

Hurst said, however, there’s a core group of whitetail pursuers
that feel no changes, or perhaps only minor tweaks in DEC’s deer
management program, are needed.

“While there are a lot of hunters who would like to see some
changes, we found plenty of hunters, too, who were perfectly
satisfied with that we’ve got going on right now,” he said.

DEC scheduled the deer meetings in an effort to gauge hunter
sentiment on the current status of its management efforts, and also
to talk with hunters about potential ways of altering the season
structure.

One of the major challenges DEC officials face is differing
views among deer hunters as to what changes should be made. Perhaps
the most divisive issue is that of antler restrictions. Currently
in place in several Catskill-area units, DEC backed off a plan this
year that would have added additional WMUs into the
three-points-a-side restriction zone.

Still, there’s strong support for antler restrictions, as
evidenced by comments at several of the meetings. At a Syracuse
session, antler restriction-quality deer management proponent John
Rybinski and several others toted signs that read, “Yearling Buck
Protection.”

Too, strong division exists among hunters regarding season
lengths; a Saturday opener in the Southern Zone; and a joint
proposal from New York Bowhunters and the New York State
Muzzleloaders Association.

Those groups drafted a plan that calls for an Oct. 1 Southern
Zone archery season opener, a youth hunt prior to the regular
firearms deer season, and a 5-day antlerless-only primitive
muzzleloader season prior to the firearms opener.

There’s no indication at this point what, if any, portion of
that proposal is under consideration by DEC, which is using the
deer meetings more as a fact-finding mission.

A segment of older hunters, too, has expressed interest in being
allowed to use a crossbow.

Ultimately, it appears that at least some change will come in
the state’s deer management program next season. What those changes
are remain to be seen.

The changes will most likely be driven by DEC’s desire to
achieve the antlerless deer harvest needed to keep the whitetail
population where it desires. Currently, DEC has to dole out high
numbers of antlerless permits to get the harvest it needs, since
success rates on Deer Management Permits run as low as 10 percent
in some units.

“If we maintain the status quo (with season dates) we stand the
prospect of not getting the harvest we need in some parts of the
state,”_DEC Region 7 wildlife biologist Dave Riehlman said. “It we
don’t do something, society will come up with other ways to deal
with (high deer numbers).”

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