Horseheads, N.Y. – Don Barrett sees the trail cam pictures
brought into his shop almost daily.
Big bucks. Some really big.
It’s always that was as New York’s archery season approaches,
but the fever pitch seems to have arrived earlier this year.
Maybe that’s a product of the technology available that allows
hunters to monitor whitetail movement almost constantly. Whatever
the reason, Barrett, of Barrett’s Bowhunting in Horseheads (Chemung
County) says bowhunters are itching to launch another season – and
a couple of arrows.
“A couple of guys have seen bucks out of velvet already, so
things are right on cue,” Barrett said late last month. “And I’ve
seen some trail cam pics of some huge bucks – so big I wouldn’t be
showing them around.”
Joe Guernsey, owner of Klein’s Archery and Outdoor in Dryden
(Tompkins County), agrees that the pre-season outlook has been
coated in optimism, based on what hunters have been seeing during
their scouting missions.
“Probably 75 percent of the guys are reporting big buck
sightings, and that’s higher than normal,” Guernsey said.
New York’s archery deer season opens as early as Sept. 27 for
Northern Zone hunters with unfilled tags from last season. Suffolk
County’s bowhunting-only season opens Oct. 1, while the Westchester
County and entire Southern Zone archery deer offering kicks off
That’s not early enough, according to New York bowhunters who
have pushed for an Oct. 1 opener in the Southern Zone.
“We hear it a lot down here,” said Barrett, “because we’re so
close to Pennsylvania. You can be an arrow shot away and your buddy
from Pennsylvania is hunting two weeks earlier than you can.”
There’s been no clear indication DEC is poised to open the
Southern Zone bowhunting season earlier, although officials did
gather input from sportsmen last year during a series of statewide
meetings on its deer management program.
Bowhunters two seasons ago were upset that a quirk in the
calendar shortened their deer season by one week, since the season
runs from “the Saturday following the second Monday in October
(Columbus Day) through the day prior to the opening of the regular
deer season.” That will happen again in a few years, a product of
how the dates fall.
Still, archery remains highly popular in New York, with “about
220,000, maybe a little less” bowhunters, according to DEC wildlife
biologist Jeremy Hurst.
“Bowhunting’s popularity climbed in the 1970s when the compound
bow entered the picture, and has held fairly stable for the past
five or six years,” Hurst said. “The number of muzzleloader
hunters, actually, is continuing to grow. And bear harvests by bow
in the west-central and southeastern areas of the state are
New York bowhunters last year killed an estimated 34,546
whitetails, including 22,878 bucks. The Southern Zone easily led
the way with 31,626 deer (21,222 bucks), while another 2,075 (999
bucks) were harvested in the Northern Zone and 845 (657 bucks) on
The 34,546 tally was up 6.7 percent from the 2008 harvest of
32,366, and also well above the 5-year average take of 29,817.
DEC officials this season are projecting a buck harvest similar
to 2009, but a lower take of antlerless deer based on a reduction
in Deer Management Permits this fall.
Many bowhunters head afield each fall with DMPs in their pocket,
and are often forced to make a decision as to whether to harvest an
antlerless deer early or hold out for a buck.
“Ninety-five percent of the hunters I talk to will fill the
freezer right off the bat, then just sit and wait (for a
buck),” Guernsey said.
In addition to the disputes over season length, the state’s
bowhunting fraternity has also grappled with hot-button issues like
crossbow use and antler restrictions. Legislation that would allow
limited use of crossbows in New York during the 2011 and 2012
hunting seasons has passed the state Legislature but has yet to be
signed into law by Gov. David Paterson.
“I think a lot of hunters are getting a little too worked up
over the crossbow,” Barrett said. “If guys aren’t killing them with
a regular bow chances are they’re not going to kill them with a
crossbow because they’re just not seeing deer. And look at Ohio;
they have crossbows and haven’t had any problems.”
In addition to the regular archery deer seasons, there’s also a
late muzzleloader-archery deer season that runs for nine days in
the Southern Zone (Dec. 13-21).