Southern opener not a washout this year

Editor

Albany – Compared to last year’s washout, the opening weekend of
the 2009 Southern Zone firearms deer season was a pretty good
one.

But although the opening weekend harvest was up from last year’s
kickoff, keep in mind whitetail hunters didn’t have a tough act to
follow on the heels of the 2008 opener marked by soaking rains
across the Southern Zone.

“It’s difficult to compare this year to last season because last
season was such a washout,”_DEC wildlife biologist Jeremy Hurst
said. “Harvest reports for the first three days of this year’s
Southern Zone firearms season are up 20 percent over last year, but
that’s to be expected; last year was such a slow opener.

The state’s biggest single hunting day this year was marked by
weather that some hunters feel was perhaps too mild. Across the
state, temperatures approached 50 degrees and there was no sign of
rain.

“It wasn’t that great, really,” said Steve Wright, owner of
Wright’s Sporting Goods in_Waverly (Tioga County). “A few bucks
were taken, but not a lot of them. It was pretty warm, and
everybody was just sitting. We need some colder weather to get both
the hunters and the deer moving.”

Hurst said hunting pressure appeared to be up on the Nov. 21
opener, but “that was to be expected given last year’s
weather.”

And reports from meat processors that indicated in some areas
more deer were being dropped by for processing may also be
misleading. In addition to the comparison with last year’s rainy
opening day, Hurst said the warm temperatures this year may have
prompted hunters to get their deer to a processor quickly to avoid
spoilage.

Heading into the season, DEC officials had projected a 3-5
percent increase in the Southern Zone harvest. Hunters in the
Southern Zone last year harvested 186,511 whitetails, including
84,125 bucks. Of that figure, 59,517 bucks were taken during the
regular season.

Hurst said DEC officials have to merge the reported harvest with
information gleaned from the field to come up with a “calculated”
total take. That figure is ultimately based on the reported
harvests, information from meat processors, field reports and CWD
check stations.

“The real variable is the reporting rate,”_Hurst said. “It’s
about 45 percent in the Southern Zone, but it’s been going up in
recent years.”

While there were no hunting-related shooting fatalities in the
Southern Zone on opening weekend, it was not without incident.

In Roscoe (Sullivan County), a Long Island man died when he
rolled his all-terrain vehicle after shooting a deer and going to
retrieve it.

Sullivan County sheriff’s deputies said 58-year-old Arthur
Thames of West Hempstead died about a mile-and-a-half from his
hunting camp on Nov. 22.

Also in Sullivan County, a Long Island hunter – 52-year-old
Robert Robar of Valley Stream – faces reckless endangerment charges
in connection with a Nov. 24 incident in which he allegedly shot
another individual while hunting in the town of Lumberland.

The victim, Terry Pelton, 50, was taken to Westchester Medical
Center. Police said Robar assisted Pelton after discovering he had
wounded the man with a shot from a 30-06 rifle at a distance of
just over 100 yards. Police said Pelton was wearing camouflage
clothing and no blaze orange at the time of the incident (blaze
orange is encouraged but not required in New York).

Pelton was in critical condition with a wound to his buttocks
and pelvis.

In Otsego County, 37-year-old Walter Rouse, Jr., of Sharon
Springs was injured Nov. 24 when he was accidentally shot by
Lawrence Delaney, 68, of Cooperstown.

Sheriff’s deputies said Delaney, hunting from a ground blind,
fired a shot from about 100 yards away with his 30-30 rifle. The
bullet struck Rouse, who was wearing camouflage clothing, in the
left arm and abdomen. His injuries were not life-threatening.

A Newburgh (Orange County) hunter died sometime prior to the
opening of the season. Police said Werner Hoeltschl went out to
check his tree stand Friday evening and either fell or died of
natural causes.

DEC Sportsman Education Coordinator Mike Matthews said it was a
“pretty safe” opening weekend.

“I’d love to have a year when no accidents occur, but I think
I’m just dreaming,” he said.

“Things happen, especially when there are so many hunters out in
the woods.”

The Southern Zone firearms season closes Dec. 13, followed by a
combination late archery-muzzleloader offering Dec. 14-22.

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